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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11 October 2006

I'm the rum in the rumsoaked girl

It was October in 2001, I think, and the English department in my college decided to take their annual trip. We voted (although I was rooting for Goa) but Dharamshala won hands down. Although, maybe that's just because it was closer. And cheaper. I had never been to Dharamshala before, but all my friends from college were going, and it promised to be fun. It was also going to be the first time ever, we were smoking something other that cigarettes, and the little baggie of hashish was taken out and examined several times, before, paranoid, we hid it among tampons and shampoo.

Several sleepy girls clambered into the old bus, and of course, we were late starting. So, most people pulled out the chips and stuff they brought for the road. I attempted to sleep, but pretty soon, with the giggles, and with the picking where we were going to sit (we chose the very last seat, so that we were all together in one line, only it was also the bumpiest seat, so most of the ride was spent getting up and attempting to get someone to switch with us) I settled for dumping my backpack on my lap and smoking a cigarette, which I thought was so daring of me, seeing as the bus was still parked on campus, and technically, I was breaking rules. This was college for me, all about the rule breaking. I was very, very good all through school, and I realised sometime in class 12 that I had never done anything I shouldn't have. I had never bunked the entire day while pretending to go to school, I had never cheated on an exam, I had never made out with anyone on campus and though I tried to fit it all in in my last couple of months, meh, what with it being class twelve and all, I didn't want to bunk in case I missed any important classes, because the teachers were doing a lot of extra work. See, I told you I was good. Anyway. So college was all about being grown up and doing as I pleased, and that sort of went to my head a little bit. I skived off so many classes, that I wound up signing bonds--which in our very strict college, meant that I had to make up the attendance in the following year, or risk having to repeat a year. And they meant it too. They did that to a couple of chicks each year.

So, back to going to Dharamshala. And smoking endless cigarettes, shared when we started running out, drag by drag, till only the very burning tip was left which we sucked at, till we nearly blistered our lips. And finally falling asleep, when the drive got too long, in the way only women can, comfortably resting against each other, your friend not moving too much so they didn't disturb you. Plugging in your discman, which ran out of battery four hours later. And then finally, awake and bored already, trying to figure out how to pass the time. The bus had a cassette player and some of us fished into our very well-stocked bags and pulled out all sorts of stuff, the kinds of things that were popular then. Pink Floyd, Creed, lots and lots of the Doors, with that picture of Jim Morrisson that's everywhere, arms outstretched, beads around neck, so sexy that it's no wonder that most of the men I'm attracted to now, that any of us who went through the same stage together in college are attracted to now, look slightly, if not completely, out of it, with, sometimes, an additional curly crop thrown in. No beads though, thankfully, most twenty something men should not attempt beads. In fact, it was Pieces's surprise birthday party at Laidbackwaters this weekend, the first time she's been in Delhi for her birthday since college and her boyfriend flew in from Bombay to add to the festivities and he has, just to prove my point, very long, very curly hair. So there ya go. Q.E.D. Although sadly, none of them has ever held a candle to old Jim. Now that man was delectable. Mmmm.

Anyway, so this one girl pulled out this blue and white cassette out of her bag, and really it looked like one of those jazzy Indian devotional remixes that are so popular, but suddenly there was a flurry of excitement and someone went up to the front of the bus to give the conductor the tape and then everyone was singing very strangely and very out of tune and getting very excited and me and this one friend of mine who still seemed to have a sense of melody, looked at each other and rolled our eyes and "What the fuck is this, dude?" she asked the girl whose tape it was and she looked at us pityingly and said, "You haven't heard this? Everyone's heard Kandisa." "Well, not us," I said, "And can we listen to the U2 album now?" But everyone was too busy yelling "Alam, alam, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalaaaaaaaaaam!" to pay any attention to us. But finally the song finished and before they could go into any more tunelessness (and trust me, nothing is more tuneless than a busload of women) we, being fairly loud, shrill small people, threw mini-diva-type tantrums and I don't think anyone else had heard any of the other songs, so it wasn't that hard.

