Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Madras -- Chennai": Review comments, Part I

In the previous post here, I had mentioned about enrollment in a book review scheme of New Horizon's Media.
As the title of this post says, the review comments shall be split into three parts to enable easy reading.

Before jumping into the feedback, quick note about the book under review.

Book Details

Title : Madras -- Chennai

Author (English) : Nandita Krishna

Author (Tamil translation) : Jayashree Govindarajan

ISBN : 978-81-8493-253-9, First Edition, August 2009, 96 Pages, Price : INR 25.00

Published by: Prodigy Books, an imprint of New Horizon Media Pvt. Ltd.

Shelving Category: Non-fiction / General Knowledge (as given at the back of the book)

NOTE: I have not read the English source, so, my feedback is entirely and only about the Tamil version of this book. If any of the comments sound very trivial and unnecessary, please do excuse me.

Who should read this book ?

The book's target audience, from my view point, could be those who would want to get initiated in to Madras heritage or who happen to visit this metro over a weekend or anyone (school children, common man on the street) just curious to know about Madras' history. Having said that, it should be noted that the first edition of this book is dated August, 2009 -- released on the occasion of Madras Week [celebrated from August 16-23] and 2009 happens to be the 370th year of founding of this 'first municipality in India'.

Goodies. . .

Contents are neatly organized into short and easily readable chapters.
Printed using good quality paper and readable type fonts, the front cover depicts Fort St.George as viewed from the harbor (as it existed prior to the development of the present harbor).

In all, there are 15 chapters spread across 95 pages well supplemented with maps, photographs (black/white) of landmarks that dot the city, old paintings and drawings (black/white) depicting the city life and it's people during the colonial period.

What needs improvement / correction ?

1. While a brief note about Dr.Nandita Krishna is provided at the back cover, I do see such a note missing for the author who did the Tamil translation ? Likewise, first page (immediately succeeding the front cover), I think, it should be clearly said who the authors were i.e who did with original work in English and the Tamil translation.

2. Miniature map of Madras, available in page 4, could have been made into a foldable type (A4) rather than being restricted to just a single page. It's very difficult to read the 'tiny city map' and make out different parts of the city using the number keys given in the same page.

3. When it comes to the old photographs, paintings and drawings, care has been taken to reproduce them with clarity without any alterations to black and white images, but, I suppose, many of them have been sourced from very old books or collections.

Examples: page 32 in chapter 3, page 59 in chapter 8.

Though these books or collections could have gone out of copyright it would have been nice if the publishers had taken that extra effort to add a Bibliography / reference section and listed such works there.

4. Elaboration of the subject matter in chapter 2 truly reflects Dr.Nandita Krishna's environmental background.

5. At first look, chapters 3 and 8 stand out from the rest as they seem to be digressing away from the book's title but the author has shown restraint with limited contents in both the chapters.

6. Tamil translation could have been made more readable with attention paid to sentence formation, usage of simple and appropriate words where possible, grammatical errors. As I have limited experience in using Tamil fonts and keyboard, I could not detail these shortcomings but will quickly refer to them here.


-- page 14, chap 2: Tamil name of Adyar

-- page 20, chap 2: caption of the photo reads (it's given in Tamil in the book and the same is translated to English here), "Madras in 1856, Engraving by Sir Charles Hunt). What is the correct Tamil word for Engraving?

-- page 25, chap 2: Reference to the earlier avatar (Araatha Kuttai) of Nageswara Rao Park

-- page 30, chap 4: 'Puraana Sanga Illakiyangal' is how the sentence begins but I don't think is a correct form.

-- page 30, chap 4: Author misses to add a note / reference about the division of 24 kottams in earlier times.As far as I know, such a division of 24 kottams / kodams is mentioned by V.Kanakasabhai Pillai in his book "The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago" in page 28 and I reproduce the text below.

"It was the Chola king Karikal the Great, of whom I shall speak fully later on, who first settled these [Kurumbar] wandering tribes and divided their country into twenty-four koddams or districts and parcelled it out to the Vellala tribe. the list of twenty-four koddams and seventy-nine Nadus is as follows;-(1)

: Pulal

Nadu: Nayaru, Akudi, Athorr, Elumur

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(1) I take this list from a document called the Thondai-mandala-paddayam. It gives the names of 24 Koddams and 77 Nadus, although in the same document it is said that the total number of Nadus was 79. The names of these Koddams and Nadus occur in the Chola inscriptions of the eleventh century A.D.

Kanakasabhai Pillai lists all the 24 Koddams along with the 79 Nadus in his book but I have shortened it for brevity.

Rest of the review comments will soon be posted . . .

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