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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13 December 2023

The Internet Personified: December Link List

maximum beloveds!

Here is my last link list of the year—it’s a good one, but not like literally “the best things I read online all year” because who has time for that? Besides I’m still busy composing my “best books” missive to you all. That I’m a little slow on, because I’m still reading frantically, but who knew I’d read so many good things in 2023? It’s been a good year for books in general and for me reading in particular (Yellowface? Demon Copperhead? The Bee Sting? Good lord, what riches) but this is not that, this is just a collection of my December links sent out to you all with seasonal cheer and so on.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time in the Longreads archive, so some of these articles are old but still amazing.

A reminder: if you like what I do, if you open this newsletter as soon as you see it, if you wish there were more more more Internet Personifieds, once a week even, please buy me a coffee! It’s also my birthday today so a nice way to get the year started (for me, being born in December means I count my new year from the 13th and not the 31st.)

buy me a coffee!

  • This month, I have given myself the gift of exercise with a subscription to Urban Sports Club, which operates this side of the world and offers you a daily class on the basis of your subscription. I have a Medium plan which means I can check in to a class once a day but in a particular centre only four times a month, which suits me. So far I’ve done a lot of yoga and also joined a hula hoop dance class. This system works for me because I am very commitment phobic and enjoy a variety of things. Dance is so fun, and one nice thing about getting older is that I no longer care (much) about looking like a fool. So lots of dance workshops in my future. Here’s a link you can use to sign up and treat yourself. (My referral code is MM08471, we both get discounts after month three if we use it.)

  • Another gift to myself has been a Mubi subscription because they had a sale on and were selling a year-long one for half price. I usually read to get inspired, but I don’t really watch that many movies that aren’t quote unquote blockbusters. They have a super curated list which I find less stressful than Netflix or Prime because they do their own summaries as well as the film summary as well as link reviews below, so I don’t have to navigate out and search Rotten Tomatoes for hours before I decide to watch something. In Germany, they also bundle a Mubi Go subscription into your regular one so you get one free film ticket a week. I only found this out last week, and the offer ends in 2024, so I quickly went and watched How To Have Sex which is a beautiful film about a young woman going on holiday with her two best friends and also the ideas of sexuality at that age. It made me very pensive, as did Aftersun, another movie I watched on the platform which I can’t stop thinking about. I haven’t regretted a single movie I watched via Mubi, which is saying something because I’m extremely picky. Here’s a link to sign up—we both get a free month if you join via that link.

  • Another subscription I have—not new, because I’ve been paying for this since it launched—is Splainer. It’s this incredible news round-up, with an India focus, but they also analyse stories and give you links to read more about them. Plus a fun weekend edition as well. Well-worth the money, and once again, here’s my referral link so you can have a free one month subscription.

  • Newsletter reader and journalist Bhavya Dore sent me a link to a podcast she worked on called Friend of the Court. In Bhavya’s words: “It's a narrative account of India's most important legal case: Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, both the story that unfolded in court, as well as the off-stage drama and the events that led up to and followed from it. It's a legal story but meant for a broader audience.” I listened to the first episode recently and was hooked. You can find them all here.

  • “Like most human beings, I grew up making the connection between food and love; what I began to realize when I started cooking for myself was that the more necessary connection was between food and honesty. My parents were both charmingly dishonest people; my father's lies were such that he couldn't admit them except to urge me to develop, like him, "a little larceny in your soul," but my mother could, since most of her lies were about food. "Oh, I'm a terrible fibber," she'd say, and then blithely assert that the Mott's applesauce she'd doctored with lemon and cinnamon was "homemade" or that she'd spent "hours over a hot stove" cooking the package of frozen Banquette fried-chicken drumsticks on our plates.” - From My Mom Couldn’t Cook by Tom Junod, a 2011 James Beard award winning article that I liked a lot because I’m saturated, SATURATED, by stories of all these amazing grandmas and mas who cooked amazingly and never complained.

  • “This is the ethical core of who I am and what I do, yet the ethics of food writing don't end there. I'm also extremely aware of my behavior in restaurants. I try to be diplomatic and considerate. Never in my professional life has anyone in the restaurant business questioned my conduct. Not until I ate my third meal at M. Wells.” - From Alan Richman’s review of the restaurant M Wells, a really old piece of food gossip which nevertheless got me thinking about service in restaurants these days and how we should rate that akin to food. I’ve been to some RUDE bars here in Berlin and suffice it to say, no matter how nice the place, I’m never going back.

  • “It turned out I had it backward. The secret to writing success goes deeper than on-the-job training. It requires a willingness to pursue your monomanias wherever they lead. It requires, Weisberg eventually divulged, finding a good enemy. “When I was younger, having an enemy gave me a purpose, because the purpose is to fight the enemy,” he told me. “It’s hard to describe how alluring that was. If you have an enemy, everything makes sense.” There it was: scratch the affability, uncover a gladiator. If I wanted to understand Weisberg, and maybe human creativity generally, I realized I’d have to understand the symbolic function of The Enemy.” From The Spy Who Dumped The CIA, Went To Therapy and Now Makes Incredible Television by Laura Kipnis, an incredible profile of Joe Weisberg, creator of The Americans, which I watched last year with my mum and K, and really got into.

