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 2007

Halfway down

I've just returned from a wonderful five day visit to Delhi, which was so, so awesome. I think I've eaten enough butter chicken to feed a small family, got the penne with bacon craving out of the way yesterday, oodles of kaali daal and seekh kebabs. In my soul, I am a fat Punjabi woman. Of course, there was more to it than food (I think). I met Small after what seemed like YEARS, and we went to Aqua with Hobo and a bunch of other people. I met Samit and we played WWE games on his xbox and almost, I kicked his ass. And I met with very many people and drank copious amounts of alcohol and was all awwwwww Delhi, why did I ever leave you? Ironic, because the focus of this post is to commemorate an anniversary. Mine. In this city. Six months as a matter of fact, on the second of July.

So, because I had nothing to do on the plane ride, I wrote a list of things I now know about Bombay. Yes, I'm jobless like that. Yes, my opinion and yours may differ. Yes, it's okay when that happens. No, it's NOT okay to leave nasty troll comments saying so. Be polite, she said firmly.

Lessee, I now know that Fort is not in fact, a fort, like I expected. The first time I was to meet someone there--I think it was Sameer--he said, "Meet me at Fort." "Okay," said I, "What fort?" "Um.. Fort," he said. "Yeeeees," I said, "But what do I tell the cabbie?" "You tell him FORT," he said. "Is it an Old Fort, or a Red Fort or a Tuglaqabad fort?" I asked patiently. "It's. Just. Fort." he said, not quite so patiently. Still, I was sure he was wrong and I was right, until I got there, and the cabbie said, "Fort." and I looked around and there were only buildings! Where, oh noble citizens of Bombay, is the fort?

I also now know how to say 'wine shop' instead of thekha. I did try to say thekha, in fact, I still say thekha when I'm talking to people from Delhi, but try as I might I could not get the aforementioned noble citizens to accept anything other than wine shop for the place we get booze. Nor could I get the auto guys to accept it. So, with a sigh, I resign myself to wine shop. 'Boss' though, is something I still can't wrap my tongue around. I've tried--the whole when-in-Rome thing--but it just doesn't happen. Maybe another six months.

I've learnt whole new things about seasons. There are two. Rainy and not rainy. Rainy is nice, it's sort of the Bombay equivalent of the beginnings of Delhi winter, very romantic and Hindi music inspiring. Non-rainy is not fun. I've also learnt how much hair serum it takes in both these seasons to keep my hair from becoming an uncontrollable mass of frizz around my face. Oh, it still frizzes. But imagine if I didn't use any serum at all?

I've had some Points Of High Achievement. These include:

a) Jumping onto a train while it was in motion. I'm so excited about this one, although whoever I tell look at me askance and mutter things about people killed while doing the exact same thing. It's just that I've always been so chicken about these things. I'm the kid who had to wait for the swing to slow down before I got off it, glancing enviously at the children next to me, who swung it till their legs were nearly perpendicular and then insouciantly leaped. Ergo, big achievement.

b) Eaten almost an entire cow. This may not seem like something to be proud of to you, but I've always had a picky appetite and in Bombay, I find I'm always hungry. Ravenous, even. This is a good thing, because I begin to look less like a Somalian refugee and more like an active healthy human being. Also, it's just really nice to go to a restaurant and ask straight out for beef without being arrested.

c) Made friends with bartenders and DJs. Specifically the ones at Zenzi and Hard Rock. I was at Zenzi, week before last, soaked completely and I asked the bartender to make me a really, really large drink and he did. Almost filled the glass half full with rum and then looked at me saying, "I'm not taking responsibility for the consequences." And the DJ at Hard Rock plays Wonderwall for me as I walk in and wave at him, because this one time, he refused to play it and I was all oh-I-just-moved-here and he said he'd play it every time I was there. Nice, nice.

There are other intangible things I've learnt too. When I was in Delhi this time, my friends had to actually caution me about stuff--don't drive too late, don't get out of the car to go to the ATM and so on. And I realised, my defences were totally down. I can now walk down a road without looking over my shoulder, I can travel late at night without being obsessed by the thought that I'll be raped or killed, I am more confident and this is so awesome. Although, when I do move back to Delhi, this might be a problem. Still, it's nice to not live in fear.

I've learnt how to make new friends. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. I was terrified when I left Delhi that I would be at a loss for people, kindred spirits, that I would be alone and lonely and friendless, because the older you get, the harder it is to like new people. But, reader, I have. And I continue to. Living in a new space jolts you out of your comfort zones and, I think, is really a test of your character.

So, not bad for six months, eh? There's other stuff I know as well, for instance, where to get cheap underwear, and how to tell whether you're on Marine Drive or Worli Sea Face (don't laugh, I confused the two for four months out of the six I've been here) and sources for stories and a good set of doctors and many other little things like that. It's been an up-and-downish six months too, the good things balancing the bad things. But you know what? Not for a moment do I regret it.


  1. could have accepted or denied the allegations at least!

    Tall Teachings ..

  2. well what can i say?? thats the power of mumbai.. it might be dirty, it might be full of people, it might be the only place in the world where you get "felt" when traveling in the train.. but you know what, at the end of the day you just cant help falling in love with this city :D


    u learnt any marathi yet?

  3. as usual have been reading u but just lurking around too lazy to comment..

    but know what I hear you!! I love bombay like no toher, and I differ from u in your opinion of delhi...I 've had a fantastic time here as well...but somehow I love bombay for the freedom it offers.....and I love how I don't feel 24/7 vulnerable to rape!

  4. it doesn't say much about the country where an overcrowded, badly-run, falling apart, potholed cesspit actually makes people feel better than in being elsewhere.
    you should have seen it 10 years ago. was much nicer.
    and oh, fort? there actually was one there. and there was a trainline from VT to Colaba. and there were trams.

