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|Number of Pages||344 Pages|
I like Bishwanath Ghosh for 2 reasons – his writing is simple and straight from the heart- he does not pretend to be someone else and never tries to impress with complex words or ornamental sentences. That said, there is always a touch of poignancy in his observations that do not preach, but leave the reader with questions to ponder over.
As someone who has enjoyed his columns in newspapers immensely, I found 'Tamarind City' a treat – almost visual, as Bishwanath paints Chennai in varied colours - tracing its history, delving into it’s heritage, interviewing celebrities from various fields, chatting with people like you and me, wandering it’s streets, visiting landmarks – some known and others forgotten, taking a peek into the Brahmin culture and psyche, ambling on the Marina, eating at Ratna Cafe, even listening to a kutchery.
When most of us move into a new city for greener pastures and brighter prospects or due to domestic compulsions, it is fascinating to learn the reasons for Bishwanath’s move to Chennai from Delhi – to a place where he neither knew the language nor had family.
'Tamarind City' has many snippets that are surprising even for long term residents of Chennai. When we have lived in a city most of our lives, speaking the local language, we take many things for granted – we seldom observe, question or analyse. That’s what dawned on me when I read the book – that we Tamilians balance tradition and technology, culture and modernity unconsciously, as if it were the most natural thing to do!
The fact that Bishwanath never once adopts a condescending tone and understands the Tamil psyche for what it really is, makes the book immensely appealing. When you put down the book, you can’t help feeling that you have got to know Chennai better through a man you just met, who has endeared himself to you with his genuine interest, healthy curiosity and amazing candour.
One would expect a book such as this to cater to a very select audience, because books on a particular city either end up doing a deep dive into the history and geography of the place, or take us on a picture postcard tour across the ‘places to see’, functioning as virtual tour guide.
In Tamarind City too, there is history – lots of it, there is politics, there is religion, there is tradition, and of course, something that Chennai would be incomplete without – Movies. What makes Tamarind City different is that Chennai is treated like a person who grows and matures, and changes over time. One does not see the city through Bishwanath Ghosh’s eyes alone, but also through the eyes of many people, some famous, other not, who have seen the city grow, and transform into what it is today.
I like history, although my school curriculum and history teachers tried their best to make me hate it. I have always used the example of Manohar Malogonkar’s historical books as an example of how history can be made fascinating and exciting. I can now add Tamarind City to the list. Mind you, this is not a historical novel in the classic sense, because history here is used more like a flashback in a movie to connect to the present day events and places.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read, because you can see Chennai as it is today, and also what forces worked (and are still working) to make it as it is.
What thoughts come to you when you think of Chennai? Idli and sambhar, the hot weather, beaches? Well, there is more to Chennai than these; so says Bishwanath Ghosh through his wonderful book Tamarind City.Probably the fact that
Bishwanath Ghosh is of Bengali origin and has lived in Chennai only for past ten years makes this book quite unique.
Tamarind City is about exploring the nooks and crannies of Chennai or erstwhile Madras; things that has been thought as a part of Madras that you don't give them a second thought. He takes to the past describing how the port city has played an important part in the formation of East India Company, paving
its way for the British Rule in India. He also takes you to the modern industrial area of Chennai, a picture of the new India.
Bishwanath Ghosh has done a wonderful job of presenting you the smooth blend of Traditionalism and modern outlook that co-exists in Chennai. Probably there are no other city dwellers who refuses to let go out of their traditions even in this fast paced world.
Overall this is a book to read if you are interested in knowing more about Chennai. The journalist in Bishwanath
Ghosh has ensured that the writings is crisp, yet with the right tinge of humour. Not even a single page will make you feel bored.
A portrait of modern and historic Chennai written by a Bengali who chose to move in here. The author's passion for the city is evident in the book and the book is brilliant mostly, covering several aspects of the city in breezy chapters. The first few chapters on the North and South Chennai divide, the ones on Mylapore and Triplicane are all really well done. But the author chooses to digress midway to talk about personalities that he happens to meet in his life and moves away from the general theme about the city. Topics on changing liberal outlook, and the city's cinema connection seem to lose importance in the process. Written in a pleasing conversational way, this is a book for Chennai lovers and ideal gift material for others. Interesting Trivia, fresh anecdotes and nice one liners sprinkled through the book make this a nice quick read!
A very nicely written book. The book talks about Chennai and its evolution and its philosophy, and also about eminent personalities of Madras upbringing.
Art, Culture, Music, Movies, Food, Technology, Healthcare, Education, Economy, Politics, Romance and Sex all are given proportionate weight-age and written in a brilliant manner to get me thinking..whoa Chennai does stand for this...and pretty more...
The author takes the readers through a journey of his life in Chennai, thereby, subtly introducing facts about Life in Madras ...and thereby successfully beseeches the curiosity in me to come out and think hard about what I have been missing-having lived so many years in Chennai-and not knowing what it stands for.
Not a travel guide surely!
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