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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1 July 2004
Once Upon A Time
The first person I was able to identify myself as “having a crush on,” was Akshat Prasad. Akshat was eight years older than me, a friend of a friend’s brother and he was slightly chubby with long sideburns, but to my love stricken twelve-year-old eyes, he looked like Elvis.
Elvis was an artist; I was still too callow to know much about. My current musical tastes were restricted to Ace Of Bace, UB40, Bryan Adams and Joey Lawrence (who was adorable. Whatever happened to him?) I knew Elvis lived a long time ago, was called the King and girls, now my mother’s age, used to be crazy about him. But since he bore such a strong resemblance to my beloved, I bought a cheap poster at a Diwali mela and stuck it up over my bed. Elvis had his lip curled, and this was during his “chubby” phase, so really, he and Akshat did share a lot of the same features.
But to Akshat I was just another one of the annoying children who hung around the colony. He was a gentleman though, never failing to smile sweetly at me and say, “Hi” in his voice, which is firmly imprinted in my memory as soft and husky.
I don’t know when things started to change. Perhaps it happened after I started to menstruate, the summer when I was doing a desperate dance of catch-up with my peer group. All I knew, was suddenly I had acquired a 19-year-old boyfriend, whom I refused to meet alone, for fear he might try to kiss me. My friends too, were surging ahead with their seventeen-year-old beaus.
That was the summer Akshat started dating Jai. Jai, short for Jaishree, was someone we all adored. She was about nineteen or twenty, I think, when she and Akshat started “going around”. She wasn’t beautiful, at least not in any conventional way. She always wore loose, low cut tops, so that when she bent over you could see she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her hair was very long, with slight waves and her sharp pointed chin had a cleft in it.
I don’t know why I never felt jealous of Jai. Perhaps it was because I never regarded Akshat as someone I could get. He was a god, to be set up on a pedestal and admired from afar, a gorgeous entity that should only rightly be dating a goddess. Meanwhile, I lived in the scattered largesse of their love.
Luckily enough for me, my best friend at the time had an older brother. The very same older brother who had allowed me to encounter Akshat in the first place. No doubt, like all “younger sisters friends” universally, we flirted with him and he teased us indiscriminatingly. But he and Akshat were best friends and they allowed my best friend and I to ride with them in their cars. I remember once we did that, and the sun was shining and the music was playing and I was just so damn happy I couldn’t get the grin off my face. I might have been smiling too hard though, because my friend’s brother and Jai exchanged a condescending smile.
Pretty soon, even Elvis wasn’t a satisfying image. I needed a picture, something to kiss before I went to sleep. I sought the help of a friend of mine, whose claim to fame as that she had 14 boyfriends in her school, all madly in love with her and ready to do her ever command. As the rest of us went to different schools, this information was never refuted, although I did find out recently that she spent most of her school life, unliked.
Still, back then, she was in the same school as Akshat and she was a good friend to me. She pulled out three years worth of old yearbooks, one of which contained the picture of Akshat’s graduating class. We waded through scores of photos, of boys and girls, smiling hopefully, with the sun in their eyes and teachers who remarkably kept the same dour expression all three years. Finally she said, “Found it!”
There it was. Prasad, Akshat, sandwiched between Punj, Swapna and Paul, Mary. I peered at the tiny photograph, with barely a millimeter of his face visible and then I cut it out of the magazine and took it home.
It had a pride of place position in my ‘secret drawer’, with an empty cassette cover as a frame. Akshat had gone out of town, with a play, as I recall, and every night I wrote to him on notebook paper. I spritzed the letters with perfume as soon as I wrote them causing my alphabet to blur. Then I gathered them all up, tied them with a ribbon and let them lie next to the picture. I never sent them.
Akshat and Jai had a lot of fights towards the end of their relationship. ‘Dance-parties’ were the thing we did in those days, always following the routine of ‘fast song-slow song-slow song-fast song’. My best friend threw a party, along with her brother, and so both her friends and his were invited.
I saw Akshat with Jai, downstairs, sitting around the statue we liked to hang around. The two were having a serious discussion and Jai turned her face away when she saw us. Akshat however watched us walk off and then called out my name. “Yes?” I answered, my heart throbbing, my sweat pores suddenly activating. “Save me a dance, okay?” he said, smiling his crooked smile.
I thought he had forgotten but sure enough, when the party was winding up, he came up to me and we danced. Never did I wish so hard that Meatloaf would just go on singing.
Looking back I wondered whether he was just doing it to make himself look good in front of Jai. But then I loved him even more for being nice to a gawky twelve-year-old.
My love for Akshat ended when he cheated on Jai, who discovered scratch marks on his back. I tore up his pictures, because his cheating on her meant cheating on all of us.
Jai started dating my best friend’s brother.
Discovery Of The Day: This blog is really..um.. different! Oh and also while on the quest for originality, check out April's blog, very nice!