Category: Book reviews and ebooks

Chennai – the capital of Madras state pre-independence and the capital of Tamilnadu post-independence. This is one of the rapidly growing cities in the new world. I visited Chennai for the first time when I was in my sixth standard. Later, it became my second home when I came there for higher studies. My intention is to take the readers into a journey across time to witness the growth of Chennai.

Firstly, the below mentioned paragraphs are not mine. They are excerpts from “The story of Madras” written by Glyn Barlow, M.A in 1921.

About the origins of Madras:

Mr. Francis Day was pleased with what he saw; for Madras is not without beauty. In those idyllic days, moreover, the Cooum river, which was known then as the Triplicane river—and which even to-day can be beautiful, although for the greater part of the year it is no more than a stagnant ditch—must have been a limpid water-way; and to Mr. Francis Day, seeing it in winter, in which season the current swollen by the rain sometimes succeeds in bursting the bar, it must have appeared almost as a noble river, rushing down to the great sea—a river such as might well have deserved the erection of a town on its banks. The negotiations were successful: but the Naik was subordinate to the lord of the soil, the Raja of Chandragiri, who was the living representative of the once great and magnificent Hindu empire of Vijianagar; and any grant that was made by the Naik of Poonamallee had to be confirmed by the Raja if it was to be made valid. Two or three miles from Chandragiri station, on the Katpadi-Gudur line of railway, is still to be seen the Rajah-Mahal, the palace in which the Raja handed to Mr. Francis Day the formal title to the land.

About Fort St.George:

From the very beginning the settlement was called Fort St. George, but it was several years before the buildings were surrounded by a high and fortified wall. It was in no spirit of military aggression that the Company’s agents enclosed their settlement with a bastioned rampart, from whose battlements big cannon frowned on all sides round.”

St.George fort 1710

In 1746 there was a siege of a more serious sort. England and France were at war in Europe, and suddenly a squadron of French ships appeared off Fort St. George. After a week’s siege, the English merchants capitulated to superior force, and they were all sent to Pondicherry as prisoners, and the French flag waved over Madras; but by the treaty which ended the war, Madras was restored to the Company. Twelve years later Madras was once more besieged by the French, but unsuccessfully, and eventually the French leaders marched their forces away, quarrelling among themselves over their ill-success.

Fort St. George in the beginning was very small. Its external length parallel with the seashore was 108 yards, and its breadth was 100 yards. When White Town, which grew up around it, was fortified, there was ‘a fort within a fort’ (vide Map, p. 10); but eventually the inner wall was demolished. At various times the outer wall has been altered, but the Fort as we have it to-day is the selfsame Fort St. George nevertheless, a glorious relic of bygone times, and verily a history in stone.

About White town, Black town and Armenian Street:

Madras old 1750

The town that grew up outside the little fort was divided into two sections—’the White Town’ and ‘the Black Town.’ The boundaries of White Town corresponded roughly with what are now the boundaries of Fort St. George itself. The original Black Town—’Old Black Town’—covered what is now the vacant ground that lies between the Fort and the Law College, and included what are now the sites of the Law College and the High Court (vide Map, p. 10). The inhabitants of White Town included any British settlers not in the Company’s service whose presence the Company approved, also all approved Portuguese and Eurasian immigrants from Mylapore, and a certain number of approved Indian Christians. White Town indeed was sometimes called the ‘Christian Town.’ Black Town was the Asiatic settlement. The great majority of the original Indian settlers were not Tamilians but Telugus—written down as ‘Gentoos’ in the Company’s Records.

Armenian Street—which began as an Armenian burial-ground (vide Map, p. 10)—is an example. Armenians from Persia, like their fellow-countrymen the Parsees, have a racial gift for commerce; and Armenian merchants had been in India long before the English arrived. Enterprising Armenian merchants settled in Madras in its early days to trade with the English colonists, and the Company’s agents were glad to have as middlemen such able merchants who were in close touch with the people of the land. The most celebrated of the earlier Armenians in Madras was Peter Uscan, Armenian by race but Roman Catholic in religion, who lived in Madras for more than forty years, till his death there in 1751, at the age of seventy. He was a rich and public-spirited merchant. He built the Marmalong Bridge over the Adyar river, on one of the pillars of which a quaint inscription is still to be read, and he left a fund for its maintenance; he also renewed the multitude of stone steps that lead up to the top of St. Thomas’s Mount. His inscribed tomb is to be seen in the churchyard of the Anglican Church of St. Matthias, Vepery, which in olden days was the churchyard of a Roman Catholic chapel.

