Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Delhi” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,683 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
I return to Delhi as I return to my mistress Bhagmati when I have had my fill of whoring in foreign lands.

Thus begins Khushwant Singh's vast, erotic, irrelevant magnum opus on the city of Delhi. The principal narrator of the saga, which extends over six hundred years, is a bawdy, ageing reprobate who loves Delhi as much as he does the hijra whore Bhagmati - half man, half
Paperback, 391 pages
Published May 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1990)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Delhi, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Delhi

2 States by Chetan BhagatI Too Had a Love Story by Ravinder SinghThe 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan BhagatThe Immortals of Meluha by Amish TripathiRevolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat
Indian Books - Fiction
181st out of 748 books — 2,118 voters
India After Gandhi by Ramachandra GuhaThe Discovery of India by Jawaharlal NehruIndia Unbound by Gurcharan DasThe Argumentative Indian by Amartya SenIndia by John Keay
India on My Mind
22nd out of 158 books — 59 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 05, 2015 Tenzin rated it it was amazing
The preface declares the injecting of a lot of seminal fluid into the book - guaranteeing you the dirty old man (his sobriquet) experience, so what's not to like? Through it you witness the 600 years of history that has shaped this city - covering Mughals, War of 1857, 1984 Sikh pogrom, Untouchables, Timurids, Hazrat Nizamuddin and more, some squalid, some divine. His candid, sentimental and unapologetic outpourings reach orgasmic heights in the chapters devoted to the uncouth, rude, pock-marked ...more
I was annoyed from the first to the last page. The premise was very interesting: Delhi's history from the Mughal Empire (1526) to the murder of Indira Gandhi (1984). Chapters alternate from present time (in which we read above all about useless sex scenes among the main character and a hijra prostitute) to ancient time where the past revives thanks to the first-person narration of different characters.
I couldn't understand which was the fictional part and which were real historical events, it wa
Fathima Cader
Jun 06, 2009 Fathima Cader rated it it was ok
a lot of sex (a lot of it) and a lot of death (even more death than sex). after a while, the massacres began to bleed into each other, just one slaughter followed by another. i'm not faulting Singh for this (at least, not yet because i haven't done enough historical readings on Delhi to be able to contextualise his fiction), because it does seem as though he's just plotting out the city's bloody history. so if it seems like it's an excessively macabre novel, it's because that's what the city was ...more
Aastha Sharma
Mar 26, 2013 Aastha Sharma rated it it was amazing
This book kept me up for several nights. I never fell asleep while reading the book but the exhaustion I felt after reading about the bloody massacres that have dotted the pages of Indian history was tremendous. This is an extremely powerful book. From the invasion of Taimur to the Anti-Sikh riots, to the personal accounts of the journey of the narrator which is interspersed in the book to provide respite from the heavy heat one feels after reading about the mostly bloody and accursed history of ...more
Feb 20, 2012 Ruchita rated it did not like it
This was so horrendously bad that I had forgotten all about having read this book. I guess my brain was trying to subconsciously suppress the memory of it. However, my brain, being the way it is, just as well randomly popped this book up at me on a Monday evening, because that is the sort of thing my brain likes to do.

'Hey, remember that one time you wasted four precious days reading this book which posed itself as a 'historical fiction' novel and turned out to be really nothing more than some
Jan 04, 2013 Rajeev rated it liked it

Delhi: History in the Garb of Erotica.

History in the garb of Erotica (or is it the other way round?): Would be an apt epithet for Delhi: A Novel by Khushwant Singh.

