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Beyond the Boulevards: A Short Biography of Pondicherry

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction

Beyond the Boulevards: A Short Biography of Pondicherry

Author: Aditi Sriram
Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

Pondicherry, the South Indian coastal town, union territory and former French colony, is a city unlike any other in India. Here, the game of pétanque is as commonplace as a minithali sambar-rice lunch, or the briny tang drifting out of Goubert Fish Market first thing every morning… The French sport’s slower pace and quieter sounds reflect a different cultural trajectory compared to the rest of the country. Indeed, it is one of many aspects or Pondicherry that make the city wholly distinctive. Everywhere you look there are elements of the place that are local and foreign, unusual and traditional, all at the same time.
Besides its hybrid identity, the city is also an important spiritual centre, a hub for alternative education, a quasi-extension of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, an ecological and environmental bastion—and, thanks to a liberal liquor license, a party town. Tapping into every aspect of Pondicherry, in Beyond the Boulevards, Aditi Sriram captures the substance of a city that is a contrast of colours, languages, religions, and cultures.

About the Author: 

Aditi Sriram teaches writing at Ashoka University. She completed her Master’s in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City in 2013. She has not lived in Pondicherry, but grew up hearing about it from her family whose roots are in the city. Her inspiration has been the Pondy locals who shared their life stories with her. This is her first book.


“It’s a rigorously researched work that — the notes at the back of the book offer enough references for anyone who wants to write another book about the town.”—Indian Express, June 8th, 2019 (full review here)

“Its the kind of book you will find yourself returning to again and again, if only to dip into  it long after you’ve actually devoured the book from cover to cover.”

The New Indian Express, March 31st, 2019 (full review here)

“There’s a part of the book where she admires the many libraries in this small city and reserves special praise for the Head Librarian of Pondicherry University whose maxim is that a library must have an ‘irresistible ambience’.”

Hindustan Times, May 3rd, 2019 (full review here)

An ex-con turned butcher and a tourist guide: Two faces from ‘quaint’ Pondicherry

In ‘Beyond The Boulevards’, Aditi Sriram looks behind the famous and the visible in the Union territory.

Scroll, April 3rd, 2019 (full excerpt here)

A journey into Puducherry’s past through nomenclature

Beyond the Boulevards charts Puducherry’s eventful history, in which diverse cultures of the world, from Dutch to French to Portuguese, have played defining roles.

Sunday Guardian, May 5th, 2019 (full review here)

“Punctuated with small stories that are folklore of the place, this is a languid Sunday read that is the perfect gift for a mother who is already planning her next trip, without having unpacked her suitcase from the last.”

The Telegraph, May 10th, 2019 (full review here)

“The author-flâneur first walks down a street, visits a building, or meets people in public and private spaces in the city. There she unearths facts, of the past and present, and weaves them into a story.”

Open Magazine, May 17th, 2019 (full review here)

“Aditi Sriram puts it succinctly in Beyond the Boulevards — A short biography of Pondicherry — that the city is far from ‘quaint’, an adjective often used to describe the Union Territory.”

Sakal Times, April 27th, 2019 (full interview here)

“Sriram, who teaches writing at Ashoka University, brings in her academic rigour (a book this slim has 177 notes at the end) and dives deep into Pondicherry’s history, geography and anthropology.”

Outlook, May 8th, 2019 (full review here)

“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”— LiveMint, May 25th, 2019 (full review here)

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