William Dalrymple’s seminal account, The City of Djinns, in an attempt to explicate its title, volunteers for its reader a singular urban legend: ‘it is said’, the book claims, ‘that each house in Delhi has its own resident Djinn.’ These omnipresent tenants are not however, the sole metaphysical proprietors of our imperial legacy; souls of various aggrieved British officers and their wives too roam the corridors of Delhi’s ancient structures.
New Delhi is after all, rather fertile for trauma. It is a place where so much is left behind: its most prominent monuments, the gardens that outlay in front of these, its axial road network, its wide vistas – all of these are very present reminders of the city’s recent trysts with imperialism. These symbols are all visible and present; they besiege and define the existence of the average citizen in Delhi. It is also true, however, that residents live lives that are bracketed within gigantic, invisible systems of a colonial origin: taxation, bureaucracy, primary education, laws that relate to expression and its curtailment, public transportation, etc.
It is not difficult to posit that all of these markers – whether visible or invisible – ambush the consciousness of the aware individual on a daily basis. The present series of films seeks to examine – beyond the anecdotal and the nostalgic – the mental collateral of several successive generations of imperialism. These will also contemplate how imperialist rule can essentially debilitate a society’s confidence in itself. It is the concern of the series to investigate actively the extent of the crisis of identity prevalent in a society that persists in its efforts to move forward into the future, while lugging with it a past that rests heavy on its shoulders.