In a metropolis where customs are paramount, humility essential, the evil-eye feared and showing-off considered distasteful, how do people navigate the streams of tradition and modernity? How does the self form a lasting equation with the city? Some do it with ease, some with effort, but they all have a special love for the city - for a tradition they find organic and lived; for the co-existence of various religions; for the distinct sense of community and neighbourhoods; for the spacious inner life.
In Madras, Chennai and the Self: Conversations with the City, Tulsi Badrinath creates a layered image of Chennai by sifting through her memories, and by narrating the stories of those who call it home - the current Prince of Arcot, Dalit writer and activist P Sivakami, superstar Vikram and karate-expert K Seshadri, among others.
In their words come alive key aspects of the city - the fine beaches along the Bay of Bengal, Fort St. George, coconut and mango trees, jasmine stalls, cricket fever, classical music and dance, the twin temptations of idli and dosai, temple crowds and radical political movements.