About Walltax road and SaltCotta:

The long delay in the building of the Wall was chiefly due to the fact that the representatives of the Company, being commercial men, naturally gave their chief attention to the Company’s mercantile business, and were apt to disregard the immediate necessity of expensive schemes which the Company’s military officers put forward as strategic requirements. When the Wall was first talked about, after the recovery of Madras from the French, the Directors in England, who always kept a tight hand on the Company’s purse-strings, declared that the inhabitants of Black Town ought to be made to pay for the cost of their own defences, and should be taxed accordingly; and the name of the ‘Wall Tax Road,’ which runs alongside the Central Station to the Salt Cotaurs, is a standing reminder of the Directors’ decree, while the road itself is an indication of the alignment of the western wall.

About Elihu Yale (Yale university), Chintadripet, Kaladipet, and Nyniappa Naicken street:

Elihu Yale, who was one of the early Governors of the Fort, imported some fifty weaver-families and located them in ‘Weavers’ street’, the street that is now known as Nyniappa Naick Street, in Georgetown. Some twenty-five years later, Governor Collet established a number of imported weavers in the northern suburb of Tiruvattur, in a village that was given the name ‘Collet Petta’ in the Governor’s honour—a name that degenerated into ‘Kalati Pettah’—’Loafer-land’—its present appellation. There was still a demand for more weavers, and eventually a large vacant tract was marked out as a ‘Weavers’ Town,’ under the name of Chindadre Pettah—the modern Chintadripet.

About Washermanpet:

Washermanpet is another such locality. It was not so called, as many people imagine, for being a land of dhobies (male laundresses). In the Company’s vocabulary a ‘washerman’ was a man who ‘bleached’ new-made cloth; and the Company employed a number of bleachers. The bleaching process needed large open spaces—washing-greens—on which the cloth could be laid out in the sun to be bleached; and Washermanpet covered a considerable area.

Old Madras

About North Madras:

Later, in compliance with a petition by Governor Elihu Yale to the Emperor Aurangzeb, the Company received a free grant of ‘Tandore (Tondiarpet), Persewacca (Pursewaukam), and Yegmore (Egmore). Still later, in the reign of Aurangzeb’s son and successor, the village of  Lungambacca (Nungumbaukam), now the principal residential district of Europeans in Madras, was granted to the Company, together with four adjoining villages, for a total annual rent of 1,500 pagodas (say Rs. 5,250). The village of Vepery—variously called in olden documents Ipere, Ypere, Vipery, and Vapery—lay between Egmore and Pursewaukam; and the Company, being naturally desirous of consolidating their territory, proceeded at once to try to obtain a grant of the place; but successive efforts on the part of Governor Elihu Yale came to naught; and it was not till much later (1742) when the Nawab of Arcot was lord of the soil, that Vepery was acquired from the Nawab.

San Thomé was acquired in 1749; and the story of the acquisition is not without interest. The names ‘San Thomé’ and ‘Mylapore’ are often used as alternative designations for one and the same locality; but in bygone days the two names represented quite different places. Mylapore was a very ancient Indian town, which seems to have been in existence long before the birth of Christ. San Thomé was a seventeenth century Portuguese settlement close by. It is an old tradition that St. Thomas the Apostle was martyred just outside Mylapore; and when the Portuguese first came to India some of them visited Mylapore to look for relics of the saint. They found some ruined Christian churches, and also a tomb which they believed to be the tomb of St. Thomas; and soon afterwards a Portuguese monastery was established on the spot. A Portuguese town grew up around the monastery; and in course of time the town became a commercial centre, and was surrounded with a fortified wall, and was the Portuguese settlement of San Thomé, over against the Indian town of Mylapore. An Italian dealer in precious stones who visited India in the sixteenth century wrote of San Thomé that it was ‘as fair a city’ as any that he had seen in the land; and he described Mylapore as being an Indian city surrounded by its own mud wall. Mylapore was thus in effect the Black Town of San Thomé; but in later days the two towns were combined. When the English came to Fort St. George, the power of the Portuguese was already waning; and the development of the influence of the English at Madras meant a further lessening of the influence of the Portuguese at San Thomé; and it was a natural consequence that San Thomé, including Mylapore, became a prey to successive assailants.

