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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3 February 2005
The jester sang for the king and queen
I have good memories of boarding. Saturday night was "Soupy noodles and fried chicken" day, which basically meant Maggi in lots of water and two pieces of batter-fried chicken. Still, with all the insipid daal-roti we were being served during the week, it was a godsend. Saturday lunch was even better. We called it "dry lunch" and it was basically lots of bread slathered over with garlic butter, much coleslaw and, of course, your obligatory piece of chicken or vegetable. The food on Sunday sucked more than normal though. In the morning we got stone cold dosas, gone all soggy from sitting around and the afternoon and evening were pretty unmemorable. Though I do remember, quite strongly, that the boys had better food than we did.
Our dramatic society used to rehearse in the boys section of school, which was where all our classes were held as well. Sometimes, when we rehearsed really late, we got to have dinner there. And as the handful of girls, and the "priveleged" visitors, we got to sit at the prefects table, with the headmaster and everybody. Naturally, all the best helpings of food came directly to us and our poor batchmates would hiss from a couple of tables across, "Hey, pass some food along, man."
But boarding memories are not all food related, though I find the food memories are the strongest. In fact, that seems to be the case with most people who go to boarding, they can describe the food (or lack thereof) in vivid detail. Other things I remember are the dances, or jigs as we called them, which happened twice a term and which were always occasions. We spent weeks figuring out what to wear, I bought many dresses and people all around me were engrossed with hair removal--either by that item of torture, the Epilator, or just by begging other people to wax them. (Personally I preferred the Epilator, even though all those little tweezers yanking out your hair one by one wasn't exactly fun). We had ways of vying for popularity as well. The boys (and ONLY the boys) got little coupons entitling them to buy chocolate and tarts and coke (again with the food memories! I think I'm going to go find some cheese). You couldn't ask the boy directly to buy you something, only if he was well-mannered enough he'd ask you. I was coached on my first jig how to reply to this. If the boy said, "Woudl you like something to eat?" you'd answer not, "Hell yeah!" like you'd want to, but a more demure, "I don't mind." If you were truly popular, and you had circulated happily between the boys, you had a handful of Cadbury perk to show for it. My personal best? Seven.
But there are things I didn't like about boarding either. The whole senior-junior thing, for instance. If you pissed off a prefect she would tell you to either do laps, around this gigantic field at some absurd hour, or even worse, change-ups. That was when you reported at three or four in the morning and you had to keep changing your clothes, from regular school wear (day kit), to formal occasion wear (Monday kit), to regulation pink or blue salwar kameez (evening kit) to shorts and your house t-shirt (Sports kit) and finally back to your nightclothes. And you had to get your shoes and socks and (wherever applicable) your tie to match as well. This process could be repeated till whenever she thought you had enough. The guys had it worse though. All the boys of class nine were "pisa's" to boys of class 12. So, if a senior guy wanted something done, he'd tell his pisa, who would make beds, polish shoes, fetch clothes, etc. I tried to protest once but was shot down, by a class nine boy no less who said, "We'll get to do the same thing in class 12 so what's the big deal, man?" (They said man wuite a lot. The boys. To the girls.) Oh, and all the junior guys had to call the senior ones 'sme (pronounced ess-me) short for 'excuse me' every time they wanted to address them.
Ooh, quite late. More memories later, they're suddenly coming hard and fast! (Yeah, yeah, your dirty mind is moving in all sorts of ways isn't it? And that sentence will probably lead to quite few hits via Google. But, I refuse to be corrupted. I'm going to leave that sentence in, so there!) (On the other hand, there is the likelihood that you didn't think dirty thoughts. In which case, it's me with the mind like a sewer, right? Hmmm... oh, well, whatchu gonna do?)