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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5 October 2012

Transportation Stories: Guest Post by Rini Rafi

I got LOADS of responses to this one--thank you all!--but Rini's really stood out for me. It's slightly longer than I would normally post, but it's a very sweet story of her relationship with her first car, and in the telling of the story, we also know about her relationship with her husband and her father. By the end of it, I was all "awww". Funnily enough, almost all the entries I received were about Bangalore public transport, not the Delhi metro or Bombay local I was expecting. You guys really love to hate your rickshaw drivers, eh?

And before we begin, the theme for the next set of guest posts is help--your household help to be exact. I could write a whole book on the women and men I have known in my life, part of the family, and yet not. Tell me about yours--the new bai, the ayah who rocked you to sleep, the driver who knows all your secrets--and the one I like the most will be posted here with your byline! Email me, or Facebook, or Twitter, or leave comments! You know the drill.


All About The New Car

The story of my stunning relationship with auto-rickshaw drivers in Bangalore is a constant source of entertainment for friends. Every evening, I stand outside my office, bag on the shoulder and eyes
sharply in the lookout for the familiar – yellow roofed, green painted three wheeled vehicles. It is always a daily routine to stop at least ten autos before I find one that agrees to take me to the destination. So, I enter the auto with feelings of immense gratitude for the driver
that I consider it absolute lack of gratefulness to be distant with him.

And hence it comes to be that I happen to know the life history of several auto drivers in and around Bangalore. The grey haired driver who actually owns ancestral property worth crores, the nineteen year old guy who is married and is already a father, the deep-voiced driver who is also a spiritual guru or even the pleasantly round man who speaks the most impeccable English.

Then again – the unbelievably frustrating process of convincing the auto-drivers to transport me often leaves me drained. There have been occasions when I have called V at his workplace threatened him with divorce if he did not consent to come and pick up that very moment. Sometimes he would oblige and come pick me up on his bike – and the other times, I would be left squinting into the darkness, waiting for yet another auto.

So it was with absolute joy that we welcomed the idea of buying a car. Always the man for thoroughness, V dragged me along to every possible car showroom in Bangalore and we spent long evenings trolling through the internet for the perfect vehicle. Every car on the road was inspected and commented on to the extent that me – the celebrated car illiterate - came to know the names and details of most of the cars in the small segment.

After a neck to neck competition, Chevrolet Beat won over Ford Figo and was finally endowed with honor of being our first car. We decided to buy the car from a Kerala considering the ease of getting a loan. After a visit to Kerala to sign all the documents, we came back with the knowledge that we would get the car once the formalities were done with.

However, it was on a regular work day that I received the message from my dad.

“KL 2A 2997”

I immediately forwarded it to V and a colleague added up all the numbers in the registration and pronounced the car to be lucky.

Now there was the small issue of transporting the car all the way from Kerala to Bangalore. I suggested to the parents that they send the car along with a driver to someplace midway – perhaps Coimbatore and V and I would take it up from there. The father immediately objected saying
that the driver may drive irresponsibly and that he would come along as well.  It was only a seven hour journey and it wouldn’t be too taxing on him if he is not driving.

We boarded a bus bright and early on a Saturday morning, hoping to be in Coimbatore around lunchtime. As luck would have it, the bus was hopelessly late. Instead of being entertained by the back-to-back movies being played in the bus, I shuffled and shifted – reading the
place names on shop signs and analyzing the distances with Google Maps on V’s phone (I own a much scratched super-basic Nokia model)

Meanwhile the father had already reached Coimbatore and informed us that he would be waiting at the railway station. While I hated the fact that he had to wait, I was consoled knowing that he had company,as he had told me that he would be coming with a driver.

We reached Coimbatore around two hours later than our scheduled time and rushed to the station.

And there – in the parking lot – was the deep grey car with tints of gold. There it stood, between two dusty cars, waiting for us to claim it.

It was around this time that the father emerged from the station, smiling and handing over the keys to us. I looked over his shoulder, for the driver who was to accompany him. At my suitably puzzled expression, he sheepishly admitted that he had chosen to come alone – and wait alone for two hours at the station – just to hand us the car.

V looked as if he would burst into tears at the father’s sheer patience and concern while I, in my usual fashion , considered it merely my birthright that the father goes out of his way for every single thing that concerns me. Right from sourcing materials for my summer projects in school – to hand delivering my brand new car.

It was a considerably grateful V that dropped the father at the bus stop to take a bus back home and gave me a huge lecture on the greatness of his father in law. Not forgetting to add that I have been irreversibly spoilt by the princess treatment that the father metes out to me. As for my part, I couldn’t wait to drive my brand new car and demanded that V shift immediately and let me handle the wheel.

 We drove, with V panicking and refusing to even open his eyes while I drove. He ducked, screamed, rammed at the imaginary brake and finally begged me to hand him the car if I wanted to spare him a heart attack in the middle of nowhere.

We stopped at the road-side dhabas for random doses of kothu parota and sugarcane juice –  , reaching Bangalore around two early in the morning.

And so, if you ever happen to see a grey Beat cruising along Magadi Road , changing lanes like nobody’s business and gathering rude stares from all the co-road users , you can rest assured that behind the wheel is yours truly.

I’ve never been one to covet things – or even be excessively attached to the things that I do have. But with this car, things are a little different. Each time I get behind the wheel , I remember my father driving for hours to deliver it to me , my mother painstakingly wrapping up pickles and masalas and whatnot to  fill the dickey with stuff for me , V sweetly allowing me enough sleep as he drove quietly for hours together.

Each time I look at the car, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and luck that I have in my life that I would be ungrateful to complain about anything at all. 
Every day that I drive the car to office, I am a little more thankful.

(25-year-old Rini lives in Bangalore where she works as an architect. She blogs at The Ground Level.)


  1. This is one of the best stories I have ever read.. probably even worth 'dekho' as a filmy script!

  2. just loved it...i am from bangalore, too, and i still live at the autowallah's mercy...

  3. Lovely story. Touched a chord and made me all misty-eyed!

  4. That was indeed a nice post... Left me smiling thinking of my dad's love to me... :-)


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