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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26 July 2013

But where do you belong?

The song of the dial-up modems, the krrrrgneeeeshhhhh of it before it went online, the lights blinking, the way it would sometimes disconnect if someone picked up the phone?

The phone, the rotary dial, the way the receiver felt in your hands, heavy if you were making a call you didn't want to, weight-wait-weight-wait? Dial a number, here, dial 9, watch it make a full circle and register in your ear. 9 more than a button, 9 was the last hole.

That there were no cars--there were some cars and some people who had big cars, you crawled into the sofa backseat of a Contessa, you bounced at the edge of your sweaty Ambassador seat, but mostly you sat in a Maruti 800 much like your own parents had and it whisked you away to the edges of Delhi, where there was nothing in Saket except your friends house and a mall that your friends and you sometimes visited, which was only novel because it had all this food in lines and you could wheel out a shopping cart and you only shopped because of that shopping cart and your friend's birthday was your favourite, because her mother let you buy anything you liked?

And do you remember the first McDonald's, the hopes that centred around that McDonald's, not just for the food--the food! a real burger that wasn't a potato patty!--but also because your neighbour and friend had gone on the internet and met two boys and she wanted you to come along and meet them? And you tagged behind, because one of the boys asked if you were her younger sister and you were trying very hard to grow up as fast as you could, but it seemed that the boy she didn't like was stuck with you and you just wanted to go home but you also wanted to watch what your friend was doing with the first boy, how was she flirting? Is that how you flirted?

Do you remember the game you played where you all sat crosslegged on a bed with a piece of paper with the alphabet on it and a coin and asked "Any holy spirit passing by please enter this coin" and you asked and then the coin would move and answer questions for you, and you were never the one who pushed the coin and you always believed sneakily that there was a holy spirit, but there was always one girl who looked amused and you kind of thought she'd done it but she professed to be amazed? You never wondered how exactly the holy spirit would know so much about who liked you or what you should say when you saw them, it just made sense that they would be as obsessed with your life as you were.

Do you remember the feel of a Walkman under your fingers, clipped to the loop of your jeans? Do you remember how to use the rewind and fastforward button, how expertly you could go back to the beginning of a song and listen to it over and over again? Do you remember how sometimes an old tape deck could eat your tape and you'd hear the first of it getting stuck and you'd have to tug it out carefully, carefully and wind it up again with your pinky finger? Do you remember swapping tapes, do you remember the first time you learnt how to record something? Do you remember how you learnt a new skill without Google to guide you?

Do you remember how your parents first looked puzzled then annoyed--what kind of Indian childhood is this? You're losing touch with your roots!--then resigned to this new-ness. Do you remember being the first generation to embrace a different sort of world? The first generation to whom jeans were more comfortable than salwar kameezes? The first generation that had to learn a whole new language, a whole new world, as it was laid open in front of you? You whispered of boyfriends, your parents accepted the boy-girl parties you went to, you dreamed of your first kiss and not your marriage, you accepted that you either had to jump on the bandwagon or be left behind and god forbid you be left behind.

But then, here you are, and some people were left behind and some people clamour about the old ways and the old days, regretting, bitterly regretting that the new ways were introduced without taking the old ways feelings into consideration. There's a country of left-behind-ers and you feel guilt for being who you are, your computer so thin you can catch it up like a clutch, your books no longer paper, your music on a credit card sized device or even, not existing anywhere anymore, it just comes piped through the air. You accept, because you always have, that this way is bad, it's privileged, and privileged is bad, if you're a thoughtful person, and you've tried so hard to be a thoughtful person. You know you can write about your first Walkman and your first kiss, your first time someone chose to dance with you at a party, and the way your heart beat with joy, in tune to the music, and you can say something about the music, and how happy you were. You can talk about trying to reconcile your body image to the bodies you saw on TV, how you longed for straight hair and to be less brown, but not because you hated brown, but because you couldn't understand how to look good if you weren't white. And when you speak of these things, people look upon it as an indulgence, it was your childhood but it wasn't everyone's, and yes, you say, I know it's not everyone's but is that a bad thing? Can it still be mine? You want to apologise for your liberal upbringing, for going to a co-ed school, for never even thinking about another India besides your own until you were older.

Do you remember when it was okay to not think about other things? Do you remember being able to revel in your good fortune without immediately wondering about the backs of others on which your good fortune was built? Do you remember not having to take offence at silly things in the international media--I mean, yes, haha, very funny, Indians can't spell, English is not a first language?

Do you remember when you grew into a person of the Liberal Elite? Do you remember your first guilt? Your first time apologising for what you had--both inside your head and outside? Do you remember the first time you were angry that everyone didn't see the world fairly? Do you remember when you stopped feeling bad about the beggars at your car windows and instead felt irritated? Do you remember when you felt guilt for that irritation?

Do you remember when a simple do-you-remember post didn't have to include a whole speech about your confusion?


  1. I remember, yes I do and I also hear the confusion.

  2. this is what I read your blog for! This is the rhythm I expect, and I find difficult to get anywhere else! This is what my head is made up of, and somehow what your's is too. I'm so glad I know you here. :)
    Thank you for making it real.

  3. The confusion may be inevitable but those are some sweet nostalgic musings!

  4. Us, between the have-it-alls and the have-nots, will always remain confused and will have to work at not letting the guilt override the happiness of being where we are / having what we have / doing what we do. Not thinking too much about it all is an exercise in itself!

  5. This makes makes me feel why did I write it? (: Can totally relate to your thoughts.

  6. I totally have a crush on your writing.

  7. just realised that, taking away these booze, weed, and night parties.., my life is just nothing but boredom..!
    teenage life.., was indeed beautiful and happening..!

  8. My first post ever. :)
    From an avid fan :)

  9. Oh ! How I hate your blog today .. Will take me a week again to get out of my nostalgia ....since I don't have anyone to share these thoughts now they'll have to be translated on a paper and since I'm not so good at writing as you I'm sure to b spending another 2 weeks trying to write all of it and I know I might not be able to write so well so ill be spending another 1 week moaning about it ... Oh you see ... Swiiishhhh , gone my 1 month just like that...

    Brilliant blog meenaks....


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