About Leith castle in San-Thome:

The remains of the San Thomé Redoubt stand within the grounds of ‘Leith Castle,’ a house that lies south of the San Thomé Cathedral. The remains are ruins, but the massive walls fifteen feet high and three feet thick, are suggestive of the purpose for which the redoubt was built. The ‘Records’ show that the San Thomé Redoubt, built in 1751, was a very complete fortification, with a moat forty feet wide, a glacis, and all the other works that are usual in respect of a well appointed building of the kind.

Leith castle

The Egmore Redoubt was a good deal older than that of San Thomé. It was constructed in the days of Queen Anne. It was intended, of course, for the special protection of Egmore; but in those distant days when trips to the hills were unknown, even Egmore was a health-resort in respect of the crowded Fort St. George, and it was officially reported that the Egmore Redoubt might ‘serve for a convenience for the sick Soldiers when arrived from England, for the recovery of their health, it being a good air.’

Egmore redoubt

About Pachaiyappa College:

Pachaiyappa’s College, a well-known Hindu institution, had its first beginning in 1842. Like the other colleges in Madras, it began as a school; the school was called ‘Pachaiyappa’s Central Institution,’ and was located in Black Town. The present buildings were opened in 1850 by Sir Henry Pottinger, an ex-governor of Madras, amid a large gathering of leading European and Indian residents; and for a number of years the annual ‘Day’ at Pachaiyappa’s College was an important social event. Pachaiyappa was a rich and religious Hindu, who made his money as a broker in the Company’s service, and who died more than a hundred years ago leaving a lakh of pagodas – some 3½ lakhs of rupees – for temple purposes. The trustees neglected the provisions of the will, whereupon the High Court assumed control of the funds, which under the Court’s control rose to the value of nearly Rs. 7½ lakhs. The original amount was set apart for the fulfilment of the terms of the will, and the surplus was assigned to educational purposes in Pachaiyappa’s name.

pachaiyappa college

About St.Andrew’s Kirk:

St. Andrew’s Church—most commonly known as ‘The Kirk’—was planned while St. George’s was being built; and it is remarkable that it was not projected sooner than it was. Scotchmen in Madras, as in other parts of India, apart from Scottish soldiers, have been many; and the names of a number of Madras roads and houses—such as Anderson Road, Graeme’s Road, Davidson Street, Brodie Castle, Leith Castle, Mackay’s Gardens—are reminders of the fact that not a few of the Scots of Madras have been influential; and at the time when a second Anglican church was being built in the city it was suggested to the Directors of the Company in England that the numerous residents who were members of the Church of Scotland ought to have a church too. The Directors, who realized no doubt the desirability of being agreeable to the many Scots in Madras, one of whom at the time was the Governor himself, Mr.Hugh Elliot, consented to the suggestion, and in 1815 they sent out a notification that a Presbyterian church was to be built not only at Madras but also in each of the other Presidency cities at the Company’s expense, and that the Company would maintain a Presbyterian chaplain at each. The Directors laid down no instructions as to what was to be the maximum cost of each kirk, but it was unpretentious buildings that they had in mind. At Bombay a large kirk was built for less than half a lakh of rupees, but for the kirk at Madras the Madras Government submitted a bill for nearly Rs.2¼ lakhs – some Rs.10,000 more than the total cost of St.George’s Cathedral, and the Directors were indignant. The Kirk, however, had been built; and it is one of the handsome churches of Madras. It is a domed building, with a tall steeple over the Grecian façade; and some of its critics have said that the combination of dome and steeple gives the edifice a strangely camel-backed appearance; but, however that may be, the dome adds beauty to the interior. When the Church was opened, it was found that the dome evoked disturbing echoes, and a large additional expense had to be incurred to exorcise the wandering voices. The steeple reaches a height of 166½ feet, which is 27½ feet higher than that of St.George’s.