[An aside: What I don't remember is when Indian Ocean grew from being terrible to being brilliant. Oh, of course I realise it wasn't them, it was me, blah blah blah, but one moment I was making fun of the strange noises on their album the next I was chanting as loud as the next person when they came to play at our college festival. Quite odd. And I got their album for myself. AND now I make an effort to go for their concerts, as I did last night at the IIC festival, which really had the oldest Indian Ocean audience I have ever seen. And all sitting still! Old people are really strange. ]

Dharamshala was perhaps the most perfect place the English department could have picked. They let us pretty much do our own thing, which we did with a vengeance. Once we got to the hotel and all five of us decided to share a room, the hash was brought out and rolled according to instruction ("Break off a piece the size of the Nokia switch off button," said the provider) in a cigarette, which was all we knew how to roll in then. (Well, me still. But then after crazy tripping type experience in Goa which I will write about some day, as soon as my memory is less foggy, I stopped "doing drugs" completely. And looked disapproving when other people did. Which does not very much for my popularity). Once we smoked one and the other four lay giggly and still, I decided this hash was not very fun. Like, dude, it wasn't doing anything, you know? So, I took the next prerolled joint, while the others shovelled raw Wai Wai noodles into their faces and flamed/boomed/toked it, till I smoked nearly half of it, inhaling greedily, standing in the cold balcony. The others roused themselves and came to claim their share but by this time I was all wheeeeeeee! The joy! The funniness! I must've chugged three big bottles of water by the time they came back inside and I lay on the floor and laughed at them till my sides hurt. "I cahn't feel my thongue," I said (I think), sticking it out to look at it, "And my mouth is all fujjy. And you guys, I'm so hot." "So strip then," suggested one of them, stopping laughing for like three seconds. "You are so smart," I said, admiringly, and stood up in the middle of the bed, kicking off shawl and jacket and jeans and finally sweater, till I was standing there in socks and underwear and bouncing on the bed, marvelling at the joy that was my body and oooh (bounce) this is fun (bounce). We have pictures somewhere, of that evening (once I put my clothes back on, of course) and our eyes are bloodshot, and most of the pictures are out of focus, because everyone is so giggly and joyful, and there is much affection in the air until, as if on cue, we all tumbled into (separate! jeez, you guys have dirty minds!) beds and passed out happily. And so Dharamshala went on.

This weekend, at Laidbackwaters, Amulya and Iggy and I watched Pieces as she said hello to people and then we turned to each other and talked about our jobs and Amulya raised her glass, "Here's to us," she said, "Who would have thought in college we'd be doing something with our lives?"


  1. Oooo the English Department at LSR, the lay-dee-dahs of college. The smart people, like yours truly, languished in the Geco department of course but befriended only the bobos of the Eng. Dep. O those were the days! And what gossip you generated during the Dharamshala trip?Nuaghty gurrlllss! The fights and the camps that returned. Hahaha........what joy!

    IIC is a relic. Its members are even more ancient relics but there is one gerr in town who can get oooooaaaawwwwnnnn up babeh! It is none other than the super suave Soli Sorabji who even at the ripe old age of 86 (or some such) gets more action than I do at 23. Saw him at a jazz concert there and he even sang!
    What I do love are the regulars at the PSBT documentary fest and theatre fests. There's this one guy I see him each year, call him cocky coz he MUST MUST MUST always aska question at the end of a movie or a performance coz the show aint over till the fat lady sings right? Or in his case till the warty bald man in a torn Fab India suit don't offer his redundant advice.

    Dilli o dilli meri jaan!

    Annnnnddddd you guys met Peices bf finaly! Fuck a dead duck I wantsa to meet him too..........

    Like the post and love you!

  2. Well, I like that too naturally...some guys i know said they prefer that to sex?! Anyway, I love brie, I like the other thing too...however, they just dont mix like brie and bread...
    By the way, I like long hair not to say that short hair doesnt look cute. I saw your picture on orkut yesterday!
    >; o)

  3. I finished graduate school and found my way to Dharamsala. I worked at the monastry, eating meals with the monks. I took buses here and there. In this way, a few months passed.

    When I left, I was no longer the same person. I wonder where he went.

