Emergency sketches

Vishwajyoti Ghosh's Delhi is not restricted to the wide avenues near Akbar Road, nor to the exalted addresses of Defence Colony or Golf Links. Those parts of Delhi are important, certainly, but these are not his centre. Ghosh's map shifts outward, away from Connaught Place, toward Ajmal Khan Road or Mall Road, streets that during the 1970s had electricity and telephone wires strung between poles. It is these wires, and the narrow lanes they circumscribe, that frame Ghosh's drawings of Delhi. Here, in these other avenues and roads, the side stories of the Emergency play out.

As the novel commences, Parliament is put into a coma, and one of our lead characters, VP, must go to work as usual. He has opened his day in the customary fashion, with Karl Marx and Mohammad Rafi. But when he steps outside, nothing is as it was. It is 26 June 1975. Delhi is to be calm. 'The President has declared Emergency,' Indira Gandhi has announced, 'There is nothing to panic about.' VP is a journalist, but his newspaper no longer exists. The Censor has spoken. Delhi is calm because it has been forced to be silent. But the quiet does not last long. VP meets up with his old comrade, Parvez. Clandestine papers need to be delivered. VP is cautious, Parvez insistent. The story unfolds.

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Himal Southasian