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Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/14/19 7:19 AM

Book review: Beyond the Boulevards by Aditi Sriram

Beyond the Boulevards, Aleph Books.

A monograph on Pondicherry by Aditi Sriram, this was a nice enough read but all through, it had the reader…well, this reader at least …forever searching between the words for something more, je ne sais quoi.

For the ardent Pondyphile, and there are so many of us, it`s all there: the boulevard/promenade, the Aurobindo Ashram, Auroville, the local crepes- alongside- dosas cuisine, names like Rayapoulle, Annoussamy and Rue Kamatchi Amman Kovil, the ambience a curious mix of British, French and Tamil.

Then there`s stuff we knew but had forgotten or didn’t know at all, like the fascinating origin story of the Aayi Mandapam structure,  the fact that Pondy has the highest suicide rate in India, that today 4 % of Pondy`s residents are French citizens, that this Tamil settlement was once a busy trading post for the Romans who referred to it as Poduke or Puduvai. Then the  Dutch came, the Danes came, Aurangzeb dropped by, and the British fought the French for control of the place. over many years

The author has brought   academic rigour to her research on this quaint ( the etymology, she explains, lies in the word `cointe,` that is knowledgeable/ well- informed/ clever/ arrogant/ elegant/ gracious)  place with its multidimensional DNA.

However, the Union Territory of Pondicherry never quite comes alive on the page. A pity, that.


Aditi SriramAleph BooksBeyond the Boulevardscity monographsPondicherryPuducherry

Sheila Kumar • May 14, 2019

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