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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17 August 2006

Confessions Of A Teenage Geek (subtitled: why blogging is cheaper than therapy)

Growing up, I realised at a very early age that I was never going to be stunning and superpopular and sought out for my charms. It wasn't a heartbreaking realisation, I mean, I was about 10 or 11 when I got pnuemonia and when I recovered, some four or five months later, I looked in the mirror and saw this skinny faced creature, all eyes and teeth staring back at me and well, that was that. I was never going to be like the swish set in school, all hair flapping and short skirted. Sure, I wore short skirts, but I looked gawky and uncared for, and they, even at twelve, looked sexy.

It wasn't always easy, knowing you were probably always going to be the one with the "nice personality". At 13 or 14, I rebelled against my body, hating it violently, refusing to look at myself naked, showering in the dark and then rapidly dressing. I developed around the same time as everyone else, I guess, but all at once, rather than gradually, so one minute I was as flat as an ironing board and the next it was like, hel-lo. It didn't help that one of my best friends at the time told me I looked stupid and vulgar and my breasts really WERE too big for my frame, and I should watch how I walked. I walked shoulders in for the longest time after that, crossing my arms over my chest, hunching, so I looked just like everyone else. She, this best friend of mine, also told me the way I danced was weird--"like a snake", I think were her exact words, but when she was being kind, she said anyone would fall for me--if they saw me from the back, that is.

Why was she my best friend, you may ask, gentle reader? Why? Well, because I adored her. She was everything I wasn't, smart and confident and attractive, with one dimple that danced in the centre of her cheek and long straight hair, that she wore with those flicks that were so popular then. I needed her, and sometimes, she needed me too. Of course she needed me, I say now at nearly 25. How could she not? I was her audience, her spectator, the one that told her she was beautiful and smart and very nice. We were friends from the time we were about 12 till we were 15. She entered the school I was in as a new girl and she lived right next door, so we struck up a walking to school and back friendship,
which continued well into our teens. But while, all this time, I didn't have very many friends, I was a member of many school clubs, like the Nature Club--where they taught you how to recycle envelopes--because of a letter to the editor I had written, The Asian Age, I think it was, protesting the fact that at the Trade Fair people were riding on tame bears. I think there was also other school activities I participated in, like the Elecution events, or recitation, stuff like that, things that didn't really toss me into the limelight, but in their own little ways, made me feel like I was a part of things, like a cog in the wheel or something. When my best friend joined, straight from a convent school, she leaned on me for the first few months, and I felt important and efficient, showing her around, introducing her to people and so on.

But she outgrew me soon. I saw her courting the popular set, people I barely spoke to, beyond just raising my eyebrows a little. They were the girls who rolled down their socks, and whispered in classes, the boys who actually spoke to the girls, and who were always in trouble, except when they were on the sports field. They knew all the teachers, and all the teachers knew them, for better or for worse. But I had a quiet little set of friends, boring, actually, but nice in their own way, who always carried washed and ironed hankies, and who gave me Tasleema Nasreen's Lajja for a birthday present. With the coming of my new friend, the old ones got forgotten, but I don't think they minded too much. I wasn't like them either, content in my anonymity. I wanted to shine, to know and be known, I wanted the world to acknowledge how fabulous I was. And if the world wouldn't? Then that fascinating set at school certainly would.

I have to hand it to her though. Singlehandedly, she dragged us both into popularity--and while hers was far above mine; being attractive and well,
not as weird as I was--I still lived in reflected glory. Now I had friends! People to go to the canteen with, share lunch boxes with, and as we got older, and eating was no longer cool, we went to the canteen together and bought orange or cola bars, which we sucked at till our lips and tongues were orange or purple, and all that was left was a stick of ice. Now, the phone rang at home too, and it was rather fun being yelled at by your parents for staying on the phone too long. Once we got the cordless, they never saw me anymore, because as soon as I got home, I took the phone off its charger and retired to my room, still in my uniform, chatting, legs up against the wall, head hanging off the bed, till finally I emerged, bleary eyed, for dinner.