Andrew's Kirk

The final word’s of the author:

But the greatest charm of Madras lies in its history. It was here that the foundations of the Indian Empire may be said to have been laid. The history of Madras is not a story of aggressive warfare. The settlers were gentle merchants, whose weapon was not the sword but the pen, and whose only desire it was to be left alone to carry on their business in peace. But the rising city was a continual mark for the hostility of commercial and political rivals, both European and Indian. It was a storm-centre, and the storms were often fierce; and the merchants were often compelled to meet force with force. Moreover, the merchants were men, and their doings therefore were by no means always without reproach; but, with due allowance for human weakness, the history of Madras is a history of which Madras may be proud. The city has grown from strength to strength, and in its story there is much inspiration. This little book has merely told the story in part; but it will have served its purpose if it has in any way helped the reader to realize that the story of Madras is the story of no mean city.

I guess I don’t have to say more. I hope you would have enjoyed reading and visualizing. For those of you who are interested to read the entire book, please click here – The Story of Madras by Glyn Barlow. M.A.


My verdict is purely my personal view. It is not done to influence any viewers to buy or ignore this book. Each individual’s action, after reading this short analysis, is processed in their own minds over which I do not exert any control – positive or negative.

Last week, Inferno reached the bookshelves globally. The propagation of the novel was more sinister than the propagation of a virus in terms of global reach. I purchased an epub version and went through it. Here are my thoughts on it.

Dan Brown is a very good storyteller who involves semiotics, art history, mythology, and action in a comprehensive blend of fiction that has plenty of twists and turns. Inferno is a 528 page, page-turner which is a good read. The storyline is simple. Robert Langdon, Harvard professor, Art historian, etc. wakes up with retrograde amnesia in a Florence hospital. He is in possession of something very sinister (at least he thinks so) and has to decipher it to prevent a multimillionaire named Bertrand Zobrist from unleashing a so-called plaque that will counter overpopulation.

This takes Robert Langdon across Florence, Venice, and Istanbul along-with a bald, high IQ lady name Sienna Brooks. With many twists and turns where friends become foes and foes become friends, they eventually fail to prevent the plaque from being unleashed. I won’t play spoiler by letting out the end but this is all so bloody Robin Cook-ish. Robin Cook is famous for his medical thrillers and I feel Brown has taken a cue from Cook’s book to venture into a new zone.

I won’t certainly pinpoint to flaws in the script but all my questions about the behaviour of a particular character was answered at a later stage in the novel. But for a novel of this big magnitude, you can allow small flaws. They are perfectly acceptable.

Final verdict – A good read if you like history, art, historical fictions, and semiotics. For people who hate these topics, you have Robin Cook. For people who hate Robin Cook, you have Colin Forbes or Clive Cussler. The twists and turns and the improbable escapes are very much Forbes and the virus stuff is very much Cook and the symbol deciphers are very much Dan Brown. Overall, a fine cocktail but that would not suffice for wine tasters like me!

It’s not different from other of Brown’s books. Every book of his follows the same pattern. A protagonist trying to decipher a puzzle, an organisation hell bent on stopping him, an organisation hell bent on helping him, an assassin in his trail, a beautiful lady to help him, museums, trains, boats, churches, anti-Vatican rants, secret passageways, near death, some important deaths, and finally the antagonist is none else but the one whom our protagonist knew from the start.

I feel I was reading a Vijaykanth movie script that was written by an excellent scriptwriter. If Robert Langdon is going to survive over for a few more books, they should come to India. After all, you have temples, mosques, churches and monasteries everywhere and there is no shortage of myths and secret passages. Be ready for it. It will come eventually.

If you want to read Inferno, you can go ahead and read it. Brown ensures that you are kept interested with loads of whoa-ish facts like ‘Hagia Sophia is 700 years older than Notre-dame’ which, in my humble opinion, does not serve any other purpose apart from making the location of Brown’s plot look great. Meenakshi temple is older than most of the buildings in medieval Europe. Just my 2 Lira for Brown’s thoughts!

