“Did you get a chance to read the book?” asks author-diplomat T.S. Tirumurti, whose second novel Chennaivaasi is now on bookstore displays. You’re wary of T. S. Tirumurti’s Chennaivaasi when you pick it up. Even though Shashi Tharoor’s praise for the book on the front cover begs. Buy Chennai vaasi men t-shirts at Made for madras collection. Tamil urban street wear brand. Easy return. Cod available across india.

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As a Director in the Foreign Service, stationed in New Delhi betweenit was the busiest time of his career, and T. Tirumurti used to return home late in the evenings. Too tired to drop off to sleep, he sat down to flesh out the story avasi his first novel.

Getting it published was the last thing on his mind, but Penguin liked it and, thus, there appeared Clive Avenue in Tirumurti’s debut novel whetted his appetite for writing.

The bolk for his second novel were sown while writing the first. But in the ten years since the second was conceived, work took precedence, and Tirumurti could write only in his spare time.

But in that time he gave it everything he had; he once wrote for six hours at a stretch during a transit stop at the London airport after he was done attending meetings and tying up loose ends. Tirumurti showed promise as a writer vaask his youth when his short story was chosen as one among the hundred best in Asia in a contest organised by Asiaweek in the s. He resumed his chennaj in writing again only in the late s when he wrote a travelogue, Kissing the Heavens: The Kailash Manasarovar Yatraand bkok was published.

Described in the travelogue are Tirumurti and his wife’s experiences of the day trek to “a land where mountains, religions, myths, a vast tableland and rarefied air merge.

Chennaivaasi takes off from where Clive Avenue left off, not in the sense of being a vaadi but with the Madras Chennai and TamBrahm setting remaining intact. The author’s upbringing and grounding in his own milieu obviously affect both novels, which are, in this sense, autobiographical.

Taking seriously his uncle Tamil writer Bharanidharan’s aka Marina advice to be non-judgemental and authentic, Tirumurti takes readers on a journey through vignettes of life in the Madras of the past coalescing into the Chennai of the present. Besides Bharanidharan, another uncle, R.

Narayan, inspired Tirumurti in his evolution as a writer. Narayan’s view that one of English literature’s underlying qualities was understatement has had a bearing on Tirumurti’s writing. Get Tirumurti talking on Madras and he tells you that Madras hasn’t been taken away entirely from Chennai.


While the young have greater opportunities in Chennai, and a ‘Chennai Superkings’ cricket team with a great hoop-la around it has now been formed, conservatism his never stopped Chennaivaasis from being liberal. Chennaivaasis show more equanimity in dealing with their daily lives; ostentation is much higher in other metros. In the final analysis, it is people who make a city vaassi it is. You could be living in highly developed cities like Geneva and Manhattan and not know chemnai your neighbours are, but live in the Palestinian territory of Gaza and you will enjoy the warmth of the chejnai around you, he says of a place he recalls with affection.

And talking of the Chennai he flies in and out of nowadays, he mentions a locality in Nungambakkam named Tirumurti Nagar after his grandfather, the famous Dr. He himself lived for 20 years near Kasturi Ranga Road, off Dr. Since then it has been only occasional visits. The city is one where cows hold sway on the arterial Anna Salai Mount Road and looming cinema cutouts tell their own story.

Madras Musings – We care for Madras that is Chennai

Moore Market chennal been destroyed by a fire, only two English dailies are published in the city, the grandeur of the social dos are measured by the names of chrnnai kalyana mandapams they are held in. Going back in history, even Robert Clive is visualised looking northwards at what must have been Madras Chennai three centuries earlier. Making a fine art of having fresh filter coffee in tumblers, consultations with astrologers, offering prayers at the Kapaleeswarar temple and the Anjaneya temple on Royapettah High Road, following superstitions and raising a toast to the Chennai beach are recurring incidents in both books.

There are occasions in the books where an eye is kept out for both sets of Hindu ‘Bad Time’ Rahukalam and Yamagandam.

Another common thread running through Clive Avenue and Chennaivaasi is that the protagonists of both stories return from the US. If it is ‘Clive Avenue’, the road where it all happens, it chfnnai Sundarithe ancestral house in the case of Chennaivaasi.

A city for simple living

In Clive Avenuethe hero Rajan agrees to look for a bride from within his TamBrahm community whereas, in Chennaivaasithe hero Ravi comes back with his Jewish American girlfriend Deborah, determined to marry her. The families in both books are close-knit, and the extended circle of uncles, aunts, neighbours, friends, domestic help and members of the community make their voices heard in direct proportion to their importance in the stories.

Tirumurti’s women are strong characters. First, it is chenni in Clive Avenue.


An educated woman commanding a sense of respect and affection from the family and friends, at one point she shocks her own son and daughter-in-law with her liberal vxasi of view. Then there’s a TamBrahm girl-seeing ceremony where Rajan meets Gayathri who turns out to be the artist type. When the two go out to the Park Sheraton for vxasi first outing, she surprises the US-educated Rajan when she orders chicken tikka and has a smoke.

Later, she shows a proclivity for drinking and dancing with her male friends at the disco.

Read chennaivaasi

In ChennaivaasiDeborah is rooted in her strong Jewish upbringing but goes the extra mile to learn the ways of the traditions of the TamBrahm community. Twice she kneels down to do the Tamil traditional namaskaram in front of her parents-in-law. Then there is Baasi athaichfnnai welcomes Ravi and Deborah into her house, and does her best to make Deborah feel at home in a TamBrahm family.

Deborah’s maidservant Chinamma, a refugee from Burma, is another strong-willed woman, who takes the initiative to help her mistress when she is in trouble and, eventually, succeeds. While Madras Chennai is bool constant factor in both books, there are bits of the US and Paris in Clive Avenue that figure in the exchange between Rajan and his childhood friend and neighbour Dominique. The author also gives his take on life in Delhi as compared to Chennai.

The canvas of Chennaivaasi is much larger. Deborah’s mother describes her visit to Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Being a voracious reader since his boyhood days, reading authors like Narayan and Ernest Hemingway has contributed to vsasi craft.

He counts among the many books that have been an education Arundhati Roy’s debut novel God of Small Things and Rohinton Mistry’s novels and anthology of short stories based in Mumbai. The Tamil voice, obok says, has not been adequately heard.

In helping to make that voice heard, Tirumurti permeates both books with a strong flavour of the city. Both the Tamil and Chennai voices are heard loud in both this books. Click here for more Please click here to support the Heritage Act. Will the latest plan reduce T’Nagar chaos? Five years on, still no power from Udangudi. A great address to have. Of tennis and impromptu clubs. The pleasure of walking at Elliot’s Beach. Back to current issue Website developed by PACE.