When did things start to change? One minute, I was so surprised and happy with all this companionship. I was being invited to parties, quite a bit too, because, thanks to the fact that our "group" had about 20 people, everyone was always invited. Then, suddenly, in class 8 or 9, I think, the desperate games of catch up began, when suddenly I found myself, amazingly, out-of-the-blue, not quite as fantastic as I thought I was. Our group started splitting up, into mini-groups, or cliques, and really, I wasn't in any of them. This would not have bothered me, normally, because I still had someone to sit next to, or whisper to, but then, I wasn't first choice to be sat next to, or whispered at. One time, on a class trip to Jaipur, I felt my chin -- always the first giveaway for my tears --start to wobble dangerously, when I saw, as I entered, everyone already paired up on the bus, and only one double seater left, for me. I think the kinder girls of the lot noticed, and offered to switch seats with me, but I didn't want a pity seatmate. I wanted someone to WANT to sit next to me. And that wasn't happening. Not even my best friend, who was with her newly formed trio, two other girls, who seemed to somehow get her, way more than I ever had.

Kids can be cruel, but teenagers can be devastating. You can't be too different, unless you're really brave, which I wasn't. I wasn't brave, I just wanted friends. But more than I wanted friends, I wanted someone to be friends with me. And if that meant not talking about reading, or writing, or how I felt when I met my grandmother that year, or the soft feel of my new puppy, then that was what I was going to do.

I shifted schools when I was about 14, moved to a new place, where even if I wasn't as fantastic as I was when I was 10, even, they still thought I was pretty cool. And slowly, in a couple of years, I started believing that. Well, almost. I still don't dance though.


  1. So well written. Thanks, your words found plenty resonance. I made for a very gawky teenager. Unfortunately, I still make a gawky adult.

    But in the circuit of cliques, and charmed circles - I think some kids never grew up. Like when I am orkutting and I find some old classmates - part of "my ground" - giggling and recycling pretty much the same old rot - I am not sure if I should be secretly glad that I never quiet fit in.

  2. sorry for the irrelevance of my comment, but i just found it funny and coincidental that your story title is dead on with something i posted yesterday "cheaper than therapy"...guess that validates it! feel sorry for the soon to be out of work shrinks!!

  3. you remember too many things yaar. calm down.

  4. I was a gawky geek at 14 too. Now, I alternate between airhead and gawky geek.

    Helps to be multi-faceted. I wouldn't have it any other way.

  5. Hah, I straddled the two worlds in school, was lucky I guess.
    I also wondered why the chin wobbles, still am.

  6. i've been reading your blog forever..never really felt like posting a comment, until today..
    after reading this one, all i can say is "whoa..nice to know that you are mere mortal"
    all ur other posts make u seem so unreal..the popular chick with all those guys and all those parties to attend!...feels nice to know you have also had some kind of "growing up pangs"..

  7. and then you moved to lawrence, right? that can't have been much easier...

  8. It's a girl's paradise.

    Out there.

    Be careful.

    Not to tread on the morning grass.

    For she collects the dew.

    From those green blades.

    Drop by drop.

    In a bottle.

    Which she still uses.

    To retain her freshness.


  9. So that's why you do not dance??? What kind of a best friend was she anyway, someone who could say such a mean thing to you? Let's go dancing:0)

  10. Hi there,
    This is my first visit to your blog - this post really resonated with me. It's hard fitting in, and doesn't seem to get that much easier as you grow older, but at least you learn to value yourself more. It's not fun being the jack-of-all-trades. People think you would fit in everywhere, and you wind up feeling like you don't belong anywhere.
    It's amazing how cruel kids can be, isn't it? Even more amazing is how much childhood/adolescent experiences can affect you...

  11. 'Best friends' can be the nastiest - they know you can't say fuck off to them, so they start taking you for granted

  12. yayy for you! You grew breasts and big ones at that!

    What a unique experience that must have been- puberty happens to what..uhh.. everybody?

