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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6 July 2006
Once upon a time...
All this however only started happening once I grew up. As a kid, we were all really thick--well, me and the two boys closest to my age. One of them still calls every time he's in Delhi, the other hasn't opened his mouth in front of me since he hit puberty. And Horsey and his brother were like our gods. (Were, I emphasise again, WERE). First of all, they were so much older, well, only about seven years, but when that's your entire lifetime, it feels like quite a bit. Second, and this was really nice, they spent a lot of time with us. I don't know whether that was just because their mother made them (Like I said, obsessively close!) or because they enjoyed hanging out with us, but they still never made us feel like they were doing it out of compulsion. Also, and this I only appreciate now that I'm grown-up, they always treated us like people, with opinions and everything, like adults and not like little kids. Oh sure, sometimes their teasing would go overboard and I'd burst into tears and go running to my mother, but she never interfered and usually I learnt just to go somewhere quiet with toys or a book till they were done. (If their mom caught them teasing me, though, they'd get it. Which was nice).
What did we do as kids, I'm trying to remember. The three of us closest in age would spend hours play-acting stories (I was the story-teller/beautiful lady, my pilot cousin was the truck driver, which was his ambition in life, and my younger, now super-model-in-Dubai cousin would be the panther or the bear or whatever other bit part he wanted). When the older ones returned from school, we'd either play with Lego or with Horsey's robots. I remember he drafted out this entire story around the robots, one was the leader, the other one was his best friend and so on, and one day, in a moment of glory, I was given the best friend robot to play with. I promptly dropped it, it cracked a little, and Horsey looks at me, picks up the leader and goes, "His heart is broken. We can never play with them again." I felt like a criminal, especially since no one spoke to me for a couple of hours.
My grandfather has this farm, in a district off Hyderabad called Shamshabad. It's real name is Venkatram Farms, named after an uncle who died in childhood, but we always called it Shamshabad. And it was synonymous with paradise. We'd swim in one of the huge water tanks, which always had algae floating around in it, that we'd pick up and chuck at each other. Those who couldn't swim stayed afloat in huge black inner tubes which we so fun to poke your bottom through and gaze up at the sky, we'd sometimes hijack them. There would always be a feast for lunch--mounds and mounds of food, and while the grown-ups napped, we'd sit on the indoor swing and pretend it was a ship sailing rockily over shark infested waters, which we'd then try to push each other off into. At nights, we were told ghost stories, by Horsey and his brother, Horsey's were always the more realistic and therefore the scarier ones, how the woman in the portrait, with her hand behind her back was a murderess, who had just killed her husband and was only waiting for us to go to sleep before she pulled out the knife from behind her back and stabbed us with it. That picture still scares me sometimes.
And then we grew up.