  5. have you found the ph. number for Ambrosia - 24 hrs food & booze & they'll even pick up cigarettes for you on the way.

  6. i miss mumbai. even more now.

  7. Totally with you on the life withour fear bit... after 7 years here, I am sure I could live in Delhi anymore

  8. You're not a true Bombayiite (eek but never Mumbaikar) till you jump into a running train. It seemed like a such a normal thing for me until I realized that people in most other cities in India don't commute by local train at all.

    Moving to another city and setting up another life is an achievement. Don't think I would have to balls to do it alone.

  9. Congrats on completing 6 mnths in Bombay. I always think of this place as being my home no matter where I am..makes me senti thinking abt it :D

  10. Hey.. I love this one... I have been a Delhite who moved to Mumbai, stayed there for 10 months and then headed back to North... Being a pucci dilliwali, and adjusting in Mumbai, especially the trains is difficult n you are so true about the seasons.. how I missed winters there!!!

    Look forward to your next post

  11. Thanks for the shout out!

    - Somalian refugees

  12. there's a certain confident swagger to the way mumbai women walk but i don't think too many delhi girls are as diffident as you make them sound to be. we're actually quite a tough breed i think. perhaps your confidence owes entirely to the fact that you moved out of your comfort zone. i can definitely attribute my never-before-heard-of maturity to having lived in completely new environs. and thank god we made the choices that we did. life is good.

    oh well glad you're thriving. it's a delightful city. and a friend to a friend, consider using more serum. hahahahahahaha!


  13. kai zhalo eM! As rj said, you just can't help falling in love with the city. And i soooooooooo concur with the train and swing analogy. Uncanny it might sound, but I had a similar feeling when I did the same thing. Although I was reprimanded badly by all of them, coz I was all of bloody 14 years. Swings, those bloody Moes never gave me the chance and moonstruck was a complete weakling to fight them, and too shy to ask the girls. Piff! Nice to know about your first six months in Mumbai.

  14. @Anon/Hobo: Pssst - Delhi women are a strange breed, and tough is one aspect.

  15. As for the penne with pasta, there's Pot Pourri in Bandra, very close to Totos? You can't miss it, they make a mean pasta and throw in some bacon for you too, also Out of the Blue on Carters

    I moved to mumbai a year back and love it! Totally get the part about the defenses being down, but , but , but I'm moving to Delhi next month and God am I apprehensive.. For the same reasons you mention

  16. a) you did not eat enough butter chicken to feed a small family. you made me ORDER enough butter chicken to feed a small family, and nibbled at two pieces, one for dinner, one for lunch the next day.

    b) almost ass-kicking? filthy liar. i foresee more fire extinguishers to the head and giant speaker electrocutions in your immediate future.

  17. I love it when people from Delhi admit that bombay is a nicer city to live in!! Bbay has a lot of issues - space, roads etc but on the whole, i think the people are nicer and definitely safer for girls!! jumping into a moving train is good - next you should try for a virar local....;-)!!

  18. FORT- The central business district of Bombay is called the Fort area after the long-vanished British fortifications around the harbour which were built in the seventeenth century

    The walks are v nice. they have them around the fort area...u get to see bits and pieces of the olf fort i think

  19. ahhhh Mumbai...there really is some magic about that city...unlike Delhi....which is shit...(i know that's not a moderate, liberal comment, but it's honest)...and any born-and-brought-up delhiites will probably be outraged...but to an outsider (like you eM) Bombay is infinitely more welcoming than Delhi....I've tried out both...not to mention Bangalore and Chennai, both of which are again several dimensions better than Delhi...

  20. Ah! I almost thought I was reading the opening chapters of Shantaram again where he describes the sounds and smells of Mumbai for a first timer there. And it's always intriguing for someone like me - who's never stepped into the city!

  21. have you tried the chili chicken dry at Hearsch Bakery?

  22. If Mumbai hadn't been on my 'places to visit after I graduate' list already, I would've added it now.

    Wish Trivandrum was as happening. That should take about a millennium.

  23. wel..every city has its own charm. evry place got both positive & negative aspects.
    i pity the lamers who bad-mouth delhi just to prove that mumbai is better.Basicaly they suffer from inferiority complex!..such loosers bring bad name to the city. any delhiite can list ills of mumbai & say delhi is better...buts thats not what we want(unless u are retarded)...delhi-mumbai-bangalore-chennai-goa-calcutta.....every place is special!

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  25. you missed just one thing......In mumbai rain doesn't rhyme with drain anymore.....

  26. ah well.. mumbai!! i dunno why.. but i love that city.. wouldn't mind spending hours there.. teh crowded locals, teh beaches, town side.. the suburbs.... everything except the humidity.....

    as for delhi... i'm yet to knw dat city.. though i intend to do dat soon enuf... for matters entorely personal ;)

  27. I am missing Delhi...after reading the fist part of your post...

    Congratulations on the 6 month anniversary !!!

  28. oy. check your gmail. i emailed ya... am gonna be in bombay for a bit next week :D

  29. For the four minutes it took me to read your words, I felt like I'd written them.
    I'm from Delhi. Been in Bombay for 15 months now. Living on my own, living life the way I always wanted to.
    When I tell people that I'm a half-Delhiite and half-Bombayite (if thats what you call it), they smirk. But it doesn't matter, because I know thats whats happened to me.
    For a long time, I battled over the 'Do I like Delhi better or Bombay?' debate. But I've grown wiser and discarded it altogether. Both cities are home to me.

    Let's meet and live :)

  30. and i thought i was the only one who got confused abt these sea faces, liked wat u ve written. entertaining....


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