    I can't think of lower methods for you to use to tit-ilate your readers.

  13. I wholeheartedly echo the first Anon. I love your blog, CC, and think you write awesomely, but you always seemed like this supercool chick and not vulnerable at all - but now, yay, you're one of us mere mortals! :) Now I wish I could look back upon my own teenage years with this sort of understanding eye.

  14. When you're a teenager, it's such utter despair to see that your best friend has found other best friends - and that's what you've distilled (awesomely) in this post.

    Thankfully we do grow out of that phase. somewhat. kinda. sorta.

  15. Perhaps she was a bit envious of you? Or perhaps she never really grew up at all...

  16. I have no idea who u are....but this was really great...

  17. wow! You articulate your experiences so well!

  18. Man that read a bit like a teen flick. And as we all know, in teen flicks the bitchy popular girls always get their comeuppance, while the homely outcast takes off her glasses, puts on some makeup and gets the boy in the end.

  19. interesting read. It brought back memories. from 10 to 13 I had a girl as BF, and i dont know if i ever gave her the attention she deserved. I was always running after the pretty ones and leaving my tomboy girlfriend behind. But she was the only one i talked to about the the other girls.
    Then i moved and now its all a memory and 'what-ifs'.

    neway thanks, will be back for more

  20. God you write well! I was a miserable 12-16 year old. Part wallflower-part rebel. You should be glad you weren't FAT!

  21. Hey there. Haven't been commenting much but have been reading--your wonderful post reminds me of Margaret Atwood's 'Cat's Eye'--I think you'd enjoy it, if you haven't read it already.

  22. i m nt sure... yet... wht was ur confession.. u need to commit sin to confess.. if i believe ur story, the u were normal honest kid and teenager. most ppl who r honest at the age face situation u faced.. being left alone.. ignored and avoided.
    i thik ur frndz need to confess and apologies.

  23. lol...just saw the statcounter.
    i'm the one pakistani it shows.
    anyways...(going off on a tangent here)
    just came here for the first time and i'm hooked, being the nosy person that i am, i love reading about everything ur writing about!
    good stuff, will be back!

  24. Hi,
    I stumbled on this link on another blog...and am so glad i read it...i always thought my childhood was my own...the miseries and sorrows...never knew who made it to the a-list then...but now at 23, those a-listers are either married to someone "not so gerat" and sitting at home,carrying on their father's shops and businesses, or simply still partying with nothing, after the readin ur blog and from my experiences i know, that ether u cud be that then...or maybe be someone else for the rets of ur life...very very few can manage both!

  25. The popular girls peak in high school and then spend the rest of their lives trying to hold on to that status.

    My favorite line from this post:
    "Kids can be cruel, but teenagers can be devastating"

  26. Are you from DPS RKP in Delhi ?

  27. qI do a new thing now where I respond (or attempt to at any rate) to all the comments. They're fabulous, these comments are. (If ever, in the future I don't remark on the wonder that is you, Oh Noble Person Who Took The Time To Press Post Comment, know that in my head, secretly, I'm a little in love with you already. Except for the people who say nasty things. They can go away). Anyhoo. Here I go.

    neha: thanks! always an honour to have you stopping by, but yeah, some of these popular chicks actually DID something with their lives, went abroad, got fancy degrees, while I sit here and stew at the unfairness of it all.

    pranav: i believe there's even a blog called cheaper than therapy! It must be a common thought.

    rajiv: Oh, I'll try. Just coz you said that. I really will.

    cale: WHERE has your blog gone off too? Just after I plugged it too. Hmph.

    raindrop: Airhead, heh, I can do that too. Oh, and Medusa Lady, only ever since my hair's been short, I'm settling for Mohawk Girl Who Really Looks Like 12 Year Old Boy. Especially in the morning.

    imhunt: straddling (and I mean this very un-dirty-ly) can be fun too. Oh fuck it, am going to indulge in dirty thoughts for like five seconds. There. Mmmmmm. :)

    anon: awwww.. really? it's so nice to know someone thinks I'm superhuman. Perhaps the reason I seem so inpenterable (I know I spelt that wrong) on this blog, is because I'm always the hero of my stories?

