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

Sign up for my newsletter: The Internet Personified

22 June 2013

Notes on Hauz Khas Village & Fete de la Musique That Happened Last Night

Went to the Fete de la Musique in Hauz Khas Village yesterday. Traffic jam from the beginning of the road, all the way up to the parking lot. As we ditched our car in the earliest open spot and walked in the sweat dodging cars and hipsters, it gave me some time to ruminate on this--what once had scope to be Delhi's most urbane spot, a place where khaadi wearers and handbag swingers alike could mingle, a place where chi-chi bars opened up into street side stalls, where you could get your last drink at 2.30 in the morning after having just spent an evening listening to live music on a rooftop. Honestly, how did we manage to fuck that up, eh?

Let she who is without hipster cast the first stone.
Loads has been written about HKV since the rents started going up and the original "villagers" (who were really the people who rented FROM the original villagers) began to complain in the media about little establishments being swallowed. Some didn't even complain, simply and quietly closed the doors, never to open again. I never really felt strongly about the place when it first became trendy, but those feelings quickly grew to a deep and abiding hatred of everything it offered. I should have stuck to hating the bad parking, how suddenly everything you wanted to do was there, and no one ever wanted to go anywhere else, but instead my hate grew and swallowed all of it. I hated the twee establishments, scorned the bad menus, wondered how someone could spend so much money making a restaurant look good while not paying any attention to the food. "Do we really NEED two vintage clothes shops?" I railed, "Anyway, in India we have another word for vintage. We call it second hand."

Over the last year, partly because of work, I had to make more trips to HKV than I would like and I became intimately acquainted with hip KV more than I ever wanted to be. The anger grew: I was fiercely glad when places shut down "what can you expect from HKV?" when places caught fire "oh, but the administration is so bad". I even warned people against going there: "Death trap. Plus it's full of super pretentious people." My rage included the regulars there as well--if I saw one more kid in oversized glasses and uncombed (or TOO combed) hair, I was going to kidnap them, toss them in the boot of my car and throw them into the Yamuna. I hated it so much, I didn't see it for what it was. And now it's dying.

Let me tell you what HKV could have been. HKV could have been what it was last night. We did our long trek, dodging and jumping and holding our noses past the garbage dump. I felt the familiar "why oh why do I ever come to Hauz Khas Village" bubble up inside me already weary at how many people loved it and therefore how much of a disappointment it was going to be.

But as the evening went on, something funny happened. Through all of it, though its demise had been predicted in all the papers and the blogs and Twitter and Facebook, Hauz Khas remained resolutely charming. No, I'm serious. It was actually charming. The Fete de la Musique is something organised by the Alliance Francaise and is meant to be this totally chilled, free street music-y event where you can listen to bands on the streets and then hop from bar to bar enjoying various kinds of music. Unfortunately, the AF booked some pretty terrible bands, except for maybe, Adil & Vasundhara, who were playing at a place called Thirty Nine. Never heard of it? It's okay, last night was probably the only time since they opened that they had people lining up to get in, and going COMPLETELY against the MEANING of all that Fete de la Musique is, they were charging a cover of Rs 500 a head. Bullshit, said we, all suddenly coming round to the MEANING of HKV and ready to embrace all its hipster values (which include not paying for things). But we wound up having a pretty good night of it all in all. The Good Thing and I went to Downstairs At Zo, which is attached to Upstairs at Zo aka Zo Cafe. Now, Zo is a little old guard but still new enough that everyone was all "grumble, who let the GK1-wallahs in?" but they transformed themselves last year by opening a gig only venue, previously mentioned Downstairs At Zo, and what do you know? It's actually kinda fun, I admit grudgingly. It's small enough that it feels like a party and yet not so small that you're nose to armpit with someone who doesn't believe in deodarant. It's.. cool, okay, HKV? You got me, but the irony is, this is your wannabe Lajpat Nagar sister without the over precious interiors that is cool. Ho ho. I laugh in your face.

After, we went to Imperfecto which is ONLY over-precious interiors, but which I still like, because hey, I'm a woman and I'm allowed to be full of contradictions. I think what I like most about Imperfecto is their pretty terrace with an actual water feature, but also the round jolly chef lady who comes around table to table, often with nothing more than chicken ham, but it's the way she offers you the chicken ham that sort of makes or breaks your experience. (Also nice wine by the glass.) We had, like non-rolling stones, gathered some moss, by way of two friends I hadn't seen in while, and while meandering, met a few more. It felt a bit like HKV was throwing us a big ol' house party, people were actually smoking inside bars, and you moved from group to group, fluidly, saying hi, because you all knew the host.

Thai wisdom totally applies in this case too
That's what it was meant to be like, I think. Last night was the epitome of all the awesome HKV still had the potential to have. At Zo, we began by mocking a "Delhi" dude, in a shiny black shirt and a red baseball cap, bouncing up and down and basically doing the bhangra to the jazz music. Next to him, his "Delhi" girl,  strapped into a tight bandage dress, kept giving him "sit down now, Karan" looks, until he persuaded her to get up and dance with him. And do you know? They were the only people dancing, all the other audience with their plaid caps and arm tattoos bobbed their heads into their Coronas with practiced self conciousness, any minute now, someone could be Instagramming them, any minute now they had to look either like they were enjoying themselves so much, hectic smiles and raised glasses or not enjoying themselves at all, "chee, ya, what has this place become, such locals come here."

I hope HKV therefore is like the ruined city in Mowgli's jungle. Some men built it till the jungle took it away, and the only creatures having fun there now are the monkeys. I wanna be like you-hoo-hoo, sings King Louie in the Disney version of The Jungle Book, and now I think Delhi born-and-breds are singing it to the urban elite who are running away as far as they can in the opposite direction, abandoning a palace that could, if a little care was put into it, be beautiful.


  1. Lovely pink lips and nails in that photo! :) Also, really liked the way you summarized the post in the final paragraph starting with "the ruined city in Mowgli's jungle"...your writing at its best!!

  2. and your new design is really nice (atleast far better than the previous one :p )!!

  3. thanks guys!

    new design all thanks to the Good Thing tweaking a free Blogger template we found (the original was full of bugs and ads, so this is actually mostly him.)

    I was wondering if anyone had noticed. :)

    PS: DFSK, it's red! filter turned it pink for some reason.

  4. Well, for those of us who've never visited HKV (but you can't escape it if you're on the Indian side of the interwebs) this was a very good post.

    Also, the theme, well, even for someone who needs large font to read, the size is a bit too much. It would be great if you could re-size it to make it a tad smaller!


Thanks for your feedback! It'll be published once I approve it. Inflammatory/abusive comments will not be posted. Please play nice.