Reviews & Recommendations

A tale of two ordinary young men in a city

Dilli Durbar is a fine example of how even the simplest of stories, drawn from ordinary lives, can touch a reader’s heart

Hind Yugm Westland
Hind Yugm Westland

Karuna John

Translated from the Hindi original, this is a sweet little tale narrated by a very sincere sounding Mohit Singh, and features his best buddy, a very mischievous sounding Rahul Mishra. Like a wingman doing his job honestly, Mohit tells us all about Rahul’s shenanigans as the two begin their new life, and make an attempt at ‘adulting’ in Delhi. The big city, and the national Capital at that, maybe a far cry from the small town in Jharkhand where they both grew up, but they hope it is the place where they can build a successful future for themselves.

The two are childhood friends and it makes sense for them to navigate the trials and tribulations of city life together. As different as chalk and cheese, Mohit and Rahul, still make a happy pair. One is quieter and likes to play it safe, while the other is the king of taking risks. Mohit likes to focus, and Rahul likes to have a finger, and some toes, in every pie he possibly can. Together, the two are a force to reckon with. Especially in big bad Dilli, where the fittest thrives and the others barely survive.

They rent a house, and figure out a way to pay for it without really paying for it. The means may not be wholly legal, but their intentions are not to harm anyone. They manage. One of them falls in love, and falls in trouble, but manages to dodge all that is thrown at him, thanks to the backup given by the other. They have each other’s back, and slowly, but surely, make the big city home.

The storyline will resonate with anyone who has ever moved far away from home to study, work, survive and thrive. There is always so much to explore and the biggest discovery is often that of the strength and survivor’s instinct that lies within.

If life throws you a lemon, take a cue from Rahul Mishra and borrow some sugar, make lemonade, and sell it on a scorching day at surge pricing, even to the one you borrowed sugar from! Rahul is an ace of con with a honest heart and a talent of juggling studies, money (or lack thereof), and love life with the ease of a seasoned performer. In this Dilli Durbar, Rahul is prince charming.

The author Satya Vyas had gathered much praise for his first book Banaras Talkies, as well as his second Dilli Durbar. His writing is a fine example that even simple stories, drawn from the lives of seemingly ordinary folk, can touch a reader’s heart. It is not often that regular folk get to read the tales of people like themselves. A word of praise is also due to the one who brought this story alive in English and made it available to more readers.

This translation by Vaibhav Srivastav is as honest as it gets. Staying true to the spirit of the original, without adding any fancy new words, and at times keeping the language simple enough for a first generation English reader to understand. And that is a great thing. A good translation must do all of that and resist the temptation to ghost write a new version.

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