Category Archives: Theatre

The City of Djinns

The trials and turbulances faced by others are mere stories to us. We can’t feel them until somebody close to us is going through difficult times. Most of us have heard the ordeals of people who migrated from and to India and Pakistan at the time of the partition in 1947. Our generation was fortunate enough to hear about the ordeal and not face it ourselves. I was fortunate (or unfortunate) to hear from both sides of the border, thanks to the relatives of my Muslim friends. They are shocking stories and it is difficult to believe that humans can stoop so low. My post is not about partition or the sufferings of people during those trying times. Too much has been written about it. We have heard about people who migrated because they wanted to, or due to the scare of the violent mobs attacking them. Last week I was fortunate to experience the joy of open air theatre which we Delhiwallas are getting used to watching. Last few years thanks to Aamir Raza Hussain we could watch open air plays like ’50 days war’ and ‘The legend Of Rama’.

This year it was ‘The City of Djinns’. This is a play about Delhi and its history. It is based on a book by William Dalrymple and the main actors are Tom Alter and Zohra Sehgal. Tom Alter has played the role of William Dalrymple. A major portion of the play is dedicated to Old Delhi and its forgotten charm. William realises that some answers to the mystery that was Delhi had its links in Karachi. There is a certain writer who lives in Karachi and has answers to his queries. This is the story written in late 80’s when it was really difficult to visit Pakistan from India and vice versa. The writer William is talking about has written books about Delhi and its grandeur and loved Delhi. When William is able to find this guy in Karachi he asks him if he loved Delhi so much why did he leave India and migrate to Pakistan. It was a difficult answer to guess. This fellow was in China at the time of partition and was not allowed to come to India because he was a muslim. Later he says he didn’t try because his beloved Delhi had changed and was alien to him. It was sad and funny at the same time. He was not accepted in Pakistan as he talked about Delhi all the time.

At the age of 90 Zohra Sehgal is inspiring. Tom Alter is amazing. An excellent experience. Even after spending all my adult life in Delhi there are so many things I have learnt about Delhi. There are so many things I remember in the play but writing about them would not do them justice. Punjabi accents, “Kukkar Phats” (Rooster fights), Qawwali…


Filed under The City of Djinns, Theatre, William Dalrymple