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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3 May 2011

The other thing that happened the day Osama Bin Laden was killed

It is terribly… warm, isn’t it? Which is totally the excuse I am making for my lack of posts. What? THE WARMTH! IT IS A WRITER KILLER! And I’m not one of the privileged, like you guys, who get to go to an air conditioned office every day, and spend great hours of my life, probably the best hours, sitting in artificial light and making conversation with people I probably wouldn’t even be nodding acquaintances with in real life, and okay, I’ll stop.


And then yesterday, I went and joined the public pool next door, which okay, is a very little thing in the scheme of things that happened yesterday, what with the Big Bad Wolf being brought down, and everyone only talking about that, but what? I don’t live in Abottabad, or however you spell that. And I’m glad the Americans got closure and everything, and I’m glad he’s dead, but it’s SO not the end of the story. When the end of the story happens, I promise I will talk of nothing but. But since yesterday was only, like, a chapter, I feel like I can tell you about the pool next door.


As I signed up, the girls at the desk looked at me and debated with each other whether girl one should get a nose ring (like I have) or a nose stud (like girl two had.) They glanced at my nose awhile, I told them it frequently got caught in towels and t-shirts and things and then, finally girl one decided to go for the stud. FASCINATING. Then they casually looked over my form and girl two gasped.


“You’re… twenty nine?”


“Yes,” I said, shortly. I’m beginning to get a bit sick of this. Yes, I’m aware looking young is fab and all that, but WHAT IS SO OLD ABOUT TWENTY BLOODY NINE? I’m still in my twenties, not quite over the hill, I wish people would stop saying, “Oh, you look so young” like I’m fifty five or something.


“And,” said girl two, still hushed, “Why aren’t you married?” (There was a father’s name/husband’s name section, which always throws me a little bit.)



Unexpected. Very unexpected. Here I was all ready to not-so-graciously accept my “oh you look so young” compliment.   I babbled something about not liking men, and then babbled that I wasn’t a lesbian or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians! No! *nervous laughter* *girls look even more pitying*) but men in Delhi just seemed lacking. “Okay!” I said, still with the nervous laugh, “Changing rooms?”


“Through there,” pointed girl one. They watched me go. They shook their heads. I am DOOMED TO DIE ALONE. Even pool girls are judging me.


But the pool, the pool. It made up for it all. It was large and over chlorinated and probably chock-full of piss and worse, but it reminded me of my childhood, you know, when you’d be four or five kids to a car, and you’d go to one of your parent’s clubs, and you’d spend all day horsing around in the water, and your fingers would get all pruney, and you’d be the last ones in, till someone, a parent, an aunt, would drag you out, where you’d be wrapped in a warm, scratchy towel and you’d eat chicken sandwiches or cheese pakodas and talk about how tomorrow you’d do the high board just as well as your cousin. And summer. And sticking your head with chlorine dried hair out the window and singing in high voices, and tumbling into bed because you were so worn out and knowing tomorrow, it would be the same thing, by the same pool.


So, despite the uncles and the people learning to swim by thrashing about and the kids playing ball across the most crowded section, I smiled blissfully (between spitting out water) and swam leisurely from one end to another, slow butterfly strokes, feeling like a mermaid. Well, a mermaid who had to wear a cap, which made my head feel a bit like a condom, but a mermaid nonetheless.  My friend joined a little later, and we hung around the middle section, where we could just feel the bottom on tip toe, and we gossiped. Not very sporty, but we were mermaids. We were doing mermaid things.


And, oh, the water was blue and made my skin itch, cute young Afghans flexed their triceps for PYTs also with condom heads and the changing room had warm showers and everything, everything was exactly as it was in 1989, minus the chicken sandwiches.  Swummer. Summing.


  1. r u saying that u like chlorinated water? isnt that the only thing thats not-so-good in a swimming pool? thats also one of the reasons why a pond is better than a pool :)

  2. This is EXACTLY the reason why I've quit my job. Spend my summer like when I was a kid. And then go back to work. I'm glad I see someone else with the same idea.

  3. The rubber cap would be the condom, which makes your head the p... just saying ;)

  4. back after a long time and not regretting at all. Infact I loved to read something other than the Big Bad Wolf!

    And you know what! Just today.. just today.. the salon female did exactly what those pool girls did to you.
    She waxed and asked why not there and those. She guessed - okay! you are not married and started talking to me in a mumma tone. Damn irritating it was!
    And while leaving I told her my age and just left her shell-shocked without caring to watch her reactions. Mild issue : cant go back to her, though she was good!