  4. hash... nice... da 1st time i did hash.. it was in a park near my PG in east of kailash... around 3 in da nite.. me n a couple of male frens went there and rolled a joint.. we were still booming when a dog woke up and started barking... all but me were already high.. and they started barking back at da dog...
    and actually put a tiny piece of hash for da dog 2 eat.. and da dog ate it...
    it was fun 2 see da dog going about in circles and rolling all around on da ground...
    first time is always memorable

  5. Is this you --- or silversurfer ?

  6. trips, getting stoned for the first time and indian ocean..and angst, and rebellion and so much idealism. i miss being 19.

  7. sigh! this post reminds me sooooooo much of my college days too :(

    when did we grow up man??

  8. dude :) you're post brought such a smile to my face. went to manali right after the 12th boards..although i cant subscribe to "being good in school" i know the fun (like really know:)) the fun in some of the things you mentioned.

    thanks for the tip on indian ocean at iic btw, parents went and had a blast. i being the loser i am missed it. did u go?

  9. hey i remember the song, heard it on trip to pune, for three-days i was stoned and the friends had this song and Doors, Floyd, Stones...the works...but it sounded real good, haven't heard it afterwords...then never got a chance...

  10. Err.. comment totally unrelated to post, but dyu remember cribbing abt not having enough of 'personalised' categories on the motorola v3i!? So this was urgently communicated sometime back to ex-colleagues, (ahem, I, at one time, worked for Motorola) and guess what! They are working on it, so.. look out! Its what you asked for!

  11. Classic Post. Takes everyone who reads it to their college trip days. Or their first joint days. Mine was on my 23rd bday in Amsterdam. Yes,I know its too late, like most of the things in my life ; )

  12. Oh college days...!! la de da.!..
    The memory of my first time is so damm (sporadically) foggy.. but from what friends tell me>> damm can i have a second first time soon!! ;) lol

  13. wow!! you've brought bak memories of the best trip of my life...

    we took the dharmasala vacation just out of school.. 3 guys and a whole week at d-place...

    it was an unforgettable experience :)

  14. I think your blog does so well because your experiences are so universal, and not everyone is articulate. You're like the mouthpiece of a generation - or maybe two-and-a-half generations that have grown up in Delhi and lived through the same things. Oh LSR - I miss veg manchurian and pat-a-cake (was that it?) and feel warm animosity (only nostalgia can bring this forth) toward M-effing-G.

  15. Apropos to nothing but the title of your post, I suppose, I went for a party where the host (who happened to be a natural sciences student) made us drinks of rum and sugarcane juice. He said the inspiration to mix the two was because one is the source of the end product. They were bloody good. Try it! (This is why I love geeks.)

  16. anon from lsr: dunno whether you were at the LSR Cafe when the keema dosa was introduced.....mmmm.....nothing suited the munchies better. that and the kebab roll. oh wait u were glorifying the veggie macnhurian, oops am preaching to a veggie methinks.

    i can't take veggies seriously.
    eM remember how iggy disses them hahaha once a day she's gotta cuss out veggies in general for being veggies.

  17. hehe, only for us it was Macleodganj and the hash at Shiva Cafe...and a couple of months back. jeez, that was fun. Both the post and the hash.

  18. i have one question.

    how does everyone KNOW i went to lsr? it could be anything, really, miranda house, i.p, gargi etc etc.

    i thought i was being so discreet, even.


  19. tagging you.

  20. hedonistic hobo: oh, i like animals, i eat them. but the veggie manchurian had this chewy spongy quality to it... i went to a girls' boarding school in DDun and have dug weird food ever since. :) I graduated LSR in 1999, just before your bunch came in, I think.

    eM: C'mon! Not to diss Gargi or Miranda or JMC, but c'mon! Three years of walking through those red pillared-corridors and whiling away time in those gazebos DO leave their imprint, even if you choose not to disclose other aspects of your identity!

    - "Anon from LSR"

  21. Why oh why have you switched to partial feeds via RSS?

  22. >> eM said...
    >> i have one question.
    >> how does everyone KNOW i went to
    >> lsr?

    i have one answer:

    err so, basically coz you SCREAMED it out loud.
    all the compulsive confessing, ya know...

  23. You make me wish I was you :)

  24. how do i know you went to lsr?
    coz i went with you!

  25. Umm. Considering you were my junior - not hard to tell that you went to LSR. :)


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