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

30 April 2015

Me wan' girl to make me roti

I was with a gay friend—this was before the whole 377-debate, and while gay-ness was not “illegal”, a lot of people still didn’t come out—and we met another couple, also gay. One of the men in the couple took a liking to me, and spent the rest of the evening telling me his secrets over wine. One of them was: “I can never tell my parents I’m gay, so I’m getting married.”

This was both shocking and saddening to me, but as the years went by, and I met more people, both openly gay and not, I heard similar stories over and over again. I hesitate to pass the blame on to anyone, because I think this is a many-pronged problem.

For one, consider the parents. You have a kid, but you don’t have ownership of the kid, if you know what I mean. You have created a person, and you have to eventually let that person go into the world and do what they do. Sometimes you can try and stop them from actively harming themselves or others (parents of rapists, parents of drug addicts), but at the end of the day, your kid is a fully formed individual who will have to follow his or her own path. Too many people believe in the “emotional manipulation” school of parenting.

Let’s recap: you can’t force your child to do something you want him to do by claiming a) illness, b) I want to see my grandchildren before I die c) you are ruining your family’s good name. Be a good human being, parents, and let your kids be who they are and unafraid of telling you.

For two, consider the men themselves. I’m going with the assumption that they were forced or coerced into a heterosexual marriage against their will. Men, I know the stereotype about Indian men wanting to be perfect for their mummies (and daddies) but you need to learn to be honest about yourself. If you don’t want to get married, just say so. 

I know it’s easier said than done, but I lead by example: I’m in a committed live-in relationship with no immediate plans to get married. Granted, mine is a heterosexual partnership, but there is still an amount of pressure for me to take the plunge. Marriage is overrated anyway, but that’s the subject of a different column.

Imagine this: by making your parents happy, you are making a stranger, a person who never did anything to harm you, very unhappy. Is that the way you want to live your life?

For three, the women themselves. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors, what mental torture someone must have undergone to take an extreme step like suicide, but before it gets to that, please leave. Leave. Slam the door shut behind you. To hell with the consequences. The only one capable of living your life from inside your brain is you, and this is not the way you want to spend it.

It’s very hard to leave an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. You have years of building up feelings like “this must be my fault” or “this is my fate.” Most Indian women move in with a whole family once they’re married, so it’s not bad enough that their husband is cheating on them, there’s usually the unsympathetic mother-in-law, the absent father-in-law and a whole lot of relatives you have to put a brave face on for.

And finally, we’ve got to blame India’s draconian laws in the first place. They are capable of evolving—I watch with interest as live-in partnerships are given more and more legitimacy—but on this one subject, they refuse to move, forcing people to spend a greater part of their lives in darkness. We need to be able to love who we love, embrace who we wish to embrace. In other countries, gay marriage is moving forward in leaps and bounds, in ours, we can’t even acknowledge that such people exist.

Let’s move forward into a world where gay marriage doesn’t mean you marry off your gay son or daughter. 

(A version of this appeared in my column for

1 comment:

  1. The discourse of heterosexuality is so dominant that often those with alternate sexual identity find themselves being extremely marginalized. The homophobia that our society exhibits is nauseating. Its important to talk about these things. Cool that you brought this issue up.


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