Synopsis: A lecherous historian-cum-writer is in a bad phase of his career that he takes a part-time job as a tourist guide in Delhi. As a guide he ensures a perennial supply of foreign memsahibs for himself with whom he has innumerable flings. He takes these tourists and his hijda mistress around Delhi for sightseeing thus visiting v
Meenakshi Kapoor
Mar 22, 2013 Meenakshi Kapoor rated it liked it
If one can tolerate the excessively elaborate accounts of the protagonist's sexual encounters, the novel is a good read to understand Indian history in a different perspective. Even if one is not familiar with the Indian History, the novel still appeals due to its accurate detailing of the location and structure of the monuments of Delhi. (No, the novel doesn't end at Red Fort and Qutub Minar). The way KS describes the by lanes of Chandni Chowk during the reign of shah jahan, or Paharganj when A ...more
gurpreet kaur
Jul 18, 2013 gurpreet kaur rated it liked it
'The world is the body and Delhi its life', said Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Delhi is still as intriguing as ever, so old and yet so new, holding within its folds history, politics, love, violence, religion, destruction and countless other emotions and stories. 'The city of dginns', by William Dalrimple helped stimulate my interest in this 'life of the world' and Khushwant Singh's ' Delhi' seemed to be an apt choice.
I guess I was holding the wrong book for the wrong reasons.... It is only a birds- ey
Farrukh Pitafi
Apr 27, 2013 Farrukh Pitafi rated it it was amazing
Some day I will write a similar book about my beloved city. I promise. Don't ask which city. But I will ;)
Aug 30, 2015 Aviral rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-writing
Khushwant Singh seems obsessed with sex..and with fart. After a point it got extremely boring. Almost every character in the book (and that included a lot of historical characters) appeared to have a fetish for sex. The only way to insult somebody was to make rude gestures or show your private parts.

Initially I wanted to give it 2 stars but added another star when I realized that I learned a few things about the Indian history from it. Bhagmati is an allegory for Delhi. She is a hijda(transgende
Rajat TWIT
Oct 15, 2014 Rajat TWIT rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Daring, intriguing, exemplary, poetic, didactic, historic and quintessentially Khushwant-esque, this book is anything but just another book on Delhi. The pukka sardar is at his best when he is describing about the wonderful and exuberant past of the city of Djinns, called Dilli or Delhi. Khushwant Singh proves why he is adored as a home-grown writer in English and proves that Literary critics will rarely promote him as a serious author. But nonetheless, his works are far more exciting than many ...more
Muddle head
Oct 06, 2011 Muddle head rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-fiction
It's an intriguing read. It's a controversial read. Two ppl can't read it and be left with the same set of emotions for it.

So, here is what i understand from this novel. Through this book, the author has tried to express his own feelings, his own thoughts about various incidents that took place in Delhi, going back by at least 500 years or more. This entire novel is written in the form of small autobiographies narrated by diff ppl involved with the history of Delhi like Aurangazeb, Nadir Shah et
Poonam Garvan
Jan 28, 2014 Poonam Garvan rated it really liked it
After I finished TRAIN TO PAKISTAN I never thought that I would read any other book by khushwant Singh( not that i did not like it ... it was fine but i lost my interest in the writer somehow). I am glad that i picked this one up. A good read after all and the way the writer traces the history with emperors, poets and soldiers narrating their tales from their own perspective. People usually say that histories are written by rulers and the vanquished are always presented in a demeaning light, but ...more
I asked my soul: What Is Delhi?” She replied: “The world is the body and Delhi is its life - Ghalib “Delhi” by Khushwant Singh was the first book that I read by the dirty old man of Indian literature. The book is a fictional account of the charming and historic city of Delhi through his eyes. He compares Delhi to his mistress the uncouth foul-mouthed, pockmarked Hijra (eunuch) ‘Bhagmati’ who is as dirty as Delhi but is what he cannot get enough of. The author covers various chapters in Delhi’s b ...more
Oct 09, 2012 Akshi rated it really liked it
“The world is the body and Delhi its life.”

