India’s high-profile capital city, New Delhi, is every bit as complicated as the country itself, a dynamic crush of humanity at turns glittery and cosmopolitan as well as dysfunctional and destitute. It’s where perpetually traffic-clogged, tree-lined highways, the sides of which see a virtual stream of homeless migrants, lead to affluent gated communities and overcrowded Islamic enclaves, high-end shopping malls and magnificent centuries-old tombs, forts, mosques, and ruins that speak loudly of another era—certainly one no less complex than now.

For Delhi, having lived through a roller coaster of dynasties and empires, is said to have been the site of eight cities, from the 11th-century Lal Kot (now the beautiful Qutb Minar complex) through the Mughals’ 17th-century walled city Shahjahanabad (now labyrinthine Old Delhi) to the British-built New Delhi of today. It’s never been a simple, or easy, place to be—not for the diverse population of 22 million (give or take) living under its smog-dulled sky, nor for travelers passing through.

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