Tamarind City: Where Modern India Began


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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 Chennai. And, a minute into the book, the reader knows they are inseparable and Bishwanath Ghosh refuses to take sides. And yet, he tells us, while Chennai is usually known as conservative and orthodox, almost every modern institution in India from the army to the judiciary, from medicine to engineering traces its roots to Madras Fort St George, which was built when Delhi had only just become the capital of the Mughal Empire, and Calcutta and Bombay weren't even born.

Today, the city once again figures prominently on the global map as India's Detroit , a manufacturing giant, and a hub of medical tourism. There have been sweeping changes since pre-independent India, but even as Chennai embraces change, its people hold its age-old customs and traditions close to their heart. This is what makes Chennai unique, says Ghosh, the marriage of tradition and technology.

Bishwanath Ghosh wears a reporter's cap and explores the city he has made his home, delving into its past, roaming its historic sites and neighborhoods, and meeting a wide variety of people. What emerges is an evocative portrait of this unique city, drawn without reservation sometimes with humor, sometimes with irony but always with love.

About the Author

Bishwanath Ghosh was born in Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, in 1970. As a journalist, he worked in New Delhi for eight years before moving to southern Indian in 2001 to join the New Indian Express Group in Chennai. At present he is an assistant editor with The Times of India at Chennai.

Published: 2012
Pages: 344
Format: Paperback