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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21 October 2015

Why I think we as writers should be demanding answers

This is a moment of crisis for our country. It may not seem like it: perhaps, you expected something different from the word “crisis.” Perhaps, the images you were expecting were bleak and dystopian bombshell ravaged, starving children, you, yourself hiding for your life. That’s a different kind of crisis though, I mean, at this point I could point out that all of the above mentioned things are already happening, even if they aren’t happening to you, but that would be a longer digression and I have a point to make here. (Stay with me.)

We’re at a moment of crisis because freedom of speech is being threatened, with every single writer who dares to voice something that goes against the grain are in danger for their lives. We are at a moment of crisis, because never before in the history of our country has religious intolerance been so easy, so casual, a matter of pride almost.

The citizens of this country are being urged to be politically incorrect and no one is stopping them. You’re handing angry people weapons and you’re whispering in their ears about why they should kill, slaughter and maim. And meanwhile, the headlines hold a photo of a dotcom millionaire beaming at our prime minister and he’s so happy, and we’re so happy, look we made it, we’re acknowledged by the west! And back home, in the country he seems so desperate to flee, we talk about good diets and bad diets, only they’re not just “bad” diets, they’re a crime.

We’re regressing almost as fast as our representative makes his way around the world and no one seems to care, as long as we have jobs, as long as private companies seem poised to enter, as long as vast amounts of money might possibly one day come in, who cares that “secular” is now, apparently, an insult?

 As a writer, the tools of my trade are words. This is how I build an opinion for you to see, this is how I hope to convince you. I want you to think about words right now, words not spoken, words that are buried in people’s throats, when a life is less important than a vote bank. My fellow writers have been returning their Sahitya Akademi awards as a way of telling the system that they refuse to be silenced by sots, and as a wave of protest, it seems to be growing.

You might have even rolled your eyes at the news, but you can’t deny it is news. Words are the one thing politicians and writers share and while a skilled orator may use his words to weave you a pretty dream of a future where India is global and modern and all the things you’ve always wanted it to be, he also has to not use some words, lest you think he’s slipping up. A comment can be misrepresented, a no comment can be put down to general busyness.

A writer’s job is then to step in and remove the paper off the cracks, show you what they’re not saying.

They’re not saying religious intolerance is a bad thing.

They’re not saying they have a policy in place to deal with further rumblings.

 They’re not saying they will stand by anyone who makes a well reasoned argument and make sure that that person is not in danger.

I, and many of my other colleagues in the writing world, am a commercial writer. I write novels that deal with urban India, stuff like religion or violence rarely comes up, except as a plot point. But we have an audience hey, maybe even you, who is reading this right now! And our audience should know how we feel about these things. This is how I feel, guys. And I think it’s my responsibility as a writer to let you know.

(a version of this appeared as my column.) 


  1. Yes writers should be demanding answers. What were doing during The Emergency when people were being jailed for their dissent?

    Are people being jailed for their dissent now?

    Where were the writers when Sikhs were murdered by the dozen in 1984? Did they return their awards then? No? Did they actually write more?

    If they are disturbed by current events, why don't they write? The return of awards is nothing but publicity. Most people had look through obscure google links to figure out which morons were returning their awards in the first place.

    And please - do back up your assertion that there is a crisis of freedom of speech. Who exactly has been muzzled? Do tell.

  2. If this is not muzzling, I don't know what is:
    And whataboutery is never a useful argument.

  3. This is addressed to anonymous - I have seen your response being repeated by your ilk and the refrain seems to be - if they were not returned earlier, then why now ? Understand this my friend - it is NOW that fundamental rights of every nature is being challenged and tacitly being supported or even encouraged by the stupid comments of the politicians. The goons are out in full strength, without fear of the law. I salute the writers for their courage, the one bright spot in this dreary environment. This is why I love India. When things reach the tipping point, we the people will revolt. Jai Hind, Jai Democracy.
    A concerned citizen


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