Delhi, or Dilli, as any native of the city would call it, is not just a quaint city marking its presence faintly. Rather, it’s a wave of emotions, an adrenaline rush and a thousand memories all at once. And this is exactly how Fatima, a young girl travelling to New Delhi, sees the city in Letters to Ammi. Fatima is the average Indian child with a worrisome father and an overly-loving family. While she arrives in Delhi to experience her mother’s hometown, her father eagerly awaits her return to Jaipur. The book deals with complex emotions through the eyes of a girl who is too young to process all that is happening to and around her. A little overwhelming, and quite simple in its approach, Letters To Ammi, manages to stir a warm, fuzzy feeling as a reader.
If you’ve never been to New Delhi, then the photos and illustrations in this book are a spectacular introduction to the city’s mixed architecture, erstwhile yet contemporary roads, lip-smacking grub and the bylanes of Chandni Chowk. The book also brings to our notice the forgotten art of letter writing. The first read transports you back a couple centuries: to Mughal monuments that the city boasts of, the art of personalising messages through letters, and of course, the good old Bengali Sweet House. A personal favourite are the photographs capturing the spirit of Dilli in its most authentic and liberated sense. Its ever-expanding nature, many conundrums and rich heritage, as seen through a non-native’s eyes, is enough to tempt anybody to pay a visit. This book is primarily meant for children, but adults can also flip through this poignant tribute to the capital.
Fatima is trailing the city on her mother’s footsteps with her khala (aunt), who, at various points, draws similarities between the mother and the daughter. Sitting in the exact same spot as her mother did, and pursuing the exact same activities, young Fatima rekindles an infinite bond with her mother, something that she longs for. The simplicity with which complex emotions about family and the city are written, is what makes Letters To Ammi a heartwarming tale. Each page of the book holds onto the past, never failing to make us nostalgic in the present.
Illustrations by Aparna Trikkur
Photographs by Adrija Ghosh & Soumitra Ranade