Capital Vignettes is a small book, containing very small anecdotes that the author remembers from his early days in Delhi, especially the pre-partition days.
This book is a poor cousin of his other book Delhi that No One Knows which was organized and had something interesting to say. This book is just a collection of his memories. Most of them are random and unrelated to people in Old Delhi. And small little incidents from everyday life. Some of them are interesting like the one where the author describes the Shayari and evenings of Shayari. But most of them are random recalls that do not make sense to the reader. For example, at a lot of places, he recalls mad or insane people and wonders where they are now. A lot of his nostalgia seems to be painting a rosier picture than the reality. After all, if you go and stand in Old Delhi, you know it is an old locality, with all possible human emotions and not just romance.
Also, the period that author mentions was perhaps a very turbulent time in the life of Old Delhi. But the author has picked up only small little romantic encounters which also seem to be a figment of imagination at times.
The editing is bad. Sometimes you wonder if the pieces were edited at all. There is an attempt to put sections, but to me, they made no sense. I was very happy to read Smith’s first book. But I am quite disappointed with this one, which seems to have been printed in hurry and with no audience in mind.
Nonetheless, I did get a couple of new destinations in Delhi from this book that I would like to visit as soon as the summer gives me some respite. The illustrations in the book are very nice and they bring alive the times that the author is talking about.
Unless you are reading anything written about Delhi, you can avoid this book.