Tributes pour in for Delhi historian R V Smith

Adieu RVS: Tributes pour in for city chronicler, raconteur R V Smith

To say that R V Smith knew the winding lanes, bylanes and little-known monuments of Delhi like the back of his hand, won't be an exaggeration.

The Agra-born octogenarian, who started his career as a journalist in mid-1950s, devoted his life later to chronicle the heritage facets of the city, and collect tales untold.

"He was able to relate broken domes, ruins, mausoleums to an era or period, and had access to histories -- private and family -- of Anglo-Indians that most people didn't," city-based historian Sohail Hashmi told PTI.

Hashmi, who has been an avid reader of Smith's columns in The Hindu, said, "he was in love with Delhi".

"He was not the 'pucca' Delhiwallah as he was born in Agra, but like poets Mir Taqi Mir and Ghalib, he too was in love with the city. Smith, like a tramp, had walked all streets, nooks and crannies of Delhi," he recalled.

Noted author and columnist and famed chronicler of Delhi, Ronald Vivian Smith, better known as R V Smith, and best known for his writings on Delhi, breathed his last at a hospital here on Thursday. He was 81.

In his book, 'The Delhi That No-one Knows', he described his experience of chronicling: "I did not refer to any nook, did not make notes from dusty volumes in old libraries - I just walked."

"Sometimes, I took buses- many a long after years ago, when as a bachelor and a young journalist in Delhi, finding out about old monuments was a passion," he wrote.

INTACH Delhi Chapter Convener and author of the book on old Delhi and New Delhi, Swapna Liddle, also condoled his death.

"Smith's contribution to the history of Delhi is immense. He collected histories and memories not only from books but from people. Equally importantly, his beautiful storytelling style brought that history to life in his books and columns," she said.

Smith's love for Delhi was infectious and in many heritage walks he was invited as a special guest by organisers.

His last book was a collection of potpourri of myths, lores and historical tales, in and around Delhi, titled "Lingering Charm of Delhi".

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also expressed his grief over his death.

"RV Smith, the chronicler of our great city Delhi passed away this morning. His work kept alive the stories and memories of our city. It''s a huge loss especially for Delhiites. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. RIP," Kejriwal tweeted. 

Born in 1938, Smith was suffering from age-related ailments for the past four months, his family said. 

"It is very difficult to describe him. He of course was a walking encyclopedia on Delhi, be its history, culture, Anglo-Indian community and what not. Even when he was not in good health, he didn't stop writing. I would at times help him with typing out the articles but that was about it. He has been a big source of inspiration in my life," recounted his son Tony Smith.

Son of late journalist Thomas Smith, R V Smith also worked as a journalist spanning over four decades. He worked with the Press Trust of India (PTI) and The Statesman for a significant period of time.

Journalist Reshmi Ray Dasgupta wrote a social media post in a tribute to Smith.

"Rest in peace Ronald Vivian ((Ronnie) Smith, legendary news editor of The Statesman and raconteur of events in Delhi's history that rarely find mention in our dry textbooks... Generations of journalists honed their skills on his watch... And I loved reading his post-retirement columns in The Hindu - vignettes of the history of Delhi... Adieu RVS," she wrote.