Food has been a very important component of lives in this earth regardless of the nature of the organism consuming it. Hunger is common for all organisms and in some species, new borns are born with the skills to squander for food immediately after birth. Food has been interspersed with culture from time unknown. Food also intersperses with society and individualistic ethnic practices across the world. Tamilians do have a very ripe culinary history and it becomes important for anthropologists and social learners across the world to know about the culinary practices of one of the most ancient and diverse cultures in the world.

I was reading about Tamil food as I am interested in cooking. However, whatever I found, gave me the ingredients and recipes but no history. That’s when I found this book and few more books by Prof.Bhaktavatsala Bharathi on Tamil anthropology. History inspires me. I haven’t yet any of his books completely, but was impressed with the details provided in the books. Presently reading Tamizhar Unavu – An anthropological chronicle written by Professor Bhaktavatsala Bharathi, who works for Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics & Culture (PILC).


This is a compilation of articles that were published in Kalachuvadu issue on September 2005 along with requested articles from eminent writers from Tamilnadu. Writers as diverse as Perumal Murugan, Po.Velsamy, Naanchil Naadan, Solai.Sundara Perumal, Pazhamalai, Melanmai Ponnusaami, Kazhaniyooraan, A.Muthulingam, and Shyamala Gowri have contributed to this book. This is just a partial list. The complete list includes few more eminent writers in Tamil.

The book also includes a foreword by Bhaktavatsala Bharathi which is very informative. Starting from age old practices of food consumption to the most recent invasion of the food industry by Mansanto, the historians and writers have given a wonderful account of Tamil culture. In fact, I should say, when I complete this book, I will opt for Tamilian cuisine anytime rather than the fried and fast foods offered by American restaurants and food chains. The cuisine and the culture and the society are intermingled and this has been analysed geographically and anthropologically. It is a book worth reading.

Try it – It costs INR 250.

You can buy it here – தமிழர் உணவு.

During the sabbatical, which is today, I started to read a book by Peyon. Peyon is a Tamil ghost writer, who writes in Tamil. When I started reading the book, I felt like writing about it and I started to write about it while I am reading it. So the ability to write and read seemed interspersed but I am actually doing it at the same time. While one eye and one hand is holding the book and reading it, the other eye and other hand is looking at the laptop typing it.

Meanwhile, my wife is in the kitchen. She is not cooking but she is pregnant and is expecting a baby. There is no point in her being in the kitchen. But still she is there while I am lying down in the bedroom reading this and writing this.

I am in Tirunelveli today. I was here yesterday. I will be here tomorrow. Day after tomorrow, I will be here. Next Friday, I will be in Tirunelveli. It rained here. It rained yesterday. It will rain tomorrow. Day after tomorrow, it will rain. Next Friday, it will rain in Tirunelveli. Sunlight is scarce. The clothes are still wet despite their dryness.

While reading Peyon, I realized that I cannot write like him/her. However, when I write like him, I understand that I can write like him. So I wrote like Peyon and I wrote like him. Peyon and him are the same. Peyon is different from him because Peyon has a name. If Peyon did not have a name, Peyon will be him.

There is another Payon. He is in the website. Peyon is in the books. Him is also in the books. Payon and Peyon are almost the same expect for the single lettar. My wish is that. That Peyon, Payon, and Him meet with me. I want to see who writes better or me!

p.s: That’s what Peyon could do to you. Open-mouthed smile 

Peyon is one of the best contemporary writers in Tamil literature. He is a ghost writer. Not the classical ghost writer. Classical ghost writers write for someone else. Peyon writes for himself and his readers. His style is atrocious and his humour is unbeatable. Try reading Peyon when you find time. Rather, you can find time to read Peyon.

No ebooks please. Though you can download “Peyon 1000” – compilation of tweets by Peyon from his own website, the other books of Peyon, namely, Thisai kaatti paravai, Paambu thailam, and Kaadhal iravu have been published by Aazhi publishers.

They are not very expensive. Paambu thailam costs around 100, Thisai kaatti paravai and Kaadhal iravu costs around the same. Buy them. Worth it.

Between, the prelude was just a try. Don’t bash me for it. If you wanna bash someone, bash Peyon, Payon or Him. Comments are welcome.


Just thought I will share this great short story with all you people.

