Ronald Vivian Smith is an alumnus of St John's College, Agra and began writing as a teenager in 1954. He has authored a number of books, including four on Delhi, a romantic novel, Jasmine Nights & the Taj, three volumes of poetry, a collection of ghost yarns, and a profile of the eighteenth-century Smith family he is descended from. As a septuagenarian he does not spend time on a easy chair but in surveying out-of-the-way places for unusual stories that form the grist for weekly newspaper columns, 'Quaint Corner' and 'Down Memory Lane'. This publication of his completes the preverbial baker's dozen.
l am delighted to introduce this new book by an old friend, R.V. Smith, whose writing and general knowledge of Delhi, his adopted home, is legendary. History runs in the Smith family, who are descended from Salvador Smith (1783-1871), the soldier who trained the troops of Daulat Rao Scindia.
R.V. Smith is the son of the late journalist Thomas Smith (1910- 1995), whose articles in numerous newspapers were always full of interesting snippets about the bits of history that historians usually neglect. His book, Agra: Rambles and Recollections was republished in 2007. R.V. Smith is a worthy successor to his father, and is the author of eight books on Delhi, of which, The Delhi That No-One Knows has become a bestseller.
During his career, R.V. Smith worked for the Statesman, and since retirement has continued to pen articles for the Hindu and the Statesman. He began writing articles on monuments, historical places and the social life in the Walled City of old Delhi in 1958. He also writes poetry and romantic novels, including Jasmine Nights & The Taj. Another novel, on the eighteenth-century courtesan who became the empress, Qudsia Begum is underway. His interest extends to Egyptology, the occult, which led to a book of ghost stories, The Veiled Shadow, and mysticism.
He came to Delhi over fifty-two years ago and slowly grew to love the city. A born romantic, he attended mujras by dancing girls and sat at the shrines of Sufi saints late at night to hear qawwalis. Born in January 1938, he was educated at St Peter’s College, Agra, from where he did his Senior Cambridge and later received the MA degree in English literature at St John’s college. His liking for Delhi was heightened by the fact that it is almost a twin of Agra, his beloved home town, where he still goes to recharge his batteries. The old- world ambience of Delhi intoxicated him and he tried to merge it with his Anglo- Indian antecedents, researching poets like Alexander Heatherley ‘Azad’, a pupil of Ghalib’s nephew, and Benjamin Montrose ‘Muztar’, a pupil of Ustad Daagh Dehlvi.
As a regular Sunday churchgoer, he found that many of the earlier Italian Capuchin fathers had written treatises on Mughal history, medieval life and manners, right up to the aftermath of Great Uprising of 1857. This also gave him material for his own articles. In his long career he has won a Rotary Club award, the Michael Madhusudan award for journalism and the Canon Holland prize for general knowledge. For him Delhi is not a city but a timeless begum who excites love, devotion and nostalgia. She is truly the beloved of all Delhiwalahs but mistress of none.
This is a book to be enjoyed, that will surprise those who believe they already know veverything about their city.
Delhi fascinated me after I had fallen in love with Agra, my birthplace. Though my second home does not have as many monuments as the city of the Taj Mahal, it is fortunate in being the capital of the country and as such the cynosure of all eyes. But its medieval edifices (despite the ASI's efforts) are in need of better preservation. This book is a collection of articles originally written for the Statesman and the Hindu (published between 1990 and 2011), with whose courtesy they are being reproduced under one cover. It is from my father, Thomas Smith, that I inherited interest in old, half-forgotten things and the urge to celebrate 'lost causes and forsaken beliefs'. Besides the Internet, the tendency to stand and stare is also the begetter of knowledge. This is what I, a virtual computer novice have practiced over the decades and the result is before you. My sincere thanks to Roli Books for consenting to publish a rambler's labour of love.
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