With these words of Mirza Ghalib as its epigraph begins this colossal work on the city of Delhi spanning nearly six centuries from the reign of Ghiyas Ud Din Balban to the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the anti Sikh riots of 1984. Khushwant Singh brings the story of Delhi to life by alternating between autobiographical accounts of several characters from different eras of the history of the city and his accounts of his relationship between his he
Mayank Chawla
Sep 30, 2014 Mayank Chawla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, favorites
Delhi is quintessentially Khushwant Singh, The grand-old man of India. Delhi is a novel that quite surprised and delighted me, particularly the narration. The story of Delhi, from Sultanate days to 1984 Anti-Sikh riots has been told from the viewpoints of the important characters involved. The narration is its best part that is so exquisite that one almost feels the events taking place in front of his eyes. I specially liked the Chapters of Mussadi Lal, The Untouchables , Aurangzeb Alamgir an ...more
Gorab Jain
Sep 01, 2015 Gorab Jain rated it it was amazing
How to narrate History interestingly? By using autobiographical narration style, and by injecting alternate chapters of weirdness! I started loathing this book till around 4 chapters. After each historical episode(total 10), the time shifts to modern era with the protagonist detailing his relationship with Bhagmati, an eunuch transvestite prostitute! And in between a dedicated chapter on different types of farts! Ugggh!!
But then I Was mesmerised by the alternate epic story telling of Mughals, Su
Rishi Prakash
Dec 02, 2012 Rishi Prakash rated it really liked it
Got this book from a friend and he said just read it slowly and be receptive!

KS has really done a great job by depicting a different side of the great city. It is not something which many writers have seen/shown to us.

I think Delhi is one of the best books about the city, precisely because it didn't try to mask it's repugnant ugliness beneath a mask. This book was published more than twenty years ago but it still holds a lot of relevance to the city today. You have to read between the lines, an
Ratan Sadanandan O M
Jun 30, 2014 Ratan Sadanandan O M rated it really liked it
I found the historical accounts in the book to be really interesting; the accounts of POV characters like Timur, Aurangzeb, Bahadur Shah Zafar and other fictional citizens from various periods between 13th century and 20th century presents different views on the historical events.It presents the history of Delhi in a different light. The accounts are interlaced with couplets and poems.

The narrative by the author is a bit drab. Be warned about superfluous description of sex in almost every chapte
Anas Bashir
Mar 01, 2016 Anas Bashir added it
Shelves: shelved
'Delhi' is an utterly boring, commonplace, and pedestrian piece of work by Khushwant Singh. I bought this book because I had immensely liked his ' Train to Pakistan' and History of Sikhs. But in this book, his attempt to tell the history of Delhi falls flat on face.

I usually hate to leave a book midway, but with this book, I couldn't bring myself to continue reading after a point. Disappointing and not worthy of any rating!
Sabil Ali
Nov 16, 2012 Sabil Ali rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This book i may not tell it is a axcellent one, But it stands out with its different kind of narration. How the present delhi is how the past was. I was always fascinated about the indian history especially about the mughal empire and sort of. He narrates the story from each persons perspective. We will get a good knowledge about indian history and it is really interesting to read because of khushwanth singhs narrational style. There were some part which described how he seduced womens and thing ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Nisha rated it liked it
A bloody history of Delhi. I wish I had read a general Indian history book before this because a lot of it went over my head and so it took me a while to get through it. It was funny in parts, horrific in others. The end was so sudden. It almost felt like an entirely different book about halfway through, and not one I was particularly blown away by. But good, concise writing, with main characters I didn't exactly love but who came off the page anyway. Might come back to certain chapters when my ...more
Prathyush Parasuraman
Khushwant Singh does have this irreverence in his prose that makes you cringe and ponder at the same time. This fluid nature of his unpretentious style of writing keeps the reader glued because at no point do you feel like he is elevating his story and characters beyond your understanding. The very premise of this book is demanding, overwhelming and epic, in its very nature. To run your hands over the contours of a city as ebullient and schizophrenic as Delhi is really not an easy task to undert ...more
Nishant Sharma
Apr 28, 2015 Nishant Sharma rated it it was amazing
I picked this book because I have to appear for a test on "Medieval Delhi" and the brief to-the-point notes given by the college are too dry to chew alone. The book provides enough juice to gulp down the history of Delhi.

