My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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21 June 2018

Today in Photo

Self portrait of an afternoon nap which was not to be because I was too distracted by selfies and such. #portrait #traveldiary

via Instagram

19 June 2018

Today in Photo

The three faces of Cream Choc. Eating half hazelnut half vanilla and matching in my new yellow raincoat. #traveldiary #monsoon

via Instagram

Today in Photo

K's mum took this last week outside Mum's Kitchen in Panjim, but love the #celebstyle of our poses. Looks like we were totally papped. Also good hair day so had to share because Vanity. #traveldiary #monsoon

via Instagram

Newsletter: May the odds be ever in your favour

(Last week's newsletter. This week's just went out so you know what to do.)

Pop quiz #2: This week's newsletter title is an easy guess, but humour me anyway. (If you're curious "Some Pig" is from Charlotte's Web, which features my favourite literary rat character (even more than Rat in Wind In The Willows) a wisecracking every-creature-for-himself glutton called Templeton.)

This week in the Lives of People Who Are Dead Now: I am very late to the Nancy Mitford party, but I just began reading her very thinly veiled "novel" about two young girls in Britain living the U-life (U meaning upperclass, a thing that was being written about in Mitford's time, vs. of course, the Non-Us). There's a reference to the Us and non-Us in The Pursuit of Love as well, as the children belonging to this large extended family are all daughters of lords, so they get to have an "Hon." before their names, and so form a society: Hons vs Counter Hons. You don't have to be born an Hon to be an honourary Hon, a hon-Hon if you will, but Counter Hons say things like "notepaper" for writing paper and "dentures" for false teeth.

I looked up Nancy Mitford yesterday, and while she was quite fascinating, what I found most interesting was the life of her sister, Unity Mitford. Unity VALKYRIE Mitford, a first world yoga name if I've ever heard one. Here is a picture, she was quite lovely.

If you've watched The Crown on Netflix, you know that every old established rich British family has some Nazi lovers closer than you think. In the Mitford sisters' case, there were about three of them who were reasonably sympathetic, but Unity really took it to a new level. If she had been born today, she'd be dangling off Trump's arm, talking about white pride with gusto and poise on television, but since she was born in 1914, she took up a pro-Hitler stance, primarily just to get some attention from her family, being a middle child.

However, she traveled with a sister to Germany, and there she saw Hitler and decided to take her fandom to a completely different level. She basically found out all his hang out spots and went and sat at the same cafe as he had lunch at every single day. TEN MONTHS LATER, Hitler finally asked her to join him, so this was a pretty dedicated case of stalking. He was completely charmed by her, her Aryan good looks and her connection to Wagner, who Hitler loved. (Unity's grandfather was a close friend of the composer.) Anyway, Hitler was quite superstitious so he considered Unity a sort of "sent from heaven" reward or something, and also, was quite happy to play her off against Eva Braun, because it's not enough to be a monster, you must also be an asshole boyfriend.

She wanted very much for Hitler to reach some sort of deal with Britain and threatened to kill herself if a war ever happened. War did happen, and she shot herself with a pistol, only she survived the impact and the bullet stayed inside her skull, after which Hitler paid her hospital bills and arranged for her to go back to England. She was changed, apparently, a bit like she had had a stroke, incontinent, like a large child, but she still remembered being a Nazi, and said she wanted to have many children and name the eldest son Adolf. Eventually she died of meningitis because of the swelling of her brain around the bullet. She was 33.

Here's another interesting fact about Unity: she was conceived in a town called Swastika, Ontario. I wonder if she thought about that and about the Nazi party and decided that was the way her life was going to go since she was born to it.

(There is a biography of the Mitford sisters that looks quite good: The Mitford Girls by Mary S Lovell, which is on the Amazon store in India. Will get a copy and let you know how it is!)

This week in stuff I wrote: My review of Yashodhara Lal's How I Became a Farmer's Wife. "Was it really that good?" asked someone to me skeptically, and yes it was. I'm not polite at all in my reviews, if I don't like something, I will say it, as you will see in a review that should be out next week. I do sometimes try and find a redeeming thing though, and there usually is a redeeming thing.
Excerpt: Lal is, by her own description, a “romance” writer, and this book is meant to be a sequel of sorts to her first, which was similar fiction-ish, memoir-ish story of the first years of being married. Romance writers can definitely plot, even if they are somewhat condescended to by the greater literary establishment.

This week in television I recommend on Amazon Prime: I made this list for Twitter, but I'm finding my engagement on that platform is way down from even a few months ago. No retweets at all, and maybe one or two likes? It's odd, because nothing else has changed, not my tweets, not my follower count, so I'm just putting it down to faulty algorithms and not just that people aren't finding me interesting any more. (the horror!), So I thought, let me just migrate the things I would tweet about to this newsletter, and give up on Twitter for a little bit. Of all the social media I use (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) I'm getting the least interactions out of Twitter, so I think I might start to wind down there mostly. Are you having the same problem or is it just me?

