Mapping the growing Capital
"In the era of digital Google maps which are accessible to all, people have forgotten the significance of maps. Maps are an important channel to know a city even when you're far away from it; existence of maps lies beyond its navigation abilities: they are symbolic of power, government and marking the borders is a political act," said Pilar Maria Guerrieria in her opening statement at the recent launch of her first book Maps of Delhi.
The book presents an exquisite study of the maps of Delhi, from the onset of the 19th century to the master plan of 2021. It is first of its kind, a collection of maps of the city, a breathtakingly illustrated cartographic history of the capital. Manosi Lahiri, author of the book Mapping India mentions that it must have taken Dr Pilar sheer amount of hard work in collectivising and compiling all these maps together and dealing with National Archive. She further mentions that first few maps in the books are those historic maps prepared by British cartographers back in those days for the purpose of understanding the city for better governance. The copies were created of those maps: one was sent to London; and other kept in India for the purpose that if the ship might sink, all the work doesn't go in vain.
"The book was a part of my PhD program and it was done out of necessity, and it was a great working experience in Delhi," said Dr Pilar, the author of Maps of Delhi. Through maps, one can understand the human interaction of the time.
If you look at Shahjahanabad, it's an airy, open, healthy city with lots of gardens all around. It is built according to British standards, and so is Bangla road. But if you look at Patel Nagar, the construction of this part of the city brings out a post- independence understanding; it's built according to a rational pattern of economically using the available space to accommodate people. The book presents its readers, not just the maps, which are on the ground but also master plans and expert pieces of town planning which if executed and implemented can make Delhi a better place and more organised city.
"The process of finding the maps has been an incredible life experience. Took a very long time to collect, select and put in order all the maps scattered in several Indian archives. Dealing with chaotic and diverse archives, handle bureaucracy, time spent getting the right information and patience used to keep going, have been the main challenges of the research process," recalled Guerrieri, who holds a PhD in Architectural Design, Architectural Composition, Criticism and Theory.
Guerrieri said that after getting access to archives, she sat there for months, patiently hunting for maps and documents that could unveiling the story of the capital. The National Archives of India, the Delhi State Archives and many others institutions, the author said, hold incredible treasures whose true value needs to be appreciated.
The author further shared that the book unveils the development of the capital, showing the most important changes in its urban planning over two hundred years.
"I believe it is an interesting book for both academics and non-academics. For the first ones, given the amount of valuable primary sources information, is an important detailed specific reference point. Instead, for the second ones, I believe the book provides a fascinating sense of growth and expanse of the city, kick-starting the curiosity of exploring hidden historical treasures," maintained the author.
Referring to the capital as "City of Cities," the author added that Delhi is a city of distinct parts – each with its distinct characters and features – so distinct that we are actually able to identify those parts as micro cities within the city.