I loved this book whole heartily. This was my first book by Khushwant Singh. He is humorous, erotic, sad, horrifying and so is Delhi's history. Khushwant Singh is a 'Dilliwala' and knows how to tell a story. I found the book unputdownable, may be because I am also a 'Dilliwala.
Nandasiri Wanninayaka
Sep 01, 2014 Nandasiri Wanninayaka rated it really liked it
Recently I had the chance of Kushwant Singh’s novel, ‘Delhi.’ It was an interesting read. It looks like autobiographical but I don’t think Singh did those horrible things mentioned in the novel in real. Right from the first page Singh starts his trademark humor. I wouldn’t have continued the novel if not for his humor because the novel is revolved around an unpleasant character called Bhagmati. She is a hijra (eunuch.) For a strange reason, Singh is sexually attracted to her than any other sex p ...more
This book is... complicated. It's half set in the modern-day (or, well, in some vaguely 1960s-80s sort of modern-day) and half set in various time periods in Delhi's history. The modern-day sections concern a journalist who seems to be a barely fictionalized version of Singh himself, and are mostly concerned with navel-gazing about his relationship with a hijra prostitute (hijra is a gender category in South Asia that includes what, in Western terms, would be trans women, intersexed people of an ...more
Vivek Gothwal
Jan 20, 2013 Vivek Gothwal rated it really liked it
Its was an interesting read atleast for me. Khushwant singh has tried to tell the story of delhi through the eyes of different characters with different position and shades in the society. The emperor, the beggar, the invader, the businessman, the explorer, the untouchable, the poet each one of them was the central character in the saga of delhi. He showed delhi through their eyes and takes us through over 600 years of delhi's rih history.
Feb 22, 2016 Bigsna rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
60% read... And no more.
On a second reluctant attempt, resuming this book is feeling like a punishment. And while I hate to abandon something I've read more than half way through, this one is just not worth wasting more time on.
I tried and tried, but simply could not bring myself to enjoy Khushwant Singh's crass narrative of the lustful historical episodes of Delhi, interspersed with his own carnal escapades. I'm calling it.
Apr 10, 2014 VENKATRAMAN C K rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Writing about History is challenging as many readers would be somewhat familiar with key dates, events and personalities involved. Also, the subject is dry. Khushwant Singh ( may he RIP) in his inimitable style easily overcomes this challenge !!

Positively gripping, He combines profane with the Profound, Sublime with the ridiculous, satire with seriousness... we fall in love with the city and the people. Written in first person, we see the past and the present(upto mid eighties) , nay live it , t
Apr 05, 2016 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is one of those books which I failed to read in one spell. I would read it, put it aside labelling it as not to be read, pick it up and read it again :D it is amazing work but the content gets so overwhelming at times that one just discards it as hogwash. I was interested in history of Dehli so I didnt find it really interesting. Anyways it did take me to the dark alleys of Dehli :p but there wasnt much about history. I regret that I didnt read the original urdu version because it was like ea ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Delhi: History in the Garb of Erotica. 2 30 Sep 04, 2014 12:08AM  
  • The Alchemy of Desire
  • Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller
  • The Opium Clerk
  • The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India
  • City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
  • Great Indian Middle Class
  • Classic Ruskin Bond: Complete & Unabridged
  • Hello, Bastar - The Untold Story of India's Maoist Movement
  • Curfewed Night
  • The Indians: Portrait Of A People
  • India: A Portrait
  • Non Stop India
  • Kingdom's End: Selected Stories
  • An Area of Darkness
  • Love and Longing in Bombay
  • Itaca per sempre
  • The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery
  • The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India
Khushwant Singh, (Punjabi: ਖੁਸਵੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ, Hindi: खुशवंत सिंह) born on 2 February 1915 in Hadali, British India, now a part of Punjab, Pakistan, was a prominent Indian novelist and journalist. Singh's weekly column, "With Malice towards One and All", carried by several Indian newspapers, was among the most widely-read columns in the country.

An important post-colonial novelist writing in English, Sing
More about Khushwant Singh...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“When the world is itself draped in the mantle of night, the mirror of the mind is like the sky in which thoughts twinkle like stars.” 76 likes
“That's Delhi. When life gets too much for you all you need to do is to spend an hour at Nigambodh Ghat,watch the dead being put to flames and hear their kin wail for them. Then come home and down a couple of pegs of whisky. In Delhi, death and drink make life worth living,” 21 likes
More quotes…