Saturday, January 22, 2011

Under its confluence

Allahabad: Where The Rivers Meet
Edited by Neelum Saran Gour
Marg Rs 2,500 pp 180

Here’s a city that’s literally marked by its situation. At the confluence not only of the Ganga and Yamuna but also of the past and the present, Allahabad is peeled layer by layer in this elegantly produced book that’s far more than just another coffee table book. The essays divide the book into zones, editor of this volume, author and Allahabad University English professor Neelum Saran Gour providing the perfect introductory chapter, ‘Avatar and Antecedents,’ that deals with Allahabad’s many forms.

The reader gets deep enough into ‘Hindu’ Allahabad (Arindam Roy’s ‘Where Nectar Split’), ‘Mughal’ Allahabad (N.R. Farooqi’s ‘Akbar’s Ilahabas’ and Asok Kumar Das’ ‘Salim’s Taswirkhana’), ‘British Raj’ Allahabad (John Harrison’s ‘For Company and Queen’), and other chapters to seek out more with ready ‘further reading’ lists after each chapter.

But what lifts this from plenty of other volumes on Allahabad is the quality of the photographs in this book. One hardly finds an image that is clichéd, an especially honourable feat especially in the chapter that deals with the Kumbh mela. The photograph by Rajesh Singh of three pilgrims wrapped in blankets and looking like three boulders in the foreground while a procession of women and children can barely be seen walking down the fog-filled air is worth the proverbial thousand words and more.

This is a book that should be with people who associate places with the stories these places have to say. And in Allahabad: Where the Rivers Meet, the stories are laid out to be confirmed once you follow them to the city.

© Copyright 2010 Hindustan Times