Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity, By Sam Miller

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The Independent Culture

Eager to know Delhi better, Sam Miller takes a flâneur's approach to the city he has lived in for the past eight years. Searching for a pattern to govern his wandering, he reads that Muslim cities are formed in concentric circles, and hits upon the idea of spiralling up and out from Connaught Place, the hub of this rich metropolis.

The result is insatiably curious and pleasingly thorough. Miller tries to engage with everything he encounters, while his footnotes elaborate on Hindi etymology or the wild claims made by Delhi's denizens. Each chapter begins with a hand-drawn map, while photos taken by the author illustrate his waypoints. He also has an eye to the history of the city he loves, and contemporary accounts of areas and buildings lead smoothly into brief, welcome tutorials, always battling against the default reaction of a lazy Westerner. There are touches of humour in the oddities he finds. But Miller is also strong when describing horrors such as police brutality, an open-air slaughterhouse or the noxious Yamuna river. The Delhi in his writing is a diverse, energised dreamscape, filled with quirks and wonders, and this is among the best I've read for a cross-section of a city.