Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Tamarind City - Where Modern India Began
When Blogadda had put up this book for review I was sincerely wishing that I receive one. It is about my own city Madras. "Madras Nalla Madras". The author, Bishwanath Gosh, though a North Indian, has moved to Chennai and made its home for almost a decade now. The way he has potrayed Madras and its people is a big eye opener to even a native Chennaiite like me. Though my father's ancestral home still remains in Northern Madras (Royapuram) and my mother's home was in Triplicane, I had never taken a deeper look into these heritage parts of the city where the seeds to the modern India was laid (We had moved to South Madras when I was just 3 years old). I still remember my father pointing out the first ever railway station (Royapuram), the first ever commercial complex (Parrys-Broadway), the first ever court (Madras high court - but it was the first court to be set up during the British India period, which was later converted to the high court).
The author has done a lot of research and has meticulously given the history of Madras, which was very interesting because these are facts I can see right in front of my eyes (if I travel to these places, that is). My eyes had never picked up some of the intricate details provided by the author, except for the very explicit ones. I was so enthused that I wanted to go to Broadway right away and look at those sites for myself. I had asked my husband to take me to the heritage tour organised during the Madras week this year and he too has agreed for it as this is becoming more and more interesting. Thanks to the author.
The details about Mylapore and Triplicane, the two village during pre-independence times had caught me in awe and I have planned to visit the Bharathiyar house and ramanujam house along with the very famous temple, Parthasarathy temple. The author has also written about the clash between sub-cults of vaishnavites (Then-kalai and Vada-kalai), which he says exists even today, though very subtly. Then there is always the clash between Shaivaites and Vaishnavities, which has prevented them from living in mixed groups largely. Thus Mylapore is the land of Iyers (Shaivaites) and Triplicane is the land of Iyengars (Vaishnavities).
The author touches the growth of politics. How one major reformer, EV Ramaswamy aka Periyar, has made such a difference in the lives of the natives in Tamil Nadu, called the Dravidian. How the Party, Dravida Kazhagam, came into being and how the party got split when Periyar got married the second time. He makes similarities and differences between Periyar and Mahatma Gandhi, who were contemporaries. Though I had known about the Justice party, I did not know the popular T.Nagar was named after the leaders of that party. It was real eye opener getting to know so many intricate details about Tamil Nadu Politics.
He has touched all kinds of subjects and the one very orthodox subjects, even considered taboo here, is sex. He goes on to describe the attire of the people to how the famous sexologist doctor, Dr.Reddy, was without a single patient for the first 6 years of his profession, as people thought it was not necessary. When the lives of the transgender people were touched, I really felt bad. Something bad about the society and me too. Not that I have any hatred, but I had never really thought about how they lived and would think why they would never work, but beg, when they are all so hale and healthy. The author describes their emotional and social struggle through the voice of a lady who is transgender. They are driven away from home, constantly picked by their school mates and never given recognistion, if at all they had a career. It is hard to imagine their lives without any emotional or financial support. So they are always left only with three professions largely, prostitution, begging and entertainment. No where else do they have a place. But this has changed my view of them. Next time I will gladly hand over a Rs.100 without as much thinking.
He has touched all kinds subjects, film, actors, doctors, famous people (Cultural Historian V.Sriram, Madras man Muthiah, Sylvie who wants to settle in Mylapore and shuttles ever 6 months between India and France, and many more), the yester year publications, the palmist in marina, anything, you name it you can find it in the book. The every famous Chandamama and how it came into being, how it changed management yet its cartoonist Sankar has been retained at the age of 85.
The author says his birthday which was known as the boxing day, till the age of 34, will now be known as the Tsunami day. The author thanks his late night drinks which had prevented him from staying with his resolution of sitting on the sands of Marina and coming in terms with his life. Though he went to witness the scene he only discovered the gruesome part from the TV. About 3 lakh people were killed all over the world and Tamil nadu got the worst hit. A day which is still being mourned in Tamil Nadu.
Though I have given a very exhaustive review of some of the topics, I still haven't given about some which the author has described in about 300 pages. It was a real pleasure reading the book and feeling very proud of my city, Madras. I have already made up mind to visit the places that the author has made an effort to analyse and educate us about. I had given this book to my parents to read a couple of chapters, and they had enjoyed it very much and have started reading it, relishing the city in each page.
Whether a Chennaiite or a Madrasi (as often known) or not please don't miss this book. It like getting to know your estranged mother better. Its also about understanding the less known metropolitan of India. This is my second Tranquebar book, first being Hot Chai across India. I would like to pick up Chai Chai: Travels in places where you stop but never get off, by this author, Bishwanath Gosh. He is currently working with 'The Hindu' as the Deputy Editor. Read about his interview with Blogadda here. A definite buy, you wont be disappointed.
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!. Thank you Harish and Blogadda team for the book.