Bishwanath Ghosh, a print media person originally from Uttar Pradesh with Bengali ethnicity, has written a book called TAMARIND CITY, which he goes on to add as MAKING OF THE MODERN INDIA. The book deals with the city of CHENNAI, since its formation in 1640 and the various cultural, political threads which have woven the city into what it is today.
I enjoyed reading the book, maybe because i am familiar with the places and the people’s attitude that he enumerates in the book.
His research into the historical FACTS to put together this book is praiseworthy.
Since, Bishwanath Ghosh had not been steeped in the Madrasi culture and originally hails from Uttar Pradesh his presentation, therefore, is fresh and has a certain innocence to it. He had interviewed many people including Saroja Devi (former Tamil actress), Dr Kamala Selvaraj (gynaecologist), Mr. Muthaiah (the Chennai historian), Ms. Meena Kandasamy (dalit activist and a poetess) etc., which lend credibility to his presentation.
But it is his personal experiences in Chennai which stamps the hallmark of authenticity to the book. When he discovers a heap of condoms in the Marina beach and when his lady friend says, “KAIKKU ANJU, VAAIKKU PATHTHU” there is an IMMEDIACY to his averment that Chennai beneath the thick layer of tradition is nothing but a molten lava of all kinds of activity!
The interview based presentations are too bland, especially Bishwanath Ghosh’s meeting with Saroja Devi and her statements about herself are very self-redeeming! I wish Bishwanath Ghosh had put in a lot more effort to pull out the sleaze which , probably, lies hidden under the mount of self redeeming interviews and media management. In any case, Bishwanath Ghosh would not have been in any position to write like our good old Kushwant Singh, as Mr. Ghosh wangled most of the interviews based on his credibility as a person working for THE HINDU or as a media person.
But his effort to ferret out history accurately and show that Modern India was built on the foundations laid at Madras is laudable. That Madras was the first centre for the East India Company and that their stability in Chennai helped the British to capture Bengal or create Mumbai are FACTS; but to say that Madras was the starting point of Modern India is an INFERENCE, which he may still have to fortify with facts for people to accept!
His dilated presentation of the ‘TAMBRAM’ (shortened for for TAMIL BRAHMIN) with reference to the existing divisions of IYERS and IYENGARS, should definitely help my North Indian brethren and sisters to have clarity over the unbridgeable divide!
The book is definitely worth reading.
The two historical inputs which have shaken me to my bones are the inputs relating to Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) and Elihu Yale.
Duke of Wellington is ascribed the quote , ” THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO WAS DECIDED ON THE PLAYGROUNDS OF ETON AND HARROW”, thereby implying that the discipline shown by the sailors/ navy men in the Battle of Waterloo was inculcated in the public schools of London and that led to the victory. But after going through the book, it seems that the DUKE of WELLINGTON honed his ability as a future Admiral by knowing how to keep accounts from the Chettiars and Pillais of Chennai’ and also developing the skill to be an able admiral by building his skills in COMMUNICATIONS from Fort St. George!
The second one relating to Elihu Yale, in even more intriguing. Elihu while he was the Governor of Madras, had abolished a system for procurement and thereby enriched himself. A part of the ill-gotten money seems to have been DONATED by the said Yale to the University which had been subsequently named after him. If the naming was because of his donation, then it is WORSE, but if it was because of his eminence as an Administrator, it is BAD.
Anyway, as my senior said, don’t worry, after all YALE UNIVERSITY discharged its obligation by conferring a Doctorate degree on C N ANNADURAI, while he was the CM of Tamil Nadu. Some repayment of debt for all the looting Elihu Yale did.