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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28 February 2005
Sundays in the 1980s
Sundays used to be a family thing for my household as well. When I was really, really young, the parents used to take me to India Gate on Sundays. This must be one of my earliest Sunday memories, running around in India Gate, with a balloon that was almost as big as me, holding it v-e-r-y carefully, in case it burst and made a loud noise, which I hated. There were other kids as well, noisy little boys who took pleasure in bursting their balloons, but I stuck to myself and my own balloon, thank you very much. Sometimes, they'd buy me a helium balloon, which I loved, because, oh my, they stayed up by themselves! Without tossing or anything! And my mother would tie the string to my wrist and it would tug at it, just like something very alive.
India Gate wasn't just a Sunday thing though. We lived quite close by, on Curzon Road, before it was called Kasturba Gandhi Marg (which I always thought was a pity, because 'Curzon Road' is so much more evocative that KG Marg could ever be, don't you think?) and some evenings, my mother and I would set out for India Gate for a walk, and I'd watch the hoopoes. (I had quite a thing for birds back then. I am told my first ever word was 'pitta', the Telegu for 'bird'. Wierd) This one time, we watched a monkey man make his monkey do all sorts of tricks and kids were clustering around wanting to pet it, and they did. I hung back a little, being a shy child, and my mother practically forced me to go up and pet the monkey (Oh, the Google searches that are going to lead to this entry!) Anyway, so I took a tentative swipe at the monkey, which promptly turned around and scratched me. Scarred for life, I tell you, I still can't pass a monkey on the road without breaking out into a cold sweat.
You know, thinking back, I'm amazed at the ways I found to amuse myself as a child. Being an only child and all, I never had a host of siblings to play with (because that's what brothers and sisters are for, y'all, for the sole purpose of your entertainment). So I'd pretend the little water pumps outside my apartment complex were horses, and sit there for hours, talking to them and egging them on.
When the 1984 riots broke out, my parents went to see whether they could help and left me with some neighbours. I am told that I wept that entire day, going, "Indira Gandhi died," in piteous tones to the neighbours, who gave me Glucose biscuits. Funnily enough, when Rajiv Gandhi was killed, I didn't feel the same pity, though I was on a train to Hyderbad with my grandmother and we got held up for hours. I got to Hyderabad and took gruesome pleasure in going through the India Today which published pictures of people with their legs cut off, their bodies a mangled mess. Poor old sod.
The 80s really did have quite a few exciting things happening, that the 90s and the whatever we're in now (the 2000s? What do you call this era?) didn't have. Ooh, colour television. One of my neighbours in Curzon Road had a biggish colour TV set and that was when the Asiad games were happening. I used to go every day, just to watch the beautiful logos, with people doing gymnastics and all in colour! How cool! Speaking of television, that used to be another Sunday ritual. Waking up really early in the morning and watching Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on DD. Not even DD Metro, which hadn't been invented yet. Just plain old Doordarshan, way back when it was the ruling channel. I loved the advertisements even, the boy who played really hard and got hurt and his mother put Dettol on his wounds, the brother and sister who drank milk and got milk mustaches and said happily, "I'm a Complan boy! I'm a Complan girl!" and oh yeah, "Go GI Joe!" though I think that ad only came in with Star TV. I was terrified of the Onida ad though, because, really, that devil looked ominous. Neighbours envy, my foot, he was going to come and get me. I was also really, really scared of the Liril ad, because I couldn't swim then and I thought that girl frolicking away in the waterfall was looking at me with an evil glint in her eye, saying "Ha-ha! I'm going to make you swim, whether you like it or not! And you're going to use my soap!" (Incidentally, that Liril girl? She drowned. Ironic, eh?)
On Sundays my parents always woke up really late and had coffee in bed with the Sunday supplements strewn all around them. I had been up for hours, so at this point I was very hyperactive and very whiny because dammit, they were supposed to do something exciting! With me! Ooh, we should go to the zoo!
And after a lot of eye-rolling and complaining, they finally got their asses out of bed, stopped looking at the hideously boring newspapers and made lunch. After which they slept. (I used a pity card, whcih always worked. Looking at them sadly, I'd say, "Now if you had another kid, I'd have someone to play with. I'm all alone." Deep sigh. Usually, it worked like a charm) After the long boring Sunday nap, finally, they'd take me somewhere, sometimes if I was lucky, we'd tie up with the one and only friend of my parents who had a kid, who was thankfully, my age. And we'd watch Jungle Book, again and again and again, or draw or play with my stuffed animals, depending on whose house we were at.
I think Sunday naps are the reason I learned to read in the first place. My mom used to read to me before, trying to make me eat, showing me pictures and going, "Ooh, what's happening here? (Open your mouth) Is that a pig? (Chew your food) and what's the pig doing?" I got bored of her reading to me, because she read really slowly, and when she was napping, then I had nothing to do. So I began to read, pretty early too, and then Saturdays were library days, and on Sunday, we'd go to the pavement bookstalls in Daryagunj and pick up piles and piles of books and Amar Chitra Katha comics. Sometimes, we'd take a tonga back home, and I'd always run into the house for an apple or something to feed the horse with.
Right, enough procrastination (Thief of time and all that). I am reminded that I can't curl up in bed with a book anymore and that I do have work to do. This being an adult thing sucks, big time.