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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1 February 2018

Newsletter: Feeling my age

Is it still January? My, how this month goes on. I just checked my calendar, thinking, okay surely we must be at the end of the month, and it is only the 29th. I don't know why I'm so desperate for January to get over, from March, as has been scientifically* proven (*not really) the year just tears by. Perhaps because February is a big travel month for me. I am off, firstly, to Trivandrum for the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters where I will be talking about all things Mahabharata for three days--well, ONE of the days I will be talking about the Mahabharata, the rest of the time I will be listening, and reading and writing in Kerala. I used to live in Trivandrum, you know, from age seven to age nine, we had this lovely house on the top of a hill and the back of beyond, with this sort of terraced garden, where the lowest level, furtherest away from the house was basically given over to wildlife since we had no gardener, and once I saw a pheasant emerge from the long grass and fly out, shrieking. Level two was where there was this large granite structure, which was apparently used to scrub clothes back in the day, and level one was the garden closest to the house, and sometimes snakes would come out of the grass and come inside the house to curl up next to the glass panes for warmth. Usually rat snakes but once a cobra, and while I was sitting on the back steps once I saw what I thought was a skipping rope in the leaves and bent down to pick it up but then it MOVED and I'm fairly sure it was a coral snake, Which is non-venomous if you get treated immediately, if not, it causes breathing problems. It's amazing how lucky I am to be alive a 36, when you think of how careless I was through my entire life.

Another nice thing about the Trivandrum house was the slope-y roof, we used to climb up there and sit and watch the sunset. It was fairly lonely, not many children, and my school was too far away to invite anyone home comfortably, so I lived a solitary existence with my dog Bobo, named for Boris Becker, and the sometimes company of Bipin and Bindya, two very unsatisfactory playmates who lived next door but had zero imagination, and kept all their toys and games locked up in a "showpiece cupboard" so we had to ask their mother for permission each time we wanted to play, which sort of ruined it. Bipin was also this stolid little boy, very into rules and being proper, and he chaperoned his little sister very strictly, even leading her away when he thought I was a bad influence. I remember him saying to me, "You are a bad girl" as he took Bindya by the hand and steered her home. I could never stay angry with them too long though, because they were the only children I knew, but I did neglect them each time better company came along--my cousins visited or the lady next door had her grandson come to stay.

I liked the lady next door though, even though her dogs were two toy pomeranians who had to be shut away from Bobo's incessant need to get at them. Her house always smelt musty and sweet, there was too much furniture in an interesting sort of way, something to look at each time you went inside, and she lent me Rupert books, which are these poetry-stories of a bear who is always good and doing good deeds, but he's a bear, so it's less irritating.

Trivandrum also had a fantastic library, the children's section was well stocked and smelt also nicely satisfactory of old books, with large wooden shelves that you had to stare up, up, up at. Reading Matilda by Roald Dahl later, I pictured that library each time I read about hers. I used to borrow these retellings of biographies of famous people as children, of which I remember nothing, except the fact that they existed. I wonder if that library is still there--it must be, and yet, I don't think I'm going to visit only to find that it wasn't as big or as beautiful as I remember. Some things are better when you remember them from a child's perspective--how full of wonder the world was, how you felt small and dwarfed by the infinite world, how a skipping rope could magically turn into a snake, how when you played at "restaurants," you could serve bacon by putting some water on a dried leaf and tilting your head a little to see the resemblance.

Ah, but that was almost thirty years ago.

This week in books and reading: I didn't know very much about MFK Fisher except that she was a food writer, and her writing looked really good, so I put The Gastronomical Me into my Amazon Wishlist and finally bought it recently. Short essays about her life in food, especially Dijon where she moved with her young husband and lived for a bit. Most people talking about food is very boring, but if it's done right, like Fisher does it, you are transported. Putting it into my books column this week, and highly recommend to you all.

This week in socialising: One of those ordinary extraordinary weeks, where you can't really say where you've been and what you've been doing, but you managed to catch up with so many friends, and you feel refreshed and happy and at peace with the world. Many drinks and confessions, one child's birthday party in a park, sitting around dining tables, shining warmly at the people across from you, your third glass of wine... nothing to specifically  recommend, except all of it. Call your friends. Have an impromptu (or promptu!) dinner party where no one is in a hurry to go anywhere and your phones are forgotten in your bags, and the last of winter blows outside.

Monday link list!
When Mr Ahmed told the hospital superintendent about his wife's suspicion, she told him that his wife was mentally ill and needed psychiatric help. Mr Ahmed then filed a right to information petition, seeking details of all the babies born around 07:00 that day in the hospital.
- This story about babies switched at birth in Assam has a happy-ish ending, but this particular paragraph was horrifying. Imagine being told you're INSANE for suspecting your baby isn't your own. What if her husband hadn't been supportive?
Why didn’t you enjoy your childhood?
I don’t think I enjoyed childhood. I wasn’t child material.
You just felt disenfranchised by the whole experience of being a child.
I was like a short adult waiting to get to the other side of the party. I never wanted to play. I can remember being really small, like 4 or 5. And those horses outside the grocery store that you put a nickel in, you know what I’m talking about? And my mother would always say, “Oh, do you want to ride the horse?” And I would always think, “That would be so mortifying!” I thought that when I was five, that seems really weird to me. I wasn’t natural as a child. Whereas I think as I get older… I think at eighty…I will be fabulous at eighty.
Since I've been reading Ann Patchett AND the archives of The Hairpin which was just shut down last week, this interview with her IN the Hairpin is excellent.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.
- This from February by Margaret Atwood and MORE poems for cat people.
Without a plan, I kept going to New Vasantashram every day. I’d go at different times of the day so my staff couldn’t guess when I was coming and I could find out what was actually going on. I learned about the business just by observing. We had fixed check-in and check-out times, but our guests didn’t adhere to that. The first change I made was adding another column to our register with the time they actually left. This simple change stirred things up. My staff realized that I was pushing for more accountability and that they would have to pick up the slack. I made it clear that I’m the boss.
- I would watch a movie based on this article about a woman who took over her father's guest lodge in Crawford Market and turned it into something trendy and still true to its roots.
The majority of Instapoetry [...] is almost exclusively a banal vessel of self-care, equivalent to an affirmation, designed for young women of a certain privileged position and disposition, one that is entirely self-absorbed. The genre’s batheticisms remove specificity, to avoid alienation, supplanting them with the sort of platitude you find on a department store tea towel. Because this is what Instapoetry is—it is not art, it is a good to be sold, or, less, regrammed. Its value is quantity not quality.
- This link is for my mother who went up to Rupi Kaur at JLF and said, "Oh my daughter is a huge fan!" and then couldn't understand why I was all "OH MY GOD YOU DIDN'T."

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