1) Parks & Recreation: brilliant, government office mockumentary with one of the FINEST feminist protagonists you'll ever see on television, Leslie Knope. In the same vein, and inspired from, The Office (US) also on Prime and it is also amazing.

2) The Magicians is a subtle satire-y sci-fi show that just goes from strength to strength every season. There's pop culture, there's magic, there's humour, there's pathos, you'll love it.

3) Parenthood: If you liked Gilmore Girls or Brothers and Sisters or anything with a big messy family and their interactions, this is a MUST MUST WATCH show.

4) Friday Night Lights: It is about American football, yes, but I, an avowed sports hater ("so boring ya!") am still binge watching it like it is going out of style.

5) The Mindy Project: will take you two or three episodes to fully get into but after that it is just like candy. So funny and refreshing.

This week in stuff I read on the internet that was cool

I have a Dom character in my new Girls of the Mahabharata book, so this long read (and winner of a journalism award!) about a modern day Dom was truly fascinating.
Excerpt: Mithun spends hours performing the back-breaking work of sifting through mountains of ash to cull tiny pieces of melted gold and silver - remnants of jewellery the deceased were wearing - to later sell for a meagre sum of money. Out of respect for their dead, families leave the jewellery (often a necklace, a few bangles, a gold nose-ring, or a gold tooth) on their relative before performing the last rites. For the Doms, the competition to find these tiny, precious pieces is cut-throat. As soon as the ash from a burned out pyre is swept into the river, an army of men - with pants rolled halfway up - rush in, wading through the murky water. To reduce the competition, some throw in broken glass and razors to make the process more arduous for others.
My mum (whose birthday it is today, happy birthday!) has a copy of Cook and See which she procured with great difficulty, and I've always found it ridiculously charming. Here's a piece on learning from it.
Excerpt: Strangely I can hear my dad in this book, perhaps because “third rate” is a word he uses quite often. And also because the book reminds me of his particular brand of “strict reassurance” – this will annoy you but this is ultimately good for you. For instance, there was a time when my father would find me dreaming serenely on Sunday afternoons and attempt to break my reverie by asking me stuff like, “what is 167395 minus 578?” His is a lifelong mission to make me alert, either by shocking me with mental mathematics or dark warnings of potential accidents that would most certainly occur thanks to incessant day dreaming.
Gorgeous piece on a man who turned his entire house into a shrine and a work of art.
Excerpt: When visitors come, they often cry. Others are overwhelmed by inspiration, or a sudden feeling that everything makes sense and they know just what they need to do. By the end of their visit, they want to speak to, confide in, or be counseled by Wright. It feels like there is a magnetic air of wisdom around him that you can’t help but want to feel close to. Wright listens and hugs, he understands.
Since 40 is three years away, here's a fun piece on how to get there. (Note: I feel a midlife crisis coming on just at the thought of it.)
Excerpt: What have we aged into? We’re still capable of action, change and 10K races. But there’s a new immediacy to the 40s — and an awareness of death — that didn’t exist before. Our possibilities feel more finite. All choices now plainly exclude others. It’s pointless to keep pretending to be what we’re not. At 40, we’re no longer preparing for an imagined future life. Our real lives are, indisputably, happening right now. We’ve arrived at what Immanuel Kant called the “Ding an sich” — the thing itself.
What would a world without Star Wars look like? I'm really not into the franchise, but it affected things that eventually brought me Netflix, SO yes.
Excerpt: At the end of the decade, Vice President Al Gore edges George W. Bush in one of the closest elections in American history. Observers credit his win to the positive influence exerted on his campaign and the election by CNN — which is the only major 24-hour news network. Rupert Murdoch watches from the United Kingdom; he’d failed to find a solid entry point into American media in the mid-’80s, Fox having collapsed years earlier, and his dreams of a conservative challenger to CNN remain unrealized.
When EB White wrote Stuart Little there was a librarian who basically RAN the children's book industry and she was not happy with him. This article should be made into a movie.
Excerpt: Today, children’s book publishing—an industry richly described in Leonard S. Marcus’s excellent new book, “Minders of Make-Believe”—is one of the most profitable parts of the book business. But that industry exists only because, in much the same way that the nineteenth-century middle class invented childhood as we know it, early-twentieth-century writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers—and, most of all, Anne Carroll Moore—invented children’s literature. It would be convenient if White and Moore stood on either side of a divide between antimodernist and modernist writing. But things don’t really sort out along those lines. A better way of thinking about it might be to say that Anne Carroll Moore did not like fangs. She loved what was precious, innocent, and sentimental. White found the same stuff mawkish, prudish, and daffy. “There are too many coy books full of talking animals, whimsical children, and condescending adults,” White complained.
I'd watch all these Sex and the City in 2018 plots.
Excerpt: Miranda arrives late to brunch because one of her favorite male colleagues was just fired, following #MeToo accusations. She’s conflicted because, despite her feminist convictions, she loved this guy and isn’t sure the accusations warranted his dismissal. Samantha says that she, too, is being sued by a former assistant for sexual harassment, which she doesn’t feel is warranted. Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda share their #MeToo stories, and Miranda is particularly horrified to recall several experiences she had as a teenager — the same age her son, Brady, is now. Miranda reconsiders how she’s raising her own son; when he tells her he’s taking a girl on a date, she insists on a sit-down with the two of them, during which she goes embarrassingly overboard and scares them out of their date.

