Delhi a Novel by Khushwant Singh


I picked up this book Delhi a Novel in my quest to read about Delhi, and I knew the author is someone who has spent his life in Delhi and hence expected it to be a good read.

After reading the book Delhi a Novel, I am ANGRY.

Depending on how you like extensive erotica, you may love or hate this book, but that is not what makes me angry though I do not really enjoy reading 300+ pages of nothing but sleaze. I hate it because of the double standards that the author follows. I can ignore the sleaze as that is his worldview may be, or that may be the lens through which he sees everything or more appropriately everyone. All through the book, he talks in first-person through some historical figures, through common men from a certain period, interspersed with his own encounters with a whore from Lal Kuan and several other females. Each character is described from his bedside and no matter what their relevance in the world today is or the world then was, all he focuses on his their sexual behaviors. At the cost of repeating this can be Mr. Singh’s specialty or his worldview but it makes me angry when he does not go near his all-time favorite topic in two chapters. And guess what these chapters are focused on – His father and grandfather. He never talks about how his father or grandfather treated their wives and never explicitly describes their intimate relationships. Surprisingly in the whole book, they are the only characters who are pious, show no infidelity and only events that mark their lives are that they get married and then one after the other they have children. This is given the fact that his father became one of the richest persons in Delhi during the time when Lutyen’s Delhi was being built, in a very short duration of time. If you have the guts to write dirty about every other female on this earth, dead or alive, please start with your own family, a family that produced a son with a head full of nothing but sleaze. Another way to look at it can be that he is at least being a bit courteous to his family, but then you feel it is so damn unfair.

Delhi a Novel by Khushwant Singh

If you can ignore what I write above, by putting the history in first-person, with people like Mir, Aurangzeb, Nadir Shah and a Kayastha in the times of Nizammudin, it makes an interesting reading for people who may find textbooks very boring to read. He has written about Delhi from the times of Lodhis to 1984 when the anti-Sikh riots took place. There is nothing new that you may come to know about Delhi from this book, but the first person accounts make it easier for you to visualize things as they might have happened. I do not see the need of interspersing chapters where he goes on and on about his encounters with Bhagmati, the female eunuch, and various other females, some of whom he plays tour guide to and some walk up to him only to sleep with him. There is a whole chapter on farts, now what has that to do with Delhi.

This book Delhi a Novel is supposed to have been sold out even before it hit the bookstores with a third reprint within 15 days of release, I am sure there must have been a huge audience for the book. I could be biased in this review because of my anger. After I had read the book, I waited to write the review, so that I write in a more neutral mode, but as soon as I started writing the anger re-surfaced.

Nevertheless, I did get a small list of places that I want to go to from this book which I had not heard of earlier or at least did not have the context to go to. So to that extent, I am happy to have read this book. The format is interesting, probably should be used to make more history interesting.

I am not recommending this book Delhi a Novel unless like me you are trying to read about Delhi and you feel compulsive to read it.

You may buy this book – Delhi a Novel by Khushwant Singh at Amazon India.

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  1. I don't know what kind of humor this books qualifies in or if one qualifies as a moron to have laughed on such humor, I have found the book funny though not witty.

    You should write a piece on the Sunday Book market spread along the footpath of Daryaganj. Its a vast market and a bliss for every book lover, and the market has a huge stock of second hand books on virtually every subject. This market is not the same as Nai Sarak.

  2. i am half way through the book. i am not yet angry !

    on reading a column or two, i wondered why people read singh so much. but now i understand it. not that everything is right, but the way, just like you, i picked it up to understand delhi…

  3. I totally agree with you. I hated this book. I could not even finish it. Twice I tried, but could not go through a book which was pointless,and for this reason, Khushwant Singh & Shobha De are out of my wish list forever!

  4. Hey Anuradha,
    I haven't read Delhi. Was planning to. But before reading, thought I will search for reviews, as usual. Thanks for the review.
    I read 'The Sunset Club' by Khushwant Singh recently.And I am ANGRY.:) I mean, if you have to write erotica, be honest and write one. But do not desguise it under the name of Philosophy or History. And its not even sleaze, its utter nonsense. The book I read, sunset club, Khushwant has written chapters on bowel movements of old people. And as usual the sexual encounters. Exasperating, I must say.

    • If you want a taste of what “Kushwant Singh” brand of sleaze is please borrow and read “The Company of Women” …

      Now that book is some first class sleaze, right from page one till the last page..

  5. I like the parts where the he writes about the mughals and nadir shah. But the rest of it is not only vulgar it is absolutely unnecessary. this is my first book of khushwant singh and i just cant relate to what the media talks about him and his real work.

  6. I don't particularly like Khushwant Singh's books, but I thought there would be something worthwhile on a subject as fascinating as 'Delhi'. I literally struggled for several pages, and finally I had to give it up for future. It is unnecessarily vulgar.

  7. I would say not only its sleaze, but i have just read around 130 pages of the book and it already seems to be very religiously biased. The book till now has looked down upon all religions and castes except the sikhs.

    This is what infuriates me the most!!


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