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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23 November 2005
Return To Sender
This is the theme of my new post. I shall cover letter writing and stationary extensively. If that's not something you're interested in, well, check back in a couple of days, I may have something you like then.
Right, so my one reader who is interested in stationary, (or is it stationery?) hello. And I ask you again, whatever happened to the post office?
I rediscovered letter writing in boarding school. Before that, my letters were limited to my Filipino pen pal. She was my mom's colleague's daughter, and we had never met, but we knew a lot about each other's lives. I remember the first letter she sent me was about, among other things, puff paint, which sticks out of the page when you write with it. Now, of course, you can buy puff paint, but then she had sent me a recipe for making it, which, alas, I have forgotten.We used to have great fun with our letters to each other. I'm afraid I was a little less creative than she was and I didn't have the exciting stationary or the cool stickers she used to enclose with her letters. Still, I was a prolific letter writer and writing "Metro Manila" on the envelope always made me feel most important.
We lived then, in a house with a green letter box on the door and I'd check it every day when I returned from school. Not that there was ever anything for me, but still it was fun looking. Our house number was 69, which made people snigger when they dropped me off, especially when I was older, but I was a young and innocent age and I never really got it.
For boarding school, I went prepared with pretty stationary, a girl staring off into the distance, Pumba and Timon on bright yellow paper, hugging teddy bears and bright orange and hot pink envelopes. I bought stickers even, choosing them very carefully, sparkly ones, where the glitter came off on my fingers and embossed ones that you could stroke. Sunday was letter writing day and everyone had to write home then. Someone would go around collecting all your letters and it was one of your Sunday chores, like finishing off whatever prep you had, and for some, going to church. I usually wrote my letters in bed--Sunday was the only day we were allowed music and all the dorms blasted whatever was fashionable then. So we had weeks of Macarena and My Heart Will Go On and the Backstreet Boys. Sometimes, I took my letters out to the lawn outside our hostel, sitting against a pine tree or on a bench, poetically and wrote brief letters home. "I'm okay, the food's okay, I'm taking my iron tablets, house play rehearsals start soon" and so on.
I had left a life behind me in Delhi, a thriving ecosystem that accepted my going without much of a ripple. Occasionally, my old school friends would write me, gossip about school, asking me how I liked boarding school, but that was pretty much how they ended. My `colony friends'--a concept unique to India, or perhaps Delhi, I think--would write me longer letters, about the Channel V Music Awards and the new gym that had opened, about parties with boys and stuffy parents. My own parents thrived on the communication and I'd get about three or four letters from them each week-- my father's typed out in some fancy font from the new computer, my mother's on inland letters in their blue wrapping. Leela wrote sporadically, like she does now from London, but her letters were long and juicy and made me more homesick than any of the other communication I recieved. I had this one friend in Doon School, who wrote long and often, and pretty soon, I was show-offing about him to my friends who had me add little post scripts to my letters. And then he was writing them, who thought he was cute, much to my amazement, because I had never thought he was cute myself. He had terrible handwriting, I remember, and he wrote to me on onion paper, which is all crinkly, so usually, it took me a while to figure out what he was actually saying.
Letters were given to our house mistress at the beginning of tea, or lunch, and we'd see the stack my her plate and die inwardly with excitement. Sometimes, some lucky person would get a parcel and they'd have to go to the housemistresses room, to make sure they weren't being sent food. My own housemistress collected stamps, and I'd often find letters from my father, who was travelling in Europe at the time, mutilated, because she took off the stamp before she gave it to me.
I always knew who a letter was from by the address written on it. Handwriting is such a torch into someone's personality and state of mind at the time. Mine is all scrawly, neat in patches, i's high-dotted, s's stylishly curved. But the wierd thing is, when my handwriting was being formed, way back, I hung out with this group of girls and even now, our handwriting is practically indistinguishable. My m's however, are my own. Masterpieces in their own right, the Walt Disney style m, with the loop and the long tail.
Would you know me, you who know me best, if you saw my handwriting? Would you be able to pick me out of a crowd? I didn't think so, and it makes me sad. Not knowing my handwriting is not knowing the way my fingers move across a page, not knowing where I began, not knowing the way I see letters in my head. Not knowing my handwriting, in some small way, means not really knowing me.
psst: midweek link slug: just discovered this blog and i LOVE it. Go read.