Tamarind City – Bishwanath Ghosh

Tamarind City – Where Modern India Began

By Bishwanath Ghosh

Published by Tranquebar

Reading Tamarind City with Green Tea
Reading Tamarind City with Green Tea

Throughout this book, the author wears a reporter’s cap and explores Chennai, the city he has made his home, delving into its past, roaming its historic sites and neighbourhoods, and meeting a wide variety of people too.

For a person like me, born and brought up in Chennai, it’s always a proud moment when people from other parts of the country, take interest in this city’s history and even write a book about it.

When I had visited Kolkata a few years back, during Puja time, I had great fun in going around the city, learning the different interesting places, the famous foods and all that make up that city. So, it was quite natural for me to see, if this Bengali had captured the essence of the city, which I call my own.

The author starts the book with the history ofMadras, which came into existence even beforeBombayandCalcuttawere formed. And then he goes on to describe the different veins of people who run through the city giving it its colour and character.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the history of the city which was the starting point of British’s trading.

That part on Mylapore brought in fresh memories of my childhood, the place where I grew up.

Even though I absolutely enjoyed the banter in which every interview was written, I felt that they were quite long which made me wonder if the book is about Chennai or about that person. Also, the part on Gemini Ganesan and Saroja Devi – the yester year movie artists, were quite lengthy and I certainly don’t think that it’s the tamarind part of the city.

Many people told me that this book is quite similar to the Chennai Chronicler S. Muthaiah’s Madras Miscellany. But the Chronicler’s chronicles kept me hooked to the pages.

That Patricia’s story sounded so familiar that I later realized it was an article by the author in the newspaper.

And thanks to the author I went ahead to visit the Kalikambal temple inNorth Chennaiand the famousSt. ThomasChurchin Santhome.

Staying in the same city for a long time, we just take things for granted. Especially the people of Chennai are quite unassuming about the rich heritage and past they have. It takes a Bengali to come and understand the history and write about it.

I wonder if the author has covered all that makes this Chennai city!!! But then I tell myself, it’s certainly not possible to contain the city in just 315 pages. There’s more to Chennai than that meets the text in a book.

A good read and am happy that a conservative Chennai did intrigue the author, to write about it. And Chennai has more to it to go for a Part 2.


This review is written for the Writersmelon group !!! 🙂

You can also check out the review at http://www.writersmelon.com/2012/07/tamarind-city-where-modern-india-began.html  and post your comments there !!! 🙂

Have a great weekend reading books and enjoying the journey through the weave of words 🙂


14 Replies to “Tamarind City – Bishwanath Ghosh”

  1. Like what you said, anything written about your home town is a must read. Anyways after your review I know what to expect. so thanks. Will read it soon after I finish ‘Human Instinct’. Another interesting ‘Madras’ book I’ve read is Clive Avenue’ by S.Tirumurti. Try that. Cheers


  2. For a long time now, I have been making an attempt to understand Chennai and get under it’s skin. It’s hard to do since I don’t live there, but books like these will definitely help. Thanks!


    1. I think this will be an ideal book !!! Also you can try reading S.Muthaih’s many books on Chennai – they are all great !!! There’s also a column in The Hindu by S.Muthaih !!! 🙂


  3. I read this book recently and loved it! But I wanted to know what people who are from Chennai thought about it. An outsider would know only as much is written, an insider would know if it was justified 🙂


  4. I recently bought a copy of this book, on a friend’s insistence. I really enjoyed it. The author has written about Chennai as he sees it. True, sometimes,I felt it was more about the people he has interviewed, than about Chennai, but I guess that’s what makes the book more interesting. Just did not appreciate delving too much into the whole Brahmin community. otherwise the book was fine.

    Thanks and Welcome here Nusaa !!! 🙂
    Yes, I also felt that there was an overdose of analysis of the feud between Iyers and Iyengars !!


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