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...

This post by my cousin suddenly triggered off little nostalgia waves within me. You have to understand first though, the nostalgia, stemmed from the fact that our mothers (and the rest of my cousin's mothers) have this obsessively close relationship. Nothing remains a secret in my family, unless you specify, and even then you have to take your chances. Also being an only child, I was quite close to my cousins growing up, Horsey for one, was babysitted by my mother in his formative years, and I think they still bond to a certain extent. Me, I'm the black sheep of the family, quite literally, my lifestyle's not exactly the most conventional, I'm not married, I don't make half as much money as the others do and even though being the only girl has some perks, it doesn't make up for the fact that all the boys are definitely closer to each other than to me. It used to make me feel a little left out, but I'm not a very family-oriented person at the best of times, so I'm dealing with it.

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.


  1. comment moderation is now OFF.

    enjoy :)

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

  3. You're quite literally a black sheep? This must make the use of a keyboard somewhat challenging.

    (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

    The ghost story bit seemed rather familiar -- except that, in my case, I was the mean older cousin.

  4. Most cousins (if not living under one roof) lose touch with the only time they meet usually being family reunions, weddings and funerals

  5. Shamshabad eh! I live in Hyderabad and we used to have this cosy little farm a bit nearer to Hyderabad. My cousin built a loghouse there and we used to party there every New Year's eve. Great days.

    Coincidentally, I also happened to be familiar with the Ghost Stories. And yes, I was the mean older cousin too. Although, I must say listening and telling stories around a fire was one of the best times I've ever had.

  6. Nearly brought a tear to my eye there, eM.

    I honestly don't remember saying, "His heart is broken, and we can never play with him again." Hahaha. Wow, that is a funny bit though. Although probably not so funny when it's being used to make you feel guilty. Damn, I was a meany sometimes.

    I always used to have fun playing with you guys. The only time it was a bother was when I wanted to read, and you guys would insist on playing "magic hookah" or "crabby", and then I would try and read AND play the game, in a half-hearted way, and you guys could always tell I was not putting my heart into it, and you'd grumble, "Anna anna, don't read. Play."

    Yes, I was always very fond of your mother. I still am. I always try to model my interactions with children after the way she was with me. She used to ask me my opinions about movies and books--and this was when I was ten years-old! I'm afraid I shan't ever have her patience though.

    I think she was always way more strict with you than she was with any of her nephews. Unlike my mom, who was strict with everyone, including my brother, but not me.

    One time I remember a girl asked me why I always walked around like I was Mr.Cool, when I wasn't (she was annoyed with me about something). And I didn't have an answer. But then later I thought about it, and I understand now that the mighty river of my self-confidence has it's humble source in all our aunts' unconditional love and approval of us. That has a downside to it as well -- I suppose I'm a little bit of a spoiled asshole as a result.

  7. Nostalgia. Nostalgia. Nostalgia.
    It was so much simpler when we were kids. I remember I had to go to Hyd for my summer vacations every year and it was a time always looked fwd to. It meant getting together with cousins, doing all the silly things you possibly can and get away with it and of course being spoiled by the grandparents.
    And then we began to grow-up. In my later teen years, I remember hating having to go to Hyd. What, give up summer fun with my friends?
    Am still close to some of my cousins. But it just isn't the same anymore.
    "Coz we grew up".
    Nostalgia. Nostalgia. Nostalgia.

  8. We never lived close enough to our cousins to hang out.

    My favorite "cousin" (he was actually a family friend but somehow we were led to believe we were all related) reminds me of Horsey. Unfortunately the last I heard he left law school to make movies and his dad disowned him. Can I borrow Horsey?

  9. One of the houses we lived in had a lion's head mounted up on the wall. My maid used to tell me to behave myself or the lion would pull the rest of its body out of the wall and come and eat me. It worked!!!

  10. That reminds me of me and my cousins' days out...But it does seem a lifetime away. And npow sadly I am hardly in touch with them:(

  11. ooh. The temptation to run amok is too great...No moderation. *rubs hands with glee*

  12. Very nice post. Sometimes i worry about not remembering my part enough when i grow up, posts like this help.

  13. it's fun being the only sister. cash in!

  14. What a family this has turned out
    to be?
    No envies, you guys all deserve each other, period!

  15. hi!
    I am not a regular reader of your bog,for the very reason that the moment I read it,I feel like meeting you and asking few questions, for which I am assured of getting original answers-not the ones said by someone and thought and remixed by many others.I am so happy to read your blogs, to think that there still exist people who are really original.I sincerely appreciate .
    Secondly,as I was regressing the earlier postings, I came across the Nostalgic One.If you have,listened to Jack Johnson, the neo-folk singer from US, his one particular song is worth listening and reading too i.e. Better Together(
    While I read your past postings, I wish you
    luck and joy.

  16. The best thing about our childhoods are the lack of inhibitions and the abundance of innocence...

    And then we grow up :) I loved that...

  17. hey, if u were gonna have a lesbian experience, choose ur lady.\?\?


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