And finally, Prayaag on football, his football-averse partner and the fact that their first child is due during the first week of the World Cup.
Excerpt: Perhaps fitting, given her deep distaste for the sport, that my wife is scheduled—if all goes well, please keep your fingers crossed—to give birth to our first child in the first week of this year’s World Cup. She’s happy because she believes this means I will not be able to watch any of the games. I’m happy because I believe this means I’ll be able to watch them all.

9 June 2018

Today in Photo

Storm outside, books inside. I love the double image with the reflection in the sliding doors like my study is floating about by the trees. #delhidiary

via Instagram

8 June 2018

Today in Photo

Louis Sachar, Newbery Medal winner, National Book Award winner, author best known for Holes and the Wayside school stories and who I recently discovered signed this book i picked up in Daryagunj a while ago. I feel a small thrill, like meeting a celebrity. #signedcopy #bookstagram

via Instagram

6 June 2018

Today in Photo

As much as I treat my dresses with love, I handle my bags so roughly that within a year or two they're all scuffed and falling apart, which is a terrible thing to do. Especially since this precious present is the only designer bag I own. RIP Kate Spade, inventor of the best black handbag I've ever had in my entire life. #katespade #whatiworetoday #lotsofbaggage

via Instagram

Newsletter: Two Year Anniversary Edition

(Missed a week, but do you want to never miss a week again? Sign up here!)

Can you believe it has been TWO years of this email in your inbox every week, give or take? CUR-AZEEE! That is 104 emails, which doesn't sound like a lot now that I look at it, but still, you know me one hundred times more than you normally would. Um. I'm hoping that's a bonus.

You, waiting for a new newsletter from me

Now, if I was an organised sort of person, I'd have tied up with some brands, gotten you some discounts, but alas, I am me, and I have nothing for you, except my Zomato Gold referral code? You get 20% off the total, I get an extra month, SO, win win for everyone, if you want Zomato Gold that is. I was resistant, but then I went with two friends to Arriba last night, and because two of us had Zomato Gold, we got four free drinks (2+2 on alcohol) which is pretty good. I calculated that for 800 rupees (which is how much it cost for a 3 month membership) I would be getting MORE value for money than if I just paid normally. The referral code is MEEN6056 anyway if you want to use it. (I was not paid by Zomato for this product placement, I promise.) (I wish!)

Arriba was really good though, they must have hired a new chef or improved upon the original, because while I remember the food being nice, it was never "oh my god let me put it all into my mouth immediately" which is what happened yesterday. Plus their margaritas! I regret them today as I am snoozy at 7 pm, but so worth it.

But happy anniversary to us, my darlings! Here is a link to last year's first anniversary edition and the very first newsletter I sent out. How we've evolved since then.

This week in self indulgences: I know, I know, cold brew coffee is a bit of a scam, especially when they sell it to you at fancy coffee shops and charge you like 250 bucks for it, and we fall for it every time! Because it just sounds so nice: coldddd brewwww. Decadent. Like something rich and caramel-y to roll around your mouth, and god, now I just want an Alpenliebe. (Huh. Just figured out why they called it an Alpenliebe as well. Love for the mountains! Because those weird caramel sweets were supposed to be from the Alps? Fun fact: the same company also makes Chupa Chups and Mentos. Fun fact two: The Mentos company also owns Babol gum.) What was I saying? Oh yes, cold brew. Now the science to cold brew is easy but time consuming: you put about five tablespoons of coffee in 750 ml of water and let it soak overnight, the next morning you strain into a bottle, pop into the fridge, and ta-dah, cold brew. I love it personally, but the measuring the coffee was just one extra thing I did not want to do, so I went ahead and bought cold brew bags, which are basically tea bags with coffee in them from Devan's. Devan's is fantastic for coffee by the way, and they home deliver.  I could, I could in theory just make my own cold brew WITHOUT a tea bag, but it's so much NICER the way Devan's has done it so yes, it's not cheap, but it's cheaper than a coffee shop.

