Book Review: Biswin Sadi Memoirs by Jamil Urfi

Book Name: Biswin Sadi Memoirs

Author: Jamil Urfi

Publisher: Cinnamon Teal

Rating: 3.9/5

Book Blurb: In this memoir, the author recounts his experiences of growing up in Delhi during a period of ‘Biswin Sadi’– the 20th century, when it felt like a new age had just begun, although it’s already mid-century.

Living in a suburb of South Delhi called Nizamuddin East, with ruins of Mughal era buildings scattered all across, he recalls the people displaced by partition, piecing together their lives. An Anglo-Indian family– survivors of a vanishing tribe, living in a world of their own. A publisher of an Urdu magazine called Biswin Sadi, who had migrated from Lahore. An English-medium private school, resplendent with symbols of undivided Punjab, attempting to prepare leaders for taking over the reins of power, in a newly independent country.

By employing the metaphor of Hindi films the author paints a kaleidoscopic picture of the bygone century…those times without e-mail, or mobile phones.

Review: Biswin Sadi Memoirs is a nostalgic account of growing up in Delhi. A highly personalized account, it serves as a depository of a bygone era and offers some useful insights on life in the previous century which many of the current generations cannot imagine.

The author has gone with an interesting theme and has compared it to Bollywood which works very well for the book. As many a good author would tell you, a good book should be like a film, frame by frame and show the story rather than merely narrating it. Jamil does a wonderful job of bringing alive the previous century, a generation where personal relations were not limited to virtual interactions and life was not simplified (or perhaps complicated) by overuse of technology.

The book is not simply about Delhi and covers most well-known places in North India where the author lived or visited. So you have accounts of Aligarh and Bareilly but Delhi is what is recounted most.

The book touches almost all aspects including socio-political and economic context of the time.

“Readers of today may be shocked to hear how much the purchasing power of the rupee was in the days when we were children. In junior school, Abbu used to give me a daily allowance of 50 paisa, which surprisingly got several things from the school canteen- a samosa, a bottle of coke, and a few toffees.”

Writing such a book from pure memory would be an awesome feat but given the fact that its so well structured and detailed, the author must have kept some journal that came in handy I think.

Delhi has had a rich Mughal heritage but sadly the present generation has forgotten about it. This is why such books assume a lot of importance. The snippets provided here give you a good view of the places in Delhi and some not so conspicuous areas are well covered too.

The author Jamil has a good command over the language and stays away from controversy giving this book a genteel feel and makes it a collector’s item. This book can surely be passed over to the next generation. You cannot help feeling nostalgic since most accounts are highly relatable and the places are familiar.

Read this one to learn about a century you have only heard about from grandparents or elders.

“In modern history, the 60’s and 70’s will remain the ‘original’ template and their music, fims, arts, etc. will forever be re-made and recycled.”


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