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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9 December 2017

How 'The Good Wife' is also the story of my relationship (sorta)

(A version of this piece came out in May 2016 in Arre)

Alicia Florrick came into my life as a present from my partner, who I had just begun dating at the time. He told me I might like The Good Wife—he had already seen the first two seasons, but didn't mind watching them again. He had seen the previous two seasons with his previous girlfriend, a fact which was left unsaid. I wondered if he would think of her each time the show's credit came on, a pixellated close up of actor Julianna Marguiles' face, each speck of her eye revealing nothing. We have a thing with credits of all the shows we love, we sing the theme tune when we can or make gestures with our hands. “The WIFE that is GOOD!” is our Good Wife chant, as soon as the music comes on.

It became a show that bound us together—two years of long distance, with a minimised Skype window at the bottom to watch a series premiere. Or saving them all up to binge watch together in bed when we were together again. We blazed through Breaking Bad the same way, had a weekly Game Of Thrones date, but when it came to The Good Wife, it was a softer, simpler pleasure—not set in a world of violence or rape, not with terrible things happening to people all the time. And as Alicia grew into her role, so did I.

WWAD: what would Alicia do? Alicia was always classy, never compromising. I took mental notes about the way she held herself, her peplum suits, the way she had of shutting down a conversation that didn't suit her.

Let's be clear though—I am the opposite of Alicia in every single way. I recently read an article on a trick to make you feel more confident: stand in a superhero position, arms akimbo, hands on your hips. I do this a lot, even before parties, especially before phone calls I don't want to make. Alicia would never have to stand in front of the mirror like this, making eye contact with herself, feeling a bit foolish for the exercise. 

Diane is an unsung hero & need her own article though

Similarly, it took me the better part of one year to completely relax into my relationship, to stop crossing my fingers and knocking on wood. As Alicia rose through the ranks of her law firm, so did I become more confident in my new role as a happy attached woman in an adult relationship. The men up until then had been versions of each other, emotionally unavailable in deep, hidden ways, delighting in playing guessing games where I always felt like everyone else had the script except me. I wanted to be mysterious, heavy lidded and bad-ass in a way that would make people wonder about my past, but at the same time, it felt like a fake profile I was trying on. I essentially was trying to emulate The Good Wife's other ass-kicking female character. I'm talking of the late, great Kalinda Sharma, bisexual, weapon ready, and who always answered questions about her identity with a simple, “I'm Kalinda.” Kalinda took no prisoners, Kalinda wore a leather motorcycle jacket, and Kalinda had affairs with beautiful FBI agents and Alicia's husband, both. We never knew very much about Kalinda, and before we could explore her further, she vanished—from Alicia's life and from ours. Kalinda felt like she was being held up as a role model, but it's hard work, being mysterious, and I think the show runners felt that way too, because after one tantalising glimpse of her past, she was out.

For another reason why, we need to move away from Alicia and examine the woman who played her—Marguiles. Rumoured to be a difficult person to work with, she had a falling out with actor Archie Panjabi, and as a result, Kalinda got a truncated story arc and disappeared. Do we blame Alicia for Marguiles' failings? I did. Alicia herself would have never let a “feud” whatever it was, get in the way of her professional life. Marguiles did.

By then it was season three or four, two years into my relationship with my partner and with Alicia herself. I grew intimate with both, letting my guard down and letting them in. In the case of my love life, things grew brighter, we wrapped ourselves around each other's lives and got cats. We worried about their health together. We merged two flats into one. We discovered flaws and kinks and loved each other even more for it. With The Good Wife, my relationship soured. I didn't want flaws in my television show, let alone from my beloved Female Lead Character. I began to mock them, “the only firm in the entire United States,” I'd say as I watched, rolling my eyes at the case of the week. I watched Alicia chug glasses of wine in scene after scene, watched her daughter become a fundamentalist Christian, watched her son be written off practically, all the while primming up my mouth. I did not approve. I strongly did not approve. I was ready to cut her loose, like a friendship that has run its course.

In the end, we still had a weekly The Good Wife date, but only because we had been with the show for so long. It's a bit like that friend you have on Facebook, someone you haven't actually met in years, but whose life pops up on your newsfeed—first they got married, then they had a baby, then another one, and then the children grow up—and you can unfriend them if you choose, but it's not worth the effort, besides you still have a sneaky interest in their lives, because you've been a spectator for so many years.

I sort of miss her. We grew together, Alicia and I, before we grew apart.

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