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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28 December 2017

Tsundoku: Two memoirs and one narrative non-fiction book I loved

(A version of this appeared as my column for BLInk in July)

I realised after I made the list for the books I was going to include in this edition that all of them were either autobiography or narrative non-fiction. This is a pleasant departure for me, since my leisure reading is almost always fiction, but I had made a resolution last year to add more non-fiction to my list. Do memoirs count as non-fiction? They're mostly stories—and the gold standard for non-fiction is those heavy-with-research tomes which are still light and readable. I buy them with every good intention and a few months later, they're paperweights or are propping up my projector. Oh well. These three books should help ease you into that set if you're a fellow fictionhead too.

Water cooler: We're all thinking it: how does an author like Ruskin Bond, who writes about unstylish things like walking in the hills and rooms on roofs, stay so enduringly popular? He doesn't even do the lit fest circuits, even though from all accounts, he's unfailing pleasant and generous with his time if you meet him in person. And yet, this year saw not one, not two but three memoir-y books by Bond: a reading memoir, recollections of his father, and the one everyone's talking about, Lone Fox Dancing, his straight up autobiography. I've been a Bond fan since I was little and he was twice a “required reading” book on my school syllabus, but having long outgrown the markets and vistas he talks about, it was almost like a reunion for me, it had been so long since we had last met. Lone Fox Dancing is marked by Bond's quiet style, the people are real and well-described, the story meanders from plot point to plot point like a gentle river, and all of it so vivid and so real, it's like it happened yesterday. Through it also the reader gets a sense of Bond's intense loneliness: the child abandoned, practically, by his mother who creates a new family for herself, the beloved father who dies young, the young student in search of love and finally, the adult who retreats into isolation by choice. Lone Fox Dancing by Ruskin Bond, Speaking Tiger Publishing, Rs 599.

Watchlist: The biggest news to hit my social media feed recently was the case of Zohra Bibi, a domestic worker employed in a building society in Noida, who didn't go home one night because she had been locked into a room by her employers. Her friends and neighbours rose up en masse, FIRs were filed, and think pieces abounded. About the perfect time to read Tripti Lahiri's new book: Maid In India: Stories Of Inequality and Opportunity Inside Our Homes. Lahiri speaks to the bosses as well as the maids, cutting a neat cross-section across the country: from the villages the women have left to make new homes in the cities, to the quiet, birdsong-filled mansions of Lutyen's Delhi. I wish she had spoken to more of the male help that exists, the drivers, the “man Fridays” and so on, but I suppose that would have been a different sort of book. As with all texts and stories about “the help” in India, you'll probably be left feeling guilty and defensive or smug and “I do what I can” but it's also worth examining your own responses to the book to figure out how the great inequality that exists in India works on you. Maid In India: Stories of Inequality And Opportunity Inside Our Homes by Tripti Lahiri, Aleph Book Company, Rs 599.

Wayback: Since I made this list thinking of memoirs, I'm recommending one of my all-time favourite autobiographies as the nostalgia pick for this week. I got put on to Agatha Christie's An Autobiography from a Facebook post made by a friend, instantly got it for my Kindle and spent the next week (it's gloriously fat) wrapped up in Christieland. Even non-mystery lovers will find things to love about her recollections of a Victorian childhood, growing up during the war, her house and her pets and her sister, the minutiae of life that is so engaging when you're reading about someone else's. The mysterious years after her husband left her where she just vanished are never alluded to, I'm afraid, but there's plenty about how she worked during the war in the pharmacy of a hospital and thereby got acquainted with all the poisons she puts into her mysteries. Also, about how much she hated Hercule Poirot. An Autobiography by Agatha Christie, Harper Collins, Rs 250.

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