Beyond The Boulevards is the latest in a series of city biographies published by Aleph. Like the previous six books—Patna, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru—this book about Puducherry is part travel writing, part memoir, part biography of the city. The writers of the series have a deep connection with the city they have written about: It is the place they were born in or where they made a home, the place they fell in love or fell out of it. In Beyond The Boulevards’ author Aditi Sriram’s case, it is a place that figured prominently in stories of her childhood, a place her family once put down roots in.
Beyond The Boulevards is also the first book in the series about a popular tourist destination, one that is frequently described by visitors, who experience it briefly on holidays, as “quaint”, “charming” and “picturesque”. Sriram’s account of the city seeks to move beyond these superficial descriptions, tracing the city’s history through old maps and changes in its name, and attempting to chart its present through the lives of its current residents, from Bass the butcher to M. Yuvaraj, a tourism officer, and expat and historian Peter Heehs.
The narrative leaps from the past to the present, a legend about the origin of a mandapam atop a well in Bharati Park turning into a reminder of the water shortages confronting the city today. Weaving through the city’s many aspects, its colonial culture and Tamil heritage, its beauty and scars, the narrative builds a more complete picture, one that will be of interest to any traveller to the city.
Beyond The Boulevards: By Aditi Sriram
Aleph Book Company;