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Tamarind City: Where Modern India Began

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  36 reviews
‘While in other big cities tradition stays mothballed in trunks, taken out only during festivals and weddings, tradition here is worn round the year.’

This is just one of the author’s many keen observations of Chennai. With mordant wit, this biography of a city spares neither half of its split-personality: from moody, magical Madras to bursting-at-the-seams, tech-savvy Chen
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Paperback, 344 pages
Published 2012 by Tranquebar
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(showing 1-30 of 275)
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Santhosh Guru
When the likes of S.Muthiah and Narasaiah exists, it requires a lot of guts to embark on the mission of chronicling Madras. But Bishwanath succeeds in his breezy, almost-bloggish style of writing about Chennai and its people. It has a simple narrative style and interacts with lot of popular people but whose personal side I wasn't aware of (Muthiah). Inclusion of Narayana Reddy, Saroja Devi was a surprise. Sometimes the awe at brahminical things (Carnatic music, kolam, tradition with transformati ...more
Sairam Krishnan
Last week we celebrated Madras Day, the day on which Fort St George was born, and I picked up this book for some topical reading.

I'm not from Madras. I hail from the French colonial town of Pondicherry, 3 hours south of Madras, but as work brought me here and I grew up to love history, I wanted to know something about the city I now live in.

I loved this book, every bit of it. Its amazingly well written and researched, and brings the author's love of the city and its people out in a dazzling nar
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Gita
A thorough, thoroughly enjoyable book on Chennai. From the very start, the descriptions ring true. One can read the chapters at random even though there is a linear sequence. The light gossipy style makes it easy to approach the historical details.
A wonderful book to carry on a journey-I happen to have read it on my balcony to the pitter patter of the monsoon.
I look forwards to reading his other books.
Hema
Aug 14, 2012 Hema rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nags, smita, jyoti babel
Recommended to Hema by: blogadda
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 ...more
Amandeep Sandhu
Tamarind City by Bishwanath Ghosh has a subtitle: where modern India began. As you start reading the book, you realise that it is true that modern India did start at Madraspatnam’s Fort St. George. Elihu Yale (after whom the American Yale university is named) was the governor of the fort between 1687-92. Robert Clive started out as a clerk at the fort in 1774 and even attempted suicide in one of the rooms. Arthur Wellesly, William Bentinck and Warren Hastings all walked through the fort on to th ...more
Madhan Rajasekkharan
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 t ...more
Manish
Virtually travelled through Madras reading this book. With a fluid style of narration, Ghosh manages to cover most of the issues, topics and personalities one would usually associate with Madras - Clive, Wellesley, Yale, Annadurai, Karunanidhi and his bete noir, the Iyer-Iyengar rivalry, Carnatic music, Medical tourism, SEZ boom - name it and you more or less have it. What made the book more endearing to me was the fact that a supposedly conservative and traditional 'South' Indian city managed t ...more
Anusha Booboo
I would give this a 3.5 :) Great book for Madras Lovers!

"Kalluri Saalai" and "Kandukondain Kandukodain" are the Tamil songs, which sort of lured the author to the Tamarind City.

The author has portrayed Chennai as he sees it! The unassuming Chennai slowly opens up to him, and we get to know about the rich cultural heritage Chennai carries with, which is often overlooked. Loved the anecdotes and his simple style of writing. Sometimes it was more about the people and less about Chennai. Just did no
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Raghu
This is a delightful and compassionate book about Madras from an author who can’t really speak Tamil and had lived in the city for barely ten years as he wrote the book. But he shows that he has gotten much deeper into the soul of Chennai than many others who were born and brought up there. The narrative is good without being exceptional, but what it lacks in style is made up by the content, which keeps one absorbed, especially if you are one like me, who grew up in the city.

As I read the early
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Asha Balakrishnan
This is a first hand account on Chennai by writer,editor Bishwanath Ghosh. His experiences, observations, travel and research on Chennai as a 11 year old resident of this city has been chronicled.He has researched his subject well and visited many places around Chennai and met many people first hand to compile this book.

He throws up some interesting facts about the city which I’m sure many citizens or natives of Madras may be unaware of. Some of them are the Royapuram railway station being the o
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Bindu Manoj
Everything in life is connected to each other. You start reading a book that leads you into another, that leads you into something else. I have been eyeing William Dalrymple's books for quite sometime and finally took one home two weeks back - 'The City of Djinns'. Engrossed in the stories of Mughal emporeors and the cities that they built, how it transformed into the present day 'Old' and 'New' Delhis, I almost missed the intimation from blogadda that 'Tamarind City' is up for review. To be rea ...more
Vibina Venugopal
Chennai , always Madras to me, is one of my favourite cities in the country..The city has various hues and colors..People might call it over crowded but don't you think ,we make the crowd?? Some may even call it too busy, but for me Madras ,Chennai whatever you call it goes by its own swing of time that sets it apart from other cities with all its charm and sensuous beauty...Predictably Ghosh starts with the history of the city but makes the reading different with his wit and humor that he adds ...more
Crimsonshadows
Tamarind City was an absolute delight to read. It is a detailed account of Chennai’s growth and development as a city, highlighting numerous forgotten snippets from history, replete with personal anecdotes and memories. Ghosh “wears a reporter’s cap and explores the city he has made his home…” What you and me read is a splendid tale of Chennai’s past and present. It almost serves as a guidebook of sorts for the city, what to do, what to see, et al.

