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The capital city that stands today hasn’t always been the same. From its days of the British Raj to its contemporary avatar, generations have witnessed Delhi change. And the man who has seen it all was the Delhi chronicler, Ronald Vivian Smith.
Born to an Anglo-Indian family in 1938 in Agra, RV Smith was a descendant of Colonel Salvador Smith of the Gwalior forces. After pursuing his masters degree in English Literature, Smith began his career writing for newspapers—including the likes of The Statesman, from where he retired in 1997.
He was the recipient of the Canon Holland Prize, the Rotary Award for general knowledge and the journalism award from the Michael Madhusudan Academy in Kolkata.
His explorations of the old bylanes of Delhi, or Dilli as we colloquially call it, its mohallas, vibrant markets and hidden historical treasures resulted in the various pieces that he penned down over the years.
Despite the fact that he was confined to a certain part of the city due to his ill heath, Smith remembered his expeditions as though he was still walking around the city. Archiving the Delhi that was, Smith authored 12 books—including the well known The Delhi That No One Knows and Tales the Monuments Tell—all on his old typewriter. He spent a significant time of his youth in Old Delhi, and cherished its kebabs during the evenings with his family.
His power play of words and wit (with minute detailing and seamless narratives), shone through in his writings. Acquainting his readers with not just places, but also the city's people, familiar sounds, and essence, RV Smith has left behind a treasured legacy, and a testimony to the capital city’s dynamic character.
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