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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5 April 2005

Matchmaker, matchmaker

My mother's generation had it easy. There was no question--if you met a boy and thought he was decent enough and would provide for you, you married him. If at seventeen or eighteen, you met someone who caused groin-flutters and rapid heartbeats, you were in love with him and then married him.

Our generation on the other hand has so many choices of affection, that we might as well curl up into a ball and twitch. See, there's the initial, "Oh I'm attracted to you" or "Oh I have the biggest crush on you" and then, sometimes, very rarely, "Oh I love you." Why is so scary to say the words "I love you"? I mean, it seems like the simplest choice, surely? It doesn't convey the raw lustiness in "I'm attracted to you" and it effectively steers away from the wimpy commitment-phobeness of "I have the biggest crush on you." And really at one point in our lives, no matter how much we deny it later, we're in love with the person we're kissing, with the person we're dating, with the person we're calling despite mouthing terms like, "I'm really not ready for a relationship." Ready for a relationship indeed! Step up to the plate, young man! If your father had said "I'm not ready for a relationship" he probably wouldn't have lived for very long.

Of course, the whole idea of premarital sex complicates matters further. Our grandparents (and some of our parents) met under the benevolant eye of various family members. Family members hwo knew that if this worked out, the two young people in the room would wind up having sex pretty soon. How typically like India, shelter and guard someone all their lives and then *bam* encourage them to procreate with a practical stranger. Nowadays, it's more like girl meets boy, girl flirts with boy, girl and boy go out, it gets dark, he has his father's car and a packet of Kamasutra and well, yeah, I'm not going into the gory details. And with all this sex and no intention of settling down with this person you've seen naked, is it any wonder that the women of my generation are essentially screwed up? We have too many choices people.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're going to say. That I'm lucky to have a liberal family that lets me make my own choices. That if I really had to deal with the nightmare that is arranged marriages I would probably wish myself back in my situation in a heartbeat. Okay, well, yeah, I'm aware of all this. But still, I have some friends who come from strict families, who know that in a year or two they will have to settle down. And their casual ease, their certainity about the future is something I envy slightly. Oh, I know pretty much where my life is going. But I can't say, "So by the time I'm thirty, I'll be married with two kids". The alone-ness of my life as an independant, confident, professional career woman stretches in front of me and there are times when i want to sit down and have gold rings and go for kitty parties and be taken care of, y'know?

My generation has choices that no other generation has. It is possible to do a college degree in Creative Writing for fucks sake. And people accept that, applaud that as a sensible choice. No more lines of doctors and engineers, it is possible for everyone to follow their dreams if they have adequate resources. What else do we have? The highest ever divorce rates, rampant AIDS, lots of money going into therapy and the inability to sustain a functional relationship. Would I go back a generation? No. But am I a little sad with what mine has? Hell, yeah.


  1. Just wanted to comment on each of your concerns:

    divorce rate: that it is going up is no surprise, but the statistic that would really interest me is if there is any change in the proportion of separated but not divorced couples. Surely, divorce rates are not the only indication of the crisis of confidence in the institution of marriage?

    rampant AIDS: mostly attributed in India to very traditional men with peripatetic jobs that provide ample opportunities to sleep around. Why do you think brothels dot highways across the country?
    Not exactly your sexual revolution of a choice generation.

    As for the notion of sustaining a relationship, I think a lot of us come around to it in due course. Some don't and happily exist with ephemeral but satisfying encounters. Who is to say what's functional? Longevity isn't everything.

  2. thalassa: Your comment is well-thought out yes, but I think you're missing the point somewhat. Sure, divorce rates AREN'T the only indication, but they are something that can be put into statistics, as for the AIDS thing, there I agree with you, and about relationships, um.. I think (and this is just my opinion, feel free to diagree) that longevity IS the only indication of a good relationship. The three month four month things may be rewarding while they last but in the long run make you feel a little cheated, dontcha think?

    Ostrich: Hello, supersenior! :) Nice to meet fellow alumnus, always!

    elf: No, no degree in Creative Writing, but that is the programme I'm applying for :)

  3. Perhaps I was a bit oblique. What I wanted to say was that many couples lived separately from each other in earlier times as well, and increasing rate of divorce is no indication that our times are particularly doomed for marriage.

    Cheated in terms of not yielding a return on investment of time and emotions? Sounds almost too calculated to me!

    In a laissez faire relationship market, they come with all sorts of term limits. And it is hard to compare one to the other. There is much joy in a stable union, but there is a lot of happiness and fulfillment in a one-night stand as well.

