Meeting William Dalrymple | A Visit to ‘Serendipity Delhi’

I am having an ‘Oh-my-God-I-am-so-star-struck’ moment here. 🙂

I am not sure how I came across this place called ‘Serendipity Delhi‘ on Instagram but I was happy with what I saw. It’s a concept store for home decor and apparel set in a refurbished haveli in Chattarpur, Delhi, India.

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And soon after I started following them, they posted a picture about them hosting a story telling event by William Dalrymple. Wait. What? What did I just read? I have to go here (even though I have read only one of his works but I know I want to meet him in person).

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So, it was a fund-raiser for an Animal Welfare NGO – All Creatures Great and Small where William Dalrymple was going to do a book reading session of his book ‘Return of a King‘ along with a Ghazal performance by Vidya Rao. As you might have guessed, I went simply because it was a great chance to see him in person. Would it be okay if I do a dissection of my star struck moment? Either way, I really, really want to do it.

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When we reached there, the event hadn’t started and I assumed that the author mustn’t have reached. Some people were having tea in the balcony and I started to look around. After a few minutes, I see some people shifting in the balcony and I realize that he is also sitting there in the balcony. Shock. Wow. I kept looking wide-eyed when it was about time to go to the terrace where the event was to be held. He stood and started walking towards the staircase. I was in the way. Still looking wide-eyed with a smile.

‘Hi’, he says.

‘Hi Sir! Big fan’, I say. We shake hands. I get a bit out-of-the-way to let him and others reach the staircase. My best friend signals me to start for the staircase myself. Still smiling.

We go upstairs and get seated. Since the event was delayed, we assumed that we won’t be able to stick around for the entire do. My best friend tells me that I won’t get a proper time later to get autograph and all. I should do it now because everything is chilled out and it’s the best time. That totally was the best time. No rush and I would get a huge time span to get the autograph and a photo as the event was yet to begin. It was a little embarrassing though because no one else was doing it but he pushed me enough and I realized I should gather some courage now. Off I went and greeted him and his wife and took an autograph and a selfie too. 😛 He even asked me about what I do and stuff. His wife, by the way, the painter Olivia Fraser, is a super sweet person and she was a breath of fresh air. Later, I realized that I was so nervous, I couldn’t comprehend most of the things he said. And he did say quite a lot of things. 😦

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After I came back to where I was sitting, everyone started gathering around him for autographs. Yes, my best friend rocks. He always has the best ideas!

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As you can see from the pictures, the haveli, Serendipity, is quite a beauty. You may want to check it out someday, if it appeals from the pictures. Take care of one thing though. It’s tucked away in a very remote area in Chattarpur and you should not go alone at any cost. I think the only way to reach here is through your own conveyance as I couldn’t spot any autos around even though it’s quite near to the Chattarpur metro station distance-wise.

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I have one major regret. Both I and the author were dressed appropriately for the theme of the book, Afghan history, he in a black Pathani suit and I in a black anarkali with wide-legged pants (like Pakistani Shararas). I don’t know if this was all a coincidence but it’s just sad that I did not get a full picture clicked. I know I am getting judged now for being so shallow! 😛

Anyway, such is life. 🙂

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My Favorite Books of 2014

I love reading yearly roundups, but it’s so hard to do myself. I don’t really remember what exactly my mind state was in December 2013 and how it differed in 2014. Even if I do remember, it’s hard to put in words. Maybe I’ll do one next year. 🙂 Overall, this year was a little hard on me personally but that was expected. I hope 2015 is better in that sense. Work wise, it was fine, some tough things like office politics but some good things like Philippines trip as well. On the blogging front, I made good friends which was not expected, as in, I never thought that relationships develop this way as well. However, I don’t think the blog saw a lot of growth if we talk numbers. That was all about the roundup bit, now coming to my favorite books of 2014:

1. Nobody Can Love You More: Capture

This is undoubtedly my most favorite book of 2014. I highly recommend this book on the red light district area of Delhi by Mayank Austen Soofi. I have written about him here. I can’t quite put my finger at what it is that makes me love this book so much but few things I like are the attention to detail towards the people of the red light area and Mayank’s favorite muse, Delhi. 🙂 I also love how this book touches a lot of aspects of GB Road but very objectively, no judgement being passed on anything and the author tries to show us the other side of the lives of the people there, by people you would expect the prostitutes but not just them, the children, the pimps, everyone.

2. Game of Thrones: c2

I finally read it. More like, I was gifted this because some people couldn’t wait for me to finish reading this. 😀 Ok, nobody judges me but I have never read fantasy fiction. I have read none among Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Hunger Games etc. I know, very strange. I don’t know why I never got around to reading them but I felt that I may not like Game of Thrones as much as my usual real world fiction. I was wrong. I loved it. But the show is so much easier to watch. 800 pages * 7 novels is too much man! 😛 Book opinion coming soon.

