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

Sign up for my newsletter: The Internet Personified

31 October 2005

Shaken and a little stirred

Dear Reader,
First of all, I'm okay. Really. I'm one of those people who was in faraway South Delhi when the blasts happened, happily dressing for the Chanel fashion show that night. I put on the television, just mindlessly surfing before I went out and caught bits of "Pahargunj mein" and then I tuned out. Must be one of those terrorist fellows who are always being caught, I thought and resumed dressing.

It was a good day. A great day. A day when general celebration hung in the air. People were leaving early, Diwali hampers kept arriving for one or another of us--we had gorged on apple pie and barfi and ju-jubes. There was a lightness to all our steps, thanks to nearly full page ads, which meant fewer stories. Roshini, my colleague and I, were going for the fashion show--a 'black tie' event, which meant we had the added luxury of going home and showering and changing. And so we left, gigglesome and humming under our breaths. All was good with the world, it was almost Diwali time and people were happy and bustling and perhaps we'd go to the export surplus market at Sarojini Nagar, tomorrow or the next day?

The traffic was enormous, but traffic generally is around six-ish, so we thought nothing of it. And then, like I said, I showered, slipped into a skirt and did my make-up and Roshini called, "There's been a couple of bomb blasts," she said. "Oh fuck," I said, and, "How bad was it?" "I don't have any details, but we should leave soon," she told me. We were still thinking in terms of our evening, whether or not it was totally wrecked, what the traffic situation would be like. "Where were the blasts? I asked her. "Oh, in Okhla, and near the CP area." My heart contracted. Small in Okhla, Priya in CP and my mum on Teen Murti Marg.

I called my mom first. "I'm at home," she said, "Why?" And like terrible deja vu, because I had been the one to tell her about the 9/11 attacks, I told her. And as I was talking to her, her family in Hyderabad called, wanting to know if we were okay. Small was at a friend's place and equally shocked when I called her. And Priya's phone was unreachable. I checked with Roshini. Both our signals were down. The network was probably blocked with people frantically calling each other. I called Priya again. Finally, the call went through. "I'm at the airport," she said, sounding scared, "And they've declared a bomb threat here as well. There are sniffer dogs everywhere and they've cordoned off our area." She said she'd call me back when things got a little less crazy.

We were headed to the Imperial Hotel, on Janpath and we passed several markets, each closing rapidly. At Yusuf Sarai, the cops set up loudspeakers telling everyone to go home. My phone rang or beep-beeped at least five times, all from people who wanted to know if I was safe. "At Diwali time, when everyone's so happy how could someone do something like this?" I asked Roshini, who shook her head, "They're sick." And that's when I guess it hit me. Someone hates us. Someone hates us enough to kill innocent people preparing for the festival of lights with their families. People who probably had plans. People who had saved and saved and SAVED just to shop on Diwali. People who took a half-day from work, to go out with their families. The children probably swinging between their parents hands, butterflies in their stomachs from the excitement. And I'm pissed off.

I love this city. I love all its unpredictabilities. I love Sarojini Nagar and Pahargunj--I just shopped at Pahargunj last Sunday. And I hate the fact that my haunts are ruined. That I will have to live with fear when I enter a crowded place. That most of the hawkers will leave because no one will shop there for a while. And while I, the most unreligious of people can feel a sense of loss for my festival, I can only imagine the pain others are going through. And those messages on TV asking for anything, any goddamn sign that the people they cared for were alive, those broke my heart.

As for the fashion show, predictably, it went off well. It was well-attended, all the p3p showed up dressed to the nines. The Chanel representative offered a brief one line about how "zorry ve all are for ze blasts that 'ave 'appened tonight." But life went on, nonetheless. We managed to stay cocooned in that world for a while. Then I went home and switched on the television. And saw the papers this morning. And it all came home to me.

So yeah, I guess this purpose of this post is to tell y'all we're okay. All three of us. The city as I saw it this evening. People are, well, if not bustling, still shopping for Diwali. Crackers aren't going off every five seconds, but there are distant booms. We're subdued, but we're okay.

Have a safe Diwali.


PS: And from other parts of the world, people who love this city, my city, their city are rallying up around us. Rohini, another of my colleagues, who isn't originally from here, told me how surprised she was at how very much she felt. It grabs you, this city and we will not have any abuse of it. We're Delhiites no matter how far we go and our umblical cords are never cut. This post by Thalassa_Mikra says it all.


  1. Wonderful post, eM. I got goosebumps when I read it, possibly because those have been my very thoughts for the past one and a half days.

