In Delhi, it Pours.

For as long as I can remember, people have referred to me as a “wordsmith”.

I hate the term “wordsmith”. I know people say it with good intention, but it doesn’t – in the slightest – describe the role of a writer and storyteller. There is far more to our work than cobbling a few words together, and dressing them up in fancy adjectives that are akin to lace-up shoes.

I believe that a writer is a master of emotions.

You need to have a good grasp of emotions (more so than words) if you want to be an excellent writer. I know many people who are well-educated and have read many books; but they often tell me that they have trouble with giving their writing that “emotional hook”. Like Sylvia Plath does in The Bell Jar, or like Stephen King does when he’s describing the psychotic downfall of Johnny in The Shining. This is usually because these people are focusing on the wrong areas (words, rather than emotions).

Writing and storytelling is actually a consequence of many things. A consequence of feeling love, of experiencing heartbreak, of surviving pain, and generally speaking, of living life.

As a writer, I write for only thirty percent of my daily existence. I don’t know if this just makes me a lazy bum; but I do find that my best stories are a result of the things that I’m feeling; as well as the personal experiences that I’m leaning on.

As such, my debut book “In Delhi, it Pours” is a consequence of my life, up until the age of thirty-three.

I wouldn’t be so arrogant to suggest that it’s just “about me”. Quite the contrary, in fact. The book itself is in collaboration with Indico Street Kitchen and represents their brand and their delicious menu. The fiction stories within it are to “represent the underrepresented” (or at least, I hope) – and are to serve our readers, first and foremost.

But it’s also true that I have reached into my inner psyche, to bring these stories together for you. This is something that I have never really written about in depth.

However, as we are now approaching “launch date”, it seems like the perfect time to do so.

It is impossible for me to write about In Delhi, it Pours without mentioning a certain human by the name of Faheem Badur. 

You will notice his name on the front cover of the book alongside mine; and that is because this book would not have existed without him. I know this sounds like a cliched thing to say; and perhaps “predictable”; because Faheem is the founder and owner of Indico Street Kitchen.

But I know Faheem. He would rather that I did not mention him, nor credit him, nor publicly praise him when promoting In Delhi, it Pours.

In fact, I’m not even going to share this blog with Faheem – because his feedback will be something along the lines of “This book is all you Neely, you don’t need to mention me”.

There are very few people who will step away from the limelight in this day and age – where vanity metrics basically define our worth.

However, Faheem has taught me that our creations should always be bigger than ourselves. As a writer, this means to create stories and characters that stand on their own two feet – in the absence of external validation and accolades. While Faheem gave me full artistic licence with In Delhi, it Pours – the stories within it are a consequence of me knowing him, and learning from him. This book would read very differently had Faheem not been in my corner, often critiquing drafts and telling me when I can do a better job.

I could not be more thankful to this human.

For me, this book is symbolic of the better person I have become since knowing Faheem – and you will see his kindness and wisdom subtly hidden in some of the stories in our book. I won’t give away which stories exactly,  because I feel some things deserve to remain sacred and private.

I am very bad at marketing my own work. I actually dislike the word “marketing” altogether (even though it’s an industry in which I earn my bread and butter!) – because it dehumanises something that feels incredibly personal to me.

But since we are here, I guess I should use this opportunity to tell you why I wrote In Delhi, it Pours in the way that I did.

For me, it has always been clear that there’s no shortage of Indian cookbooks on the market. However, upon my research I found that many of them focus on surface-level stereotypes where Indian culture is reduced to sanskrit symbols and henna patterns (you will find no sanskrit nor henna patterns in In Delhi, it Pours).

So, as a team, we collectively decided that we would bring something “different” to readers. Almost reinvent the cookbook genre, if you will – but not just for the sake of being cool; but because we felt there was a gap that we could genuinely fill.

And thus, the entire concept of In Delhi, it Pours centred around serving others. In-line with the Indian philosophy of hospitality (and Indico’s motto) “Atithi Devo Bhava” – meaning The Guest is God.

We did not wish to make this book directly “about us” in any way; even though it represents Indico Street Kitchen and is inspired by my personal experiences. Instead, we chose to write the book in the voice of a fictional female character, who we feel epitomises the beautiful culture of North India; and is separate from our own self-indulgent needs.

For the same reason, each of the stories in In Delhi, it Pours shares the experiences of the everyday people of India, who do extraordinary things on a daily basis. This is not a book that is jam-packed with the international achievements of award-winning chefs and writers;  this is a book that honours the dirt beneath the fingernails of a street food vendor – and how he and millions of others work day and night to pay for their children’s school uniforms.

Surely, that is real inspiration? I know that’s the kind of stuff that I would rather read about.

Feeling like an outsider while growing up (for several reasons), it has also been important to me that the stories in In Delhi, it Pours speak to a vast demographic and feel inclusive. The nature of the book – and the writing itself – is intentionally light, so we haven’t explored these topics in an overly “deep” capacity. But I hope that our readers will find that we have honoured people of all religions, faiths (or lack of) – and reached out to the LGBTQ+ community, which by the way, is booming in India!

I am by no means perfect, and I might have used the incorrect terms here and there (I am still learning). However,  the main purpose of me writing characters that represent the LGBTQ+ community was not some kind of a tick box exercise. We simply want to share a book that is doused in love – the kind of love that is void of any labels. I truly hope this comes across.

At the time of typing this blog, there are exactly two-point-five days left until we receive the delivery of all the books! It is quite surreal to be working on something for more than two years, and then to see the three dimensional result of it (in volume!).

I look forward to seeing these artistic masterpieces stocked up in all the Indico’s Street Kitchens across the city, before guests excitedly purchase them as Christmas or birthday presents. I look forward to reading the stories to my ten year-old daughter at bed time, as we turn the pages together and admire the hand-sketched illustrations.

But more than anything else, I look forward to each and every one of you (who chooses to purchase and read the book) to feel moved by the stories we have so lovingly put together. I am not expecting a barrage of compliments; for me, knowing that I have helped deliver a heartwarming moment to someone – with the help of my writing – is truly more than enough.
If you do wish to purchase a copy of In Delhi, it Pours – I should tell you that the book is best read from beginning-to-end (for the full meditative experience); but you should feel at liberty to dip in and out of it as you please.

Orders can be placed here.

Special Thank Yous:

Faheem, DeniAlberto, Vicky, Lei, Chef Deepak, Chef Gulsher, Andy, Ali, My Saphia