3. A Fine Family: 23

There’s nothing out of this world in this book by Gurcharan Das but it completely resonates with my taste. Family drama + India-Pakistan Partition = I’ll like it. Plus, the India-Pakistan partition was way too important in this one which made me savor this a lot. This book took me on a journey to Lyallpur (now in Pakistan), Hoshiarpur, Shimla and Bombay tracing the lives of the members of a family which was very engaging. It’s hard to imagine a place that now belongs to another country which is so much similar to my grandmother’s place. The country itself is SO MUCH similar to back home is another story. Well, as for my family, we have had ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan and elders have stories to tell. 🙂 The thing that made this book even better was that coincidentally I could relate to a lot of things at a personal level too. The book opinion says it all.

4. The City of Djinns: 12

I am confused whether I like this or number 5 better but then, in liking books, there’s no black & white, right? When I started reading this, I had high expectations as I thought this would be about people and places in Delhi. Yes, it was but it was so much more than that. It had so much of history that I got bored a bit in the initial pages, but I started enjoying it so much as I moved on. It talks about so much of Delhi ranging from Mahabharta era to the British rule and so much more. In between, appear people from the real-time that we are living in whom the author talked to during his research. Before reading this, I wasn’t aware that William Dalrymple is a historian too. I only got to know it while I was at this book. Definitely worth a read.

5. Interpreter of Maladies: 34

When I actually read it, I liked it only so much. Even the book opinion that I have linked above would tell you that. However, I am reminded of this book every once in a while like a warm childhood story. Even when I was at it, I found it very warm because there was so much reference to vintage Indian homes and vintage Indian things but at that time, I did not know that I like it so much. I am definitely looking forward to more of Jhumpa Lahiri. By the way, she faces a lot of criticism on the internet. Anything in particular that I am not aware of? So far, I think it’s all about tastes. Maybe some people find her writing snobby or something. Let me know if you have anything to say about it.

6. The Runaway Jury:

456My first John Grisham and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I just felt that it was a little too stretched but then a complete page turner nonetheless.

7. The Guide: 56

All I can say is that it’s very different from Malgudi Days by the same author. It’s very Bollywood-like. It’s quite, ummm, spicy, so I liked it, I like racy fiction. However, till almost half the book, it was a little boring. However, after that, it takes such sharp and drastic  turns that you can’t stop reading it. All through, I could totally see that this is so like a Bollywood movie, completely understand why a movie was made out of it. So, take your call. However, it has a lot to do with human emotions and even if you are not into racy fiction or contemporary fiction, you might just like it. Book opinion in detail coming soon.

8. Poirot’s Early Cases: 45

Again, this was my first Agatha Christie. I love it! So much fun to read Poirot’s adventures. I don’t think this needs any introduction, I wish I had read it in childhood/teenage like most people. But then, the same goes for popular cartoons, movies, books. Hmph. :/

That’s pretty much it. I would also point out that after the first two, the numbering doesn’t really matter so much. I had a hard time deciding which one to put before the other but I guess I would never know. Lastly, I did not complete the Brunch Book Challenge. It was a very easy challenge overall with just 24 books in a year but I stopped reading for a while in December and could complete 21 and a half. I won’t be taking any book challenge till the time I become a fast reader (like I was in childhood) because I get too occupied with the numbers then and I am not able to savor the books slowly like I want to. Pheww, so tell me about your favorite books now. 😀

The City of the Djinns: Book Opinion

Hey Guys! 😀

This is the first book that I read as part of the Brunch Book Challenge, and as I said, I’ll be logging my opinion about every book that I read as part of this challenge. Oh, you want to participate in this challenge too? Read up about the Brunch Book Challenge.

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Coming back to this book, “The City of the Djinns” by William Dalrymple, I liked this book quite a lot, but not loved it as much as I expected to. Honestly, before I read this book, I wasn’t aware that William Dalrymple is a historian too, so I did not expect this book to have so much of history. Maybe what I expected was a peep into the life of Delhi through an expat’s eyes, but the book is actually a peep into different stages of the history of Delhi. I loved that too. The book was a hearty read and I got to know fun things about Delhi too. It was boring at some points because of too much history. However, I am not complaining about that. I guess that is how this book was conceived and its just that I wasn’t ready for so much history when I started reading it.

In the end, here’s summing up my opinion for it: If you are an Indian or you are interested in India’s history (this book covers quite a lot of eras of Delhi’s history, which are captured beautifully by the book), definitely read this. If you are big on travel reading or historical books, you should try this book for sure. I loved it, considering that I am not that big on travel reading (probably what did it for me is the fact that I love reading about India’s history). If you are a reader, definitely read this. If you are an Indian, in my opinion, you are going to love it. 🙂