Tamarind City - Bishwanath Ghosh
Date: 5/16/2012 3:27:00 PM
The biggest obstacle for any one wanting to write about Madras / Chennai is the Madras Man S.Muthiah. His articles and books on Madras and its history are so comprehensive that they make one wonder what more is there to write.
Bishwanath Ghosh side steps this problem right at the outset. As he says in the foreword, this is not a complete guide to Chennai. Ghosh makes his book a series of anecdotes interspersed with various personalities who are part of Chennai. There is an obligatory article about Carnatic music season, but there are surprises too. From sexologists to trans-sexuals to dalit activists to actress Saroja Devi, there is a varied bunch of people in this book whom you will not find in any book written about Chennai. Ghosh's take on Chennai is not sentimental as Muthiah (on Marina beach, it is hard to imagine S Muthiah writing about kaikku anju, vaikku patthu.), nor irreverent like every other Amit.
Being an outsider to the city, he looks at it wondrously and his love for the city is evident from the sensitivity he brings to each topic. For citizens of Chennai, you may not learn anything new about your city from this book, but you will see it through an outsider's eye in a different perspective. Ghosh's first book Chai Chai was a disappointment for me, but with this book he won me over completely.