  2. what happened wad terrible. shouldnt have happened.
    however some thoughts i have sometimes voiced and sometimes not over the past 2 days whenever someone said "how could they do this/ how will they sleep tonight"

    eM i think u put it really well someone there hates us.
    to them we are the enemy. and in their world - there goal is to destroy the enemy.

    the question i really seek an answer to is that given their motivation, their sense of right and wrong , and in the pursuit of their goals (which are as likely to be worthy goals in their worlds), would the gods also forgive them.

  3. eM,
    your post is very touching. however, fear not - it takes much, much more than what happened on saturday evening to pull the city down.
    Sunday morning, the SN shopkeepers made it a point to stay open. in their words - "we dont expect much business - but we are open on a matter of principle. nothing stops".
    Pahar Ganj at eleven in the morning was like any other day. tourists, businessmen, et al.the shrapnel and debris were being swept away as the shutters opened up.

    Bombay is resilient in the face of adversity. Delhi, on the other hand, does not acknowledge any.

    Delhi brushes aside attempts like these like pinpricks on Beowulf. I tell you - mark my words - Diwali on tuesday is going to be like any other. Loud, noisy and arrogantly haughty. Also, watchful - in the form of the million men and women in uniform. watchful in the form of the DTC crew who noticed the briefcase, pulled the bus over to a remote location and evacuated the passengers.
    your haunts are safe. you shall not live in fear every time you go to a crowded place.
    Delhi is not Subdued. Delhi is the same as ever.

    On another note - Nobody hates us. Not personally, in any case. Someone has political/ideological differences with us, and is not willing to play by the Marquis of Queensberry rules. Happens all the time.

  4. i love delhi too! and if i had a choice, i'd be there still, in spite of the bomb blasts.
    i called up a lot of my friends to make sure they were ok, one of them was there, in sarojni market, when it happened. but she's alive and, as well as one can be after such an experience.

    i know what you mean when you say you're haunts have been destroyed. when the blasts happened. i hate them so much for what they have done, whoever They are! i should stop.

    Take care!

  5. Terrible things happening and those bombers are the ultimate low life.

    By the way since you are in the media, do you know of any in depth stories on how the army is handling the post quake relief ops in Kashmir?

  6. I'm glad you're ok. When I first heard the news, my first thought was to check here if you're ok, and to check with my friend to see if her family and friends are ok.

  7. yopu put it into words. someone out there, really really hates us.

    now imagine if someone amongst us gets angry and reacts.

  8. hyde, ash, chamique: Thank you. And I'm guessing you'll see this AFTER Diwali, so hope you had a good time :)

    jasmine: And it only gets worse once you see the terrible stories in the newspapers.

    lemon tree: I think they have a lead on who could've done it. But I'll never be able to understand their motivation, try as I might. I just don't GET it, ya know?

    richtofen; You have a point. You have many good points. But I do think political differences or not, hate does play a factor. "Differences" is when you get annoyed and refuse to talk to someone, being hated is when you get bombed.

    sonia: Oh boy. You must've freaked when you found out your friend was in SN. God, SHE must have freaked. Aaargh. As more and more news trickles in, I fnd myself more and more upset.

    gyspnan; Fraid not. I haven't come across any stories recently. NDTV had an interesting story on the one phone line that was operational, and Barkha Dutt's column in today's HT was quite insightful too, if you're looking for more information. Also check the latest Outlook, I *think* they have a story.

    cindy; Thanks :) I'm SO okay, I'm a little guilty. Wait, wait, touch wood and all that.

    methinks; (This seems to be a day for knocking on wood) So far, no riots, thank the lord.

  9. Was quite freaked out till that call. Glad you are fine, eM. Hang in there...

  10. Wonderful post eM, and a very happy Diwali to you. Glad to know everyone known to you is safe. Thanks for the link as well.

    I'm actually really happy that the fashion went off as planned. If some people planned to suck the joy out of a place, they failed. But my heart does go out to the families that have to deal with terrible tragedy at what should have been a time of such joy.

  11. Happy Diwali.. This city is so resilient! Sarojni Nagar is back to business from day2! And the death sentence today, couldnt have come at a better time.

    We wont go down that easily.

  12. I'm a delhi-gurl through and through - once a delhiite, always....

    All I can think of is the awful pain that this has caused so many many families, and how only sick people could ever do this to such innocents. What happened to Good over Evil?

    I miss Delhi and your blog is about to become stable food on mine.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Thanks for your feedback! It'll be published once I approve it. Inflammatory/abusive comments will not be posted. Please play nice.