I also bought myself a bulletin board for my study. I don't know what I was imagining: lists of words and invitations to parties and postcards from friends and other exciting things? But I have no paper things any more! And one can't very well pin a Whatsapp message to one's board, so I am left with: two cards from our wedding, both very beautiful, one postcard from the Reina Sofia (Picasso's The Three Dancers resonated with me more deeply than the Guernica, picture below) and an invitation to the book launch of You Are Here, August 22nd, 2008 back in the day when a book party was a Brand New Thing. (More on You Are Here in a future edition of this newsletter.)

This week in Delhi is essentially the beating heart of me: A friend is moving to a new house and we went out for lunch nearby and then sat in the empty apartment for a bit, the way you do before furniture moves in and it becomes a proper house again. That empty apartment feeling: even though we're all in our thirties and have done this for a decade or more, it still feels like you're getting away with something, you know? Like you have a clubhouse, away from the grown ups. It's a house before it becomes your home, but you're already feeling a little possessive about it, you're thinking, "This is where I'll put my coffee table and that's what colour the curtains will be" but everything is like a new page. I remember sitting in our current house just before it was broken down and renovated, just to check it out one last time, and we sat on the floor and planned what walls would come down, and talked about the neighbourhood, soon to be ours, but then still so alien. As much as I love coming home to a space that has fit so comfortably around us, I also like that new jeans feeling of a new house, particularly the first morning you wake up, the smell of new paint still in your nose, wondering where you are for a second before you realise, "Oh, I'm home."

And then driving home, I told my friend that I probably had memories littered all over Delhi. It's true, I could probably give you an association with most places. Here's where we drank test tube shots that one night and this guy came up to us and said hi, and would you believe he is still in our life almost twenty years later? Here's where we adopted Bruno and Olga, here's where I learned how to drive properly, here's where my car broke down that one time in the middle of traffic and this cop helped me push it to the side of the road and then waited with me till the mechanic came. Oh Delhi, you polluted, sentimental, tree lined BEAST.

This week in AND THEN THERE ARE THE DELHIITES: ARGH WHY ARE PEOPLE LIKE THIS ABOUT THEIR PARKING SPOTS? Is the world going to end, my good chap, if another car is in your spot for five minutes? Okay, I admit, I have drunk the Kool Aid, I too am all beating my chest and Hulk-like about protecting my parking space, but my reasons are more laziness than protectiveness beCAUSE if someone is in my spot and then I park in someone else's space then I will have to climb up and down four flights of stairs AGAIN to repark once whoever it is has gone. But if there's someone in our spot and then there's also a space next to it, I just go into that space. IT IS THAT SIMPLE, DELHI! Okay, all this because this friend came over to play Catan (expansion pack! Great fun and I also won which means it was even more great fun. The greatest) and he parked in the neighbour's spot and so the neighbours, instead of moving one down, as is a normal human reaction, decided to park in front of his car, so when this guy had to leave, he couldn't, so he had to call a cab and come back the next day and it was all very pointless.

New favourite gif

At least we are only passive aggressive in this area. Other parts of Delhi are worse, here are recent examples: 1) a WHOLE METRO LINE was held up because two people got into a fight over parking. 2) One brother refuses to move his Audi, everyone stabbed.

Let's just agree everyone is crazy especially about where they put their cars and move on.

This week in stuff I loved on the internet (only two links because slow news week):

Rag dolls are adorable cats, but SO INBRED. Adopt don't shop etc.
Excerpt: What makes the Ragdoll cat different from other cats is a matter of temperament. Stripped of a desire for hunting, the Ragdoll has a languid, friendly personality. It is large and less agile than other cats, and has a regal feline elegance: its fur is silky, and long; it has piercing, ocean-blue eyes; and its personality could be called dog-like. This is a cat that greets you at the door and follows you from room to room, providing something like unconditional love.
The best con story you'll read this year. I had linked to another story about Anna Delvey before, how she took this journalist for a ride, and here is a deep dive into the woman. Basically, if you distract people with enough hard cash, they won't look too closely at how you're paying for stuff.
Excerpt: Soon, Anna was everywhere too. “She managed to be in all the sort of right places,” recalled one acquaintance who met Anna in 2015 at a party thrown by a start-up mogul in Berlin. “She was wearing really fancy clothing” — Balenciaga, or maybe Ala├»a — “and someone mentioned that she flew in on a private jet.” It was unclear where exactly Anna came from — she told people she was from Cologne, but her German wasn’t very good — or what the source of her wealth was. But that wasn’t unusual. “There are so many trust-fund kids running around,” said Saleh. “Everyone is your best friend, and you don’t know a thing about anyone.”

5 June 2018

Today in Photo

Magnificent specimen of a black cat, but let's face it, he really is just a Squishy. #blackcatsofinstagram #catsagram

via Instagram