It is well-researched, enlightening and very in
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Swarna Deepika
This is not only the best non-fiction books I have read till date but also the one I finished reading quickly! I might be biased because of my love for my hometown chennai. One needn't have to be from Chennai to enjoy the book - that's the best thing!

This book is like the perfect home made cup of hot filter coffee one can enjoy in the cool evenings of Margazhi (december-Jan month) listening to a soul-melting carnatic recital!!
Kushmakar Sharma
Author gives you an outsider's view of the city and it's rich history. For people familiar with Chennai, this book will make you fall in love with the city. And for those who think Chennai is conservative, it will come as a surprise that modern India that has its roots in the British era began with this city. It is just that Chennai has embraced modernization at its own pace and on its own terms.

I would have loved some more scoop on the powerful political personalities of the city. But author s
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Anmol Singh
Book starts with giving brief but interesting historical facts about the city. It touches the different aspects of the city, it talks about the political background, caste structure, film-industry, important citizens and more.
It compares the present of the city with its past, journey from Madras to Chennai.

It is a good book to read and you will end up touching the surface of the Chennai on various facts.
Ravi
This is a quick read. I did not feel bored anywhere except “Gemini’s family description”. It brought back my childhood memories. I felt the same way as Ghosh, when I visited T.Nagar for the first time when I was 10 years old. Some of the history information is new to me. I would have been happy if he had written more about the industrial growth and the educational institutions and their role in the city’s growth. I liked the information about North Madras, Mylapore and Triplicane, reminded me of ...more
Elizabeth Joseph
This is one of the best non-fiction books I have read. Bishwanath Ghosh through his easy narration takes you through the different parts of the city of Chennai,mostly the unexplored stories hidden deep in the streets of Chennai.

Bishwanath Ghosh expresses his loving care for his adopted city and the readers are certainly affected by the same. There is no judgement in his words, there is no opinions about how people are in this city; he has written this book as he has found her to be.

The easy blen
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Sulochana Balakrishnan
Anyone who comes across this book will fall in love with the town, Chennapattanam turning the clock back with the timeline history of the city, Chennai. Realising the truth that there are billions of people like me and each stuck inside of our minds, feverishly trying to crawl out to make connections with other, the author brings out each one in us co-evolving with the other.

Reading Tamarind City: is like you look at the city and read the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who lived, buil
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Rama
Jul 17, 2012 Rama rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
A mostly trite account of an uninteresting man's Chennai experiences, abounding with dreadful writing, pointless drinking episodes, a few typos and cliches that probably hold some appeal to an outsider and none to an insider. The only part where I could not believe my eyes was Bishwanath's luck in meeting Sylvie, formerly a girlfriend of a genius jazzman, the late Don Cherry. And that too at Hotel Karpagam, Mylapore. Avoid, for the most part!
Gurpreet Pannu
For a book written on a city with so much of heritage and tradition it manages to do justice to all of it. This book is fantastically coherent and it presents the author's depth of knowledge of Chennai in a manner which is neither reflective of arrogance or I-know-it-all attitude's of similar authors. At most it is a journey through time and what gives Chennai it's new found identity.
Gowtham Ragavendar
More like 3.5/5 The author begins with a stunning intro to Chennai through it's history buried in Georgetown's myriad by-lanes, but loses his grip in the middle to move towards personal details only loosely related to the city. He somewhat rediscovers his touch towards the end, and makes for a light and pleasant take on Chennai's past and present - the city where modern India began!
Bhageshvar Mohan
Chennai, the city I was born and where I lived for 18 years. Ghosh, gave a different view on my city from n outsider's perspective. Some places which I have never been to. Some places I have never heard of. Favourite restaurants. People who I never imagined to matter this significant.
A brief history of Chennai.
Somyajeet
Enjoyed! Again one fine book by the author after his well appreciated "Chai Chai". He shares with the reader his and few others memories of past and present, of people ancient, old or even new. He takes us through various lanes and by-lanes of Chennai especially.
Rinusha
If ever u wanted a grand dad sit by your side and tell you about those streets,buildings and icons who make up chennapatnam ...
If you feel a strange satisfaction knowing what Broadway or even Express avenue was doing 2 centuries ago as u stroll down these ways...
Sumit Kumar Rai
Its all about Chennai.This book is a tribute to this great city.Bishwanath Ghosh has done a very thorough analysis of the history of the city and has presented it in a very lucid,relatable way in this book.A must read for all chennaites.
Sam Saxena
16/11/12 - Interesting start ..lets see how this rolls. It gets fuzzy in the end, more autobiographical, which is odd when the Author is hardly 35 years old. I wouldn't recommend it.
Sarah Talalay
If you're living in Chennai, this is a must read! I will never understand India, but Bishwanath Ghosh's story-telling helped explain a lot.
Anuradha Goyal
Walk around Chennai with author, finding stories and lesser known facts - http://www.anureviews.com/tamarind-ci...
Nitya
The writing was a tad uneven, but learning so much more about a city I have very fond memories of, nudged this into the four-star range.
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Bishwanath Ghosh is the author of Longing, Belonging: An Outsider at Home in Calcutta (2014), and Tamarind City: Where Modern India Began (2012), which is a portrait of Madras, now known as Chennai. In 2009 he wrote Chai, Chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop but Never Get Off, which The Telegraph (Kolkata) called "a delightful travelogue with a difference." He has also contributed two stories to ...more
More about Bishwanath Ghosh...
Chai, Chai: Travels In Places Where You Stop But Never Get Off Longing, Belonging: An Outsider at Home in Calcutta

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