  4. Alright, I've been meaning to comment on this since yesterday.

    My take on arranged marriages is simple. Mom introduces me to a girl. Me and girl take time to know each other. Time means anything from 2 to 6 months. If it works out, it does. If it doesn't it doesn't. If the parents or the girl are not up for this, then we dont get onto this bandwagon at all.

    Now, I realise that this is very idealistic. One of my colleagues who used to agree with me on this outlook on arranged marriages, met a girl his parents wanted him to meet. At the end of their third date, they agreed to get married to each other. I dont wish to comment on that, but he has his reasons. He has his rationale as to how he broke away from the template for arranged marriages that myself and him had in mind.

    So I guess what Im trying to say is that, in the end, its upto the individual. I still beleive that I would not do what he did, but I can never say. Why ? Myself and the ex, spent 6 years (2 of which were long distance) getting to know each other - a valuable relationship in your books right , and it took her about 6 hours to decide to call it off. Go figure huh !

    Part Two will continue in the afty !

  5. Okay, okay.. I should've made myself a little clearer. What I was going on about wasn't really about the amount of time you spend in a relationship, but about choices. So maybe I shouldn't have generalised and made it a generation problem, but I do find among most people I know, the pressure NOT to get married and settle down is amplified by the fact that you have the choice not to do that. Again, in my book, having a "fling" that lasts for a few months, makes you feel worse when it ends, as opposed to having a relationship for a couple of years, because with a long-term thing, at least you're not branded as a commitment phobic person, a label that is getting more and more common.
    btw, this comment debating is great fun :)

  6. Okay boys and girls, now that you have all laid out your views one, it is my turn.

    First, about old times versus new. I am sure not much has changes between our parents' generation and ours, except the fact that we can choose who we get married to now. There was as much love, as much hatred, as many affairs in marriages then as now. Just because people were not so open about their feelings then does not, IMHO, mean that all was hunky dory.

    However, eM, I agree with you that a longer relationship feels better. You end up getting comfortable, you stop the feather display, you are more relaxed and, if the other person commits (regardless of whether the commitment is fulfilled or not), there is this feeling of security.

    As for AIDS, I think Indian men are as promiscuous as men elsewhere. It takes all kinds to make a world. For every Indian man who sleeps around, there must be one who stays awake. :)) We have a large population and, on account of that, more men (in sheer numbers) who patronize prostitution.

    Next round, please.

  7. really like your writing; makes me want to stop neglecting my own blog. and yes - this abundance of choices weighs heavily on my soul too!

  8. Hi eM! Visiting your blog for the first time. You write very well. I'm sure to keep coming back time and again to read your blog.

    Now, about the issue you guys have been discussing... about relationships. I am kinda in tune with what Vignesh has had to say. Really, we can't generalize that Time is the only factor that determines the depth and strength of a relationship. I have seen people who have developed commitment-phobia after years (several of them) of courting! Longer relationships need not necessarily make us feel better. There are people who really love a person, but shy away from "commitment", because, as you said, they can "choose" to do so. So, our "choice" need not always turn out to be smart! Just because we have a choice as regards these things, we cannot deny ourselves what could be a pleasant relationship! Having options is one thing. But exercising our discretion and making the right kinda choice is a totally different thing.

  9. And hey! I just discovered that we have something in common! Both of us celebrate randomness!! Yes, just read that post of yours.

    I even raised a toast to randomness in one of my recent posts. Also, I kinda love randomness and have made my peace with it.

    There's a difference in the way we celebrate randomness, though.

  10. What can I say? You guys seem to have it all covered :)
    Still some comments:
    Anurag: I agree it's not all hunky-dory, but still choosing the one you want to be with independantly does give you greater responsibility than having someone chosen for you, no?

    Tamara: Thank you! And you really should update your blog and leave me a link so I can see it :)

    Mandar: Thank you, too :) I'm glad I have someone elese to drink to the randomnes with!

    later y'all, very sleep deprived :)

  11. Hey,

    So... interesting post. Thank your lucky stars you aren't messed up in this whole arranged marriage thing, because trying to live as an independant modern woman and reconcile that lifestyle with your supertraditional family is a goddamn pain in the neck. Maybe the idea is comforting when it's not really being forced down your throat, but I know you darling, and you'd hate pretty much every second of it.


  12. Bravo!
    Well said- I think globalisation is affecting us loads.... :( I wish we could go back to enjoying pani-puri on the streetside in the rain without worrying about a thing. I so want to be able to do that again and to have people get excited about Diwali (loooooves teenpatti!)


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