    And yes, even I want to swim!!!!!!! :(

  5. @mepretentious and to the world in general: you have to wax there and those if you are married? what weird rule is this???
    and i hate the aftermath of chlorine. i am convinced it makes my hair fall out even more than usual.

  6. I don't know if you have a compulsive urge to prove something, but can't you just tell them, as a reply to all those questions about marriage from strangers, to mind their own sweet businesses?

    BTW, I'm not sure what you meant by "I probably wouldn’t even be nodding acquaintances with in real life". English not being a CFG (Pity. Perhaps Chomsky should have tried to do something Shaw tried to do), it could either mean that you are so cultured and bohemian that you would not deign to come down to the level of commoner philistines. Or it, innocently, could mean that you wouldn't probably know someone I know, since your circle is different from mine. I wonder which.

  7. Oh..nice post


  8. I can fully understand how it is. I go thru this struggle everyday to explain why I am 30 and still unmarried. Initially, I used to find it irritating too. Now, I just smile and move ahead. Life teaches u all.

  9. u would love my gym! :o)
    No chicken sandwiches here either though, but they do give free cola and coffee.

    But why you would love it is cos the pool is huuuge, and on the rooftop, but there's ALways a shade cos of the way the building's structured. And it's awesome! :)

  10. i just chanced upon this and i laughed hard :) really oliked ur blog will keep coming back now:) p.s i m soon turning 29 too and i face the same dilemma... YOU ARE 29???? and i m like i am just 29 not 92.. stop over reacting ppl.....

  11. You had me at 'condom head'. Err, not that I'm a lesbian...err, not that there's anything wrong with lesbianism. :-)

  12. i absolutely hate it when people first casually ask you how old you are, and after throwing in another one or two random just-for-the-sake-of questions, go all, 'oh so wen do you plan do get married?' Like WTF is your problem, i'll get hitched when i'm a hunder and twenty, let me be.

    And then they say, 'ssshh, she has age issues'

  13. Writing counts. u write well. keep the work going.:)

  14. i think the weird reactions you get even when you get married. this random chic on my office floor, after finding out that i was married said (in the most exaggerated way ever): "reallly, but you act like a kiddd!!" ... I have no idea what that was supposed to mean, to this date!

    chin up, tummy in, chest out ... fuck the rest of the world, i say!

  15. Its getting bad, women single at 30 is not a crime and better everyone realises that soon

  16. This post really made me laugh, something I really needed!

    keep writing :)

  17. Oh yeah, "Why don't you have a husband?!!!!" My former boss used to have a nice sarcastic answer to these sort of questions / requests. Whenever a client demanded something impossible with an attitude like it's the easiest thing in the world, she would say, "Uh-huh, sure ... Anything else from the supermarket?" (Not to their face, obviously.)

    Swimming pool. You gave me an idea. Feeling really stressed in the middle of my exams right now ... sooo, I started going to the swimming pool. Half an hour sitting in the steam room and jacuzzi, heaven!

  18. Swimming, swumming and pleasures. Nice post!

    I would have definitely picked this over an Osama article in the papers.

  19. You should have told those girls its none of their business... people need to learn not to ask such offensive questions, and its our solemn duty to teach them ;)

  20. It gets worse when you hit the thirties. And it really doesn't matter if you're married. There's always when do you plan to have kids?, what, just one kid???, what about the second one?? and on and on.

  21. love ur blog.
    here's mine.

  22. If it helps, in Delhi at the very least you get to wear a costume that looks like a costume. In Blore, an ex delhi person living here you are in for these reactions.

    1. oh you poor child you are not married!
    2. oh no!! you are dating a white man!! followed by touching of ears, lips and frantic mutterings to god.
    3. What!! she is a bad person, as you innocently step out to the public too wearing a one piece costume which ends where your legs begin only to see ladies with costumes that ends at knees, ankles or daringly bold -mid thighs.
    4. wearing a cap is passee, coconut oil residues are considered good for the skin and hence happily allowed to dissolve in chlorinated joy
    5. aah thats all i think i have the time for now!

  23. Dunno why.. This post felt like it was written by the compulsive confessor of the yesteryears.

  24. This is EXACTLY the reason why I've quit my job. Spend my summer like when I was a kid. And then go back to work. I'm glad I see someone else with the same idea.


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