Jeyamohan is a renowned writer in Tamil and Malayalam. He came into the limelight with his novel “Vishnupuram.” Though vishnupuram was critically acclaimed by many authors and critics, I never had the urge to read it. I had been influenced by few biased views and was of the opinion that Jeyamohan’s writings were not very good. How mistaken I was! I used to hate Jeyamohan at one point of time. All that changed when my sister gave me a book called “Aram” and asked me to read a short story called “Yaanai Doctor” (Elephant Doctor). I am very thankful to my sister for opening this world to me. The funny thing was, she hated Jeyamohan more than me. Someone else opened the world for her. That’s the magic of sharing.

Yaanai or Mathagam in Tamil means Elephant. Elephant’s play a crucial role in the story. So far the only two short stories I have read are “Yaanai doctor” and “Sotthu kanakku” (food account), and they have been very impressive.

The beauty of Yaanai Doctor is that it is a true story of Dr.V.Krishnamurthy, who has been portrayed as Dr.K in the story. Dr.K, as he was fondly called, was a veteran conservationist who was a legend in the elephant circles. Dr.K was a forest veterinary officer with the Government of Tamilnadu for over three decades, primarily concentrating on the health care of both domestic and wild elephants. He resurrected captive elephant healthcare and management to levels that have not been seen in Asia for the most of the last century. Following the media light created by Jeyamohan’s story, a separate website has been created for Dr.K.

Going into the story, the way Jeyamohan narrates the impact that is caused by human presence inside the jungle, I felt it was essential to share the information with a bigger sector. I am sure that I am no bigger than Jeyamohan when we see each other’s fame ratings, but I can reach where he cannot reach and he can reach where I cannot reach. Again, the magic of sharing.

When the narrator feels disgusted with worms, Dr.K explains him. He says – “Lot of people are scared/disgusted with worms. Turn back and look at the scare/disgust. It will go away. You should have seen a black insect in our house. The worm is the earlier stage of the insect. The insect is a grown adult. Worm is an infant! Why should you feel disgusted with an infant?”

Those words inspired me to read more. Jeyamohan goes on to explain the damage broken bottles cause to elephants. The way the end up dying a horrifying death because a broken glass piece goes into the leg of the elephant, is touchingly explained in Dr.K’s words.

I do not want to explain more. It IS a GOOD read.

For those, who like to read the ebook in Tamil, you can leave your email as a comment. I will send you a PDF file.

You can also contact for permissions regarding print needs. For an English version of Elephant Doctor – Click here.

Go on. Read it. What do you think?

Hi All,

After searching for around half a day, I found few more ebooks. These are predominantly related to Photography.

Though these are not my own products, I feel a great deal of happiness in sharing the awesome work of others to help them, only because these are free giveaways. I do not promote them as my own work.

2012 Photo business plan workbook

Selling fine art photography

Photography blog handbook

Infact, Photoshelter provides a lot more than these to help photographers who are basically in social and direct marketing. They design awesome websites.

Few more links,

Craft and Visions – Ways to improve photography

Macrostop ebooks – Closeup and macro photography

The creative image by Andrew S Gibson

Street photography for the purist

Street Photography ebooks – Going candid and collecting souls

Infact, Photofidelity is another site which collects information of this sort from the web. That’s a big help! It is.

That’s it folks! Will come back with more in a day or two! Am looking for wildlife ebooks next!

Hi All,

The National Geographic website is giving away a free e-book on Photography.

All you have to do is to go to the NatGeo site. On the left hand side, click on Newsletters.


A side-pop box opens. All you have to do is to register your name and email id. You will receive an email with the download link. That’s it.

Be quick. It won’t be around for long. Cheers.

Hi All,

Please find below – the links to ebooks that will help you to identify wildlife pertaining to damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies, and birds.

Odonates – damselflies

Odonates – dragonflies

Butterflies by Antram


Please let me know if the links are broken. Will send you the ebooks by email.


Crowdsourcing based nurtering


Nature writing in Tamil


கனவுகளுக்கு பதிலாக அறிவியல், கண்ணீருக்கு பதிலாக போராட்டம். போராட்டமே நம் இருத்தலுக்கான அடையாளம்.


experiences - travel - photography

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