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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22 December 2017

Living in Bandra East (not THAT Bandra)

(Wrote this for a city newspaper)

I still remember where I was when I decided to move to Mumbai. It was a cold winter's evening, we were in a friend's flat in East Delhi and I was grumbling about how everything was the same-- much of a muchness. Sure, I was due to start a new job with a magazine very soon, but I had grown weary of Delhi, the city I had grown up in, and continued, it seemed, to grow old in.

This party was a combination birthday/farewell do for our friend, who was moving to Mumbai with a new job. “How lucky,” I sighed, and he said, “Come with me.” I might have laughed disbelievingly—one didn't just give up house and job and life and move so easily on suggestion—but the idea turned in my mind from a ragged broken piece of bottle to smooth-edged sea glass, and by the next morning, I called him and said, “Okay. Okay, if you're serious, I will come.”

I'm not going to get into all the minutiae of moving, but suffice it to say, when I joined him, suitcase in hand three months later, I had not only a room, but also a neighbourhood. All brand new and ready to call my own. This was Bandra East, a firmly middle-class residential colony, a seeming hold-out from the already rapidly gentrifying West, a stroll across the train station, a neighbourhood where Bal Thackeray was our “down the road neighbour” and the only food delivery option was a Mangalorean sea food restaurant down the road. Our flat was part of a set of buildings called “MIG Colony” or “Middle Income Group” and apart from our landlord, who had moved to South Bombay ages ago, everyone else there owned their property.

These were conservative people who kept to themselves—my friend had told the landlord we were a married couple to save appearances, and this we laughed about later when once he came to visit and asked why we didn't just move both twin beds into one room for our convenience. (Later when my friend moved out—another city, another job—and I moved two girls from my old college into his old room, we told the landlord we were having marital problems, something he probably already guessed by our lack of shared bedroom.)

In the beginning, Bandra (E) (even the bracket pulling me away from the lure of the West and its fanciness) didn't mean much to me in terms of where it was located. I was still Bandra, wasn't I, still in the thick of things, still trendy and cool with a posh address. (Nowhere but in Mumbai—and maybe certain pockets of South Delhi—does your address so quickly become a shorthand for whether or not you can be friends with someone. Live close enough, and there's an instant relationship, but live two or three unfashionable suburbs away, and even if you get along like a house on fire, it's unlikely you'll hang out all that much.) It took me a while to cotton on to the full extent of exactly how residential we were, how tucked away from everything else. For those not in the know, Bandra (E) began with a long tree-lined road, with the flats tucked away in side lanes. So quiet, you couldn't even hear traffic, so quiet that even getting a rickshaw at 9 pm was impossible, unless you walked all the way to the main road. As a result, our rents were at least 30 per cent cheaper than our neighbours in the West, but the price we paid was living in provincialism, so to speak, while all around us, Mumbai exploded with the cosmopolitan lifestyle I had moved to the city for.

Eventually, I moved to the West after all—and it was everything that it promised to be. From a morning woken up by crows in the coconut trees outside my window, I'd be jolted awake in the middle of the night by kids in their daddy's cars, racing down the drag of a sea facing road. In just five minutes, I could walk to any cuisine I desired, and my friend were suddenly accessible, next door, I didn't even have to plan my evenings to set out at a time when public transport would be available. It was ideal—and yet, and yet, when I think about Mumbai, I think about MIG, and being ensconced in that world, a slow world that rocked me into the idea of living somewhere else. If my friend had taken a different decision when he picked our shared real estate, I might have been a different person today, but as it was, there we were, and now on my visits back to Mumbai, I feel a stab of fondness for that street when I pass it. Once, it was home.

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