Delhi, monster metropolis

William Dalrymple in Newsweek:

As the city has expanded it has swallowed up hundreds of ancient villages, where people’s lives and attitudes have changed little since the Mughal Middle Ages. It is the cheek-by-jowl coexistence of a deeply conservative patriarchal rural society alongside the very different world and moral norms of a modern urban city that has helped create the tensions that resulted in the recent tragedy.

These enveloped villages can be sad places. There are two near my house: Shahpur Jat and Khirki, both of which have been swallowed alive. Shorn of their fields and exploited by corrupt bureaucrats and unscrupulous real-estate agents, the villagers now find themselves besieged. Shahpur Jat has undergone a “boutiquification,” and its ponds full of leathery water buffaloes are now bizarrely edged with designer shops—which are visited by women in short skirts, high heels, and Dior sunglasses—while the villagers remain deprived of even the most basic facilities.

Yet these villages, with their old courtyard houses and ancient ­ruins, are one of the reasons I love this city as much as I do. Of the great cities of the world, only Rome and Cairo can even begin to rival Delhi for the sheer volume and density of his­toric remains. More

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