    anon2: we reserve the right to comment.

    terah: girl's paradise? Hardly, dude.

    ab: Well a) she wasn't "really" my best friend, now was she? and b) I SUCK at dancing dude. She was so right!

    nee: Thanks! I needed to do this post, it's been something that has been on my mind for like 12 years now. God, now I feel old.

    ola: I know! And the irony is, since they are your "best friends" you shouldn't really want to tell them to fuck off, right?

    ugh: oh, fuck off. (see, ola, he/she is NOT my best friend, so this was simple)

    smoochy: uhhh.. no.

    vintage: thanks :)

    jade: I think the time it takes between looking back etc is like years of trauma, divided by years SINCE trauma and multiplied by four. or something. you do the maths.

    sharon: I know, right? although, i must admit, it still does bother me a little. But only a little. I'm *ahem* all grown up now.

  28. smoochy - this cant be nupur, she was in rajhans, and u dint need lunch boxes in rajhans!!
    CC- great style of writing.

  29. "Mint Chutney said... The popular girls peak in high school and then spend the rest of their lives trying to hold on to that status."

    Please don't be that harsh on us popular girls! Some of us really did have a great time at school you know, we fit in and everything and life was pretty sunshiny, not counting exams.

  30. You do know, right?

  31. (To continue. But first can I say, yay! I've been nominated! This is soooo cool!)

    vi: yeah, REALLY don't think so, but good perspective anyhow.

    spiderman: Thanks! Come back often

    y: Thank you! :)

    jay: oddly enough, that's pretty much what happened with me too. I swapped the spectacles for lenses, got braces on and voila! I wasn't exactly belle of the ball, but, you know.

    jeet: awww, that's terrible! I hope you make it up to her someday.

    loony: ahh, but my problem was being too skinny. There's never a middle ground.

    padmini: oh goody. was looking for something new to read anyway, will pick it up. thanks for the tip!

    paradox: the word "confession" is used in the loosest possible sense here, as an admission of deeds done, rather than evidences of guilt.

    khizzy: hello! it's always nice to know where all the outside country hits are coming from. Now if my one visitor from the Vatican City State would identify themselves, I'd be most pleased.

    rima: funnily enough, even though we all think we're unique in our experiences, really, I find, the more I write on this blog, that everyone, or at least someone, really feels the same way.

    mint: Ya think? I think I peaked in school too, no, wait, think I peaked in first year college :)

    anon: again, we reserve comment.

    pragini: good to have that cleared up. why no lunchboxes btw?

    MM: See, I knew SOME people had fun in school. Looking at these comments, I thought for a bit that perhaps no one did! :)

  32. Did u just write my life story ?

  33. Wow... now i get more first handed info on what really went on behind all the girlie groups @ school! Trust me, you're truly better than most of the gals i've known through school n college :).

  34. hey...this is my first time on your blog...pretty interesting...
    just a thought...from a usability perspective ...

    maybe you could increase the font size a bit and maybe once in a while hit the enter create paragraphs...

    easier on the eye :)


  35. Teenage years are about growing up,going through phases, finding and losing friends... and thats what all of us went through.
    If you still have'nt gotten over things that happened more than 10 years ago, and if you insist on living in the past and suffering from complexes for no reason, I think its time to grow up!!!
    And Im sure that friend grew up and moved on to bigger and better things in her life .... with pleasant memories of maybe you should do the same.

  36. I once knew girls who spent their teenage forming groups, visiting the washroom, talking about men and showing off their legs n' locks.

    I know of them now and all of them still do JUST that.

    I hope you got the point.

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  39. its so hard to fit into the "groups" and you have a feeling of being or being forced to be part of some or the other group just because you dont wanna be lonely and left out. i am now a medical student, and i am facing this problem more severely now on a way too larger scale than i did at school.


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