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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11 May 2016

It's My Party And I'll Try If I Want To

The measure of a person is in their house party.

I wrote this as orderly preparations went on in our home, preparing to receive far more than its capacity, but which we were optimistically hoping will stretch to accommodate as many people as are expected. Like a local train or a lift going down from an office at 6 pm, it may not be super-comfortable, but we hoped to find niches and spots and “adjust.” (Astoundingly, our flat not only held all the people we invited, but had enough room for plus ones and various sundries.) (The next morning though... oof, what a bombsite. I was happy to be leaving it in our help's capable hands and fucking off to Bangalore.) 

I was going to begin this sentence saying I've thrown house parties ever since I lived alone, but that's not true. I've been throwing them since I was old enough to have friends over who could have activities unsupervised by adults. It all began with my thirteenth birthday, my very first “grown up” house party, where for the first time, I wouldn't have games or prizes, but a professional sound system and speakers, rented for the evening. Along with—my father went a bit overboard, caught up in the excitement—and also got three strobe lights, one red, one green and one that pulsed and caught your eye until you weren't sure if you were blinking or just closing your eyes in time to the beat. We were trying desperately to be grown up, newly minted teens, I banished my parents to their bedroom, and waited for my guests, all dressed up in a short black tube top and a black and white striped top, the most adult outfit I could find. I even got Canada Dry, a special Sprite-type soft drink trying to launch in India back then, because the bottles looked like beer, and my party would be all the more grown up if we had grown up drinks.

Imagine this, but with fewer grown ups.

And we danced, I can still see the room if I think about it, girls in oversized sweaters over stretch jeans, clunky bangles on wrists, the boys with ironing creases down their pants, everyone smelling freshly washed. Until someone said to me, “Wow, you put a lot of effort in,” and I was suddenly full of doubts. Was it not cool to make an effort on your birthday? Was all this—the strobe lights, the speakers, the drinks---just showing how much I cared, which was the opposite of cool when you were a teenager? “Great party!” said someone else, but I was still thinking about that offhand remark, so I shrugged like it was no big deal.

In my later years, I think that remark led to my style of hosting. You wanted casual? I was OTT casual. I handed out a bag of chips, ordered in rolls, pulled out some rum and coke, and called that a party. I made the opposite of an effort, I was so laid back, I was almost sideways. And people still came, especially in my twenties, when I shared a flat with a friend who had the same attitude to parties I did. She even went one step further and kept the expensive booze hidden in her room, so she could top herself up whenever she wanted. We might have squeezed in a hundred people at a party, but that was only because we had no furniture, apart from a beanbag.

And now, I'm invited to elegant dos at least once a month, where the host has put in an effort, that uncool thing, and pulled out the stops. I'm faced with table linen and home cooked meals, and fancy wines. “Wow, you made a lot of effort,” is said with awe now.

So, for the party we're having this weekend, we've struck a happy medium. Lucky for us, our co-hosts are as relaxed about hosting as we are. With everything ordered in, guests told to bring some alcohol to add to our supply and a party playlist cued on nothing more fancy than a laptop and a set of bluetooth speakers, we may not be winning any Martha Stewart awards, but I'm closer to my thirteen-year-old self than my 23-year-old avatar.

(A version of this appeared as my column on

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