  • “Maybe all of us, whether guided by God or by science, secretly want to be the ones living in the end times, as though it bestows some epic importance upon our little lives. But what if there is no ultimate annihilation, but instead a million daily deaths, literal or figurative, that no one quite notices? The vultures’ disappearance is catastrophic, yes, but the ability to adapt is stunning. Or terrifying. Or both. No matter how bad things get, how many species get wiped from the earth in humanity’s steady march of population and progress, the living go on. Those species that disappear are erased from the bio-narrative of the planet and forgotten within a generation that only knows of what came before through chance encounters at museum exhibits, a grandmother’s knee, or a picture on a computer screen. Already, there are children turning into teenagers in India who have never seen a vulture, though their parents knew skies filled with swirling kettles of the scavengers for most of their lives.” - From India’s Vanishing Vultures by Meera Subramaniam circa 2015, but these lines stood out for me. Don’t we all want to be in the dramatic pause of the end times? And what if the end comes not with a bang but a whimper?

  • “Let me tell you about a thing that happens to me all the time when I’m reading. I’m reading a book that’s been recommended to me or that I’m excited about. These days, because I’ve been writing a novel, I’ve been reading mostly fiction by Americans published in the last twenty-years; often I’m reading fiction that has been published in the last two years or that isn’t even out yet. I’m loving the book, I’m appreciating its rich characters, its humor, the snappiness of its prose. And then the book says something about fat people or fatness that is hateful or reductive and it’s like—record scratch. It totally takes me out of the book and I have to decide whether or not to keep going. Will whatever insight this book might offer me about a character or a place or an idea be worth wading through the author’s baggage about fatness? Unclear.” - From Fatphobia Is The Literary World’s Last Frontier by Emma Copley Eisenberg which really got me thinking about some books that I’ve previously loved.

  • “Wood’s favourite flavour is salt and vinegar, but I think her personality is more prawn cocktail – sweet but punchy with her blond bob, floaty floral skirt and silver-studded trainers. In the past two decades, her work has taken her everywhere. Before Doritos launched in India five years ago, she took a “culinary trek” across the northern city of Lucknow, trying different pilaus, meats and breads from street food stalls. She relies on knowledge from local PepsiCo teams, so that if she says, “I think I can taste cardamom,” they can clarify: “It’s roasted green cardamom, actually.”” - From Inside The Surprisingly Secretive World of Crisps Flavours by Amelia Tate. I used to really enjoy Uncle Chipps’ Papdi Chaat flavour but as I grew older, it was only plain salted for me, slightly oily, slightly soggy. In Berlin, the supermarket we frequent the most often does the best salt and vinegar own brand chips I’ve had, extra vinegar, slightly sweet, very salty. I get these for a treat because I can go through a bag in an evening.

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  • “Beyond these incidents, German politicians have seemingly competed among themselves to see who can promote anti-antisemitism the loudest — and who can be the harshest on the Muslim minority. Nancy Faeser, a government cabinet minister, urged that the government “use all legal means to deport Hamas supporters.” The leader of Germany’s center-right party, the Christian Democratic Union, Friedrich Merz declared, “Germany cannot accept any more refugees. We have enough antisemitic men in this country.” Scholz, the chancellor, piled on: “Too many are coming,” he said. “We must finally deport on a grand scale.”” - From The crackdown on pro-Palestinian gatherings in Germany by Isaac Bernstein. It’s been an odd schizophrenic time here in Germany. Most people agree that the ongoing attacks on Gaza are terrible and must be stopped, but the Germans also carry with them a great amount of German Guilt which cannot be erased. These two points of view are leading to a lot of conflicts, both in private conversations and in public.

  • “For me, good literature investigates morality. It stares unrelentingly at the behavior of its characters without requiring righteousness. The problem these days with a vast amount of fiction (and its criticism) is that morality is treated as if it were mathematically precise, obvious, undeniable, and eternal. It is none of those things. Morality evolves, devolves and evolves again. It is not a rule that comes from outside of ourselves, as when the Ten Commandments supposedly floated down to the top of a mountain into the hands of Moses. That’s fiction, too, folks, as if the Bible were a very good book of magical realism, written by Garcia Marquez. Truth does not have to be literal. It can arrive at reality, dressed in a dream. Paradoxically, fiction is often truer than journalism in regard to the nature of life, even though it is largely invented, aka “fiction.” And genuine morality, as opposed to contemporary etiquette, arises from within us, over time, with thought, with feeling, and, crucially… with curiosity. In Buddhist meditation, for example, curiosity leads to a greater and more generous awareness.” - From The Life, Death—And Afterlife—of Literary Fiction by Will Blythe. No question, the internet is changing the way we write—and the way we read. It scares me sometimes. No, it scares me often. In my old(er) age, I’m retreating further and further away from the lure of social media at least, but I can’t help worry that this will actually sell even fewer books than I have already.

  • “All told, there are many questions that 42 is clearly the answer to, but only a few of those questions have fundamental, universal, or cosmic implications. If it truly is the answer to the ultimate question about life, the Universe, and everything, we owe it to ourselves to try and reconstruct just what that question might be. From mathematics to physics, five vital questions emerge that legitimately have 42 as their answer.” - From 42 really is the answer to these 5 fundamental questions by Ethan Siegel because obvs.

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Postscripts: On the adaptability of jays. ~ Reels might influence the next Indian election (yikes.) ~ Love Actually turns 20 (yikes again). ~ On the normporn ways of Gilmore Girls. ~ Invite all your friends to all your parties. ~ The hidden language of cats. ~ Humans have two noses.

That’s a season wrap on links of the week! I’ll send you one last newsletter this month with my best books picks and then we’ll speak again in 2024.



Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of eight books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.

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