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



Sign up for my newsletter: The Internet Personified

23 September 2022

The Internet Personified: Paging all passengers

Greetings my green bananas,

I was going to draw this newsletter for you, a very ambitious project, but I’ve fallen out of practise with my Wacom, so I’ll need to do a few practice runs before I get down to it.

Thanks for reading The Internet: Personified ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

I am back from one trip and about to leave for India in a week, so this is a Very Brief Berlin Interlude, which was made even briefer by the fact that I had an editing deadline, and had to finish off all my Soft Animal edits before I returned to India. It’s coming together! I’ve been looking at some cover designs, and everything looks so GORGEOUS, I can’t wait to share the final version with you. It’s only out in March, so you might be surprised by all the advance work we’ve got to do, but these things have a six month lead in time, so everything basically has to be ready to go when it is actually March. Exciting though. I feel like I haven’t had a new novel out in ages so all this feels familiar, like an old house I’m returning to but also brand new, because each book has its own fate, as my mum always says, so who knows where this one will go. I’m going to need all of you to mash that pre-order link as soon as it’s up because that will rocket up my ranking on Amazon (which in India is a necessary evil) and then make my book visible to a lot more people. OK? Thank you!


Holidays are kind of weird if you think about them. You leave your flat, the most comfortable place in the entire world and for what? To stuff three weeks worth of clothes into a tiny suitcase which you then drag around with you on unfamiliar public transport, sleeping in unfamiliar beds, dealing with unfamiliar weather… it makes you wonder why anyone does it. Now, of course, we are in the year 2022, we have jets and Google maps and cheap deals and friends around the world, but why did anyone do it when tourists first started becoming a thing? I suppose if you were rich, it was a chance to be rich somewhere else, always nice for a change of scene, but the middle class didn’t actually travel much until the rise of the cheap package holiday. That’s this side of the world. Indians are roamers, in general, if it’s checking off a “top ten temples” tour or going to spend months with a cousin or an uncle in a city you don’t live in, or just, I don’t know, driving ten hours to look at one waterfall just because it’s there.


I’m now writing this from Munich airport, on my way back to Delhi for what I hope will be my final visa run of this entire protracted move to Germany. At last I have an appointment, but it’s on the second of November. However, my Schengen visa has finally finished (you can do three months at a stretch on it) so it’s not so much time I returned and more well, I guess I should get out of here. The nice thing about flying back to India, my home country, issuer of my passport, is that I never have to say much at immigration, where normally I have to bend over backwards to prove that I’m in the country legally and not planning to overstay or any of those things. With a homebound flight, it’s just stamp-and-have-a-nice-day all the way through.

I’ve been up since 4.15 this morning, and so my day has taken on a certain dreamy hazy quality. Two cups of coffee (and one connecting flight from Berlin to Munich) (and, ok, two ciggies, Munich might have a pretty basic airport compared to Frankfurt, but it does have rather nice smoking lounges) and I am awake in that jittery sort of way that you know is not true alertness, it’s just riding out the caffeine high till I crash again. Which is why, forgive me any disjointed sentences or typos.


Next to me is an Indian man on the phone, talking in Hindi. We’re on the same flight, but he doesn’t know it. He’s saying, “Make mutton and two rotis, I’ll be back late.” He also doesn’t know this is the same dinner I’ll be eating at 1.30 in the morning, just like him.

I really love airports. I was reading by the gates a little earlier, and I saw signs for Rio and for Toronto, and just for a second, allowed myself to get drawn into the magic of it all, look at all these (tired) people going places I’ve never been. Look at those words: Rio De Janeiro, just there, within grasping distance, the world so close and so far away all at the same time.


I’ve been thinking about accents. Specifically mine. In England, the nice thing was that everything was in my first language, which made things ridiculously simple. Almost too simple, like you weren’t really travelling, or playing a game on easy mode instead of hard. And life should be easy when you travel, but I’m so used to being in places where there’s one life for the local language speakers and another for us tourists that this was weird. You mean I just say something how I’d always say it and everyone will understand me? I was so used to being in Germany that I asked K, “How do you say ‘extra spicy’ in English?” And then we both realised and laughed. After a few days, this was delightful though. I understood everything! EVERYTHING!

But this also meant a few notes about my accent, which really only ever has happened to me in England before. I guess it’s normal, we’re all speaking the same language so the only thing that you notice is the way I pronounce things. But all the comments were how “Anglicised” I sounded, which made me think about the way we (my friends and I) speak. It’s a flat sort of English accent, I don’t think the people commenting meant “Anglicised” per se, I think they meant a lack of an accent or at least the lack of an accent one would associate with India. It’s a standard accent for People Like Us, your (yes) privileged urban South Asian lot, flat because we learnt accentless English in school, and then, depending on your pop culture consumption, with a smattering of American or English influences. The past year in Berlin has made me slow down my speech a lot (when I get excited, I talk fast, but then people can’t understand me) so I guess you’re hearing the accent more, or the lack of it at any rate. I’m not sure, I can’t hear myself. I have a few Delhi peculiarities specific to my accent, for eg: emphasising the second last word in a question (“are you coming tomorrow?”), elongating words (“noooo ya”) or the odd way of expressing enthusiasm with your words but not with your tone: “oh, you’re kidding. that’s insane.” I’d like to do a whole study on it, see how our speech patterns vary across metros, what marks a Delhi accent vs a Bombay one or how differently they speak English in Pakistan. It would be interesting.

Here’s where I’m going to toss in a random comment button and ask you to tell me about your accent: the things you can notice anyway!

Leave a comment


A tall businessman tried to cut in front of us in the security line today, but he was catching the same flight as us, so I yelled at him in English and K yelled at him in German but he ignored us and sidled into the line all the while with this little smile playing around the corners of his mouth and finally K (exasperated) said, “Are you going to a funeral?” and he said, “Yup” but he was totally lying so I was very happy when I made it to the boarding gate ahead of him. (OK, maybe he wasn’t lying, but he just looked smug and glad he was making us stand behind him in line and we were literally on the same flight so I don’t know why he thought cutting ahead of us was such a great idea.)

I actually really like queues, they’re orderly and have some reason to them but I don’t think I’d stand in one for an event (like the queen dying for instance). I don’t know why I said that, I’m lying, I don’t “really like” queues, but if there’s a situation where there’s a lot of people swarming to get into one narrow entrance, and I have to be in this situation, I prefer that we stand in line, but I get super angry, like Red Mist of Rage angry with people who queue jump. In Delhi there’s always some random older woman just casually lalalala strolling to the head of the line and everyone just lets her, but not me. I’m always, “THE LINE IS OVER HERE” which makes me one of those “the line is over here” people but you know what, in this world you eventually get put into one bracket of convention or another, so this might as well be mine.


Now that I’ve been in therapy so long (and I’m now doing it twice a week, which feels like overkill to me, but my analyst said we weren’t really moving forward with once a week sessions, and traditionally analysis is several times a week, but how much do I have to say?) I can see a common theme in this newsletter, even though I’ve broken it up into sections, which is why I’m in analysis in the first place: to know the human mind so that I can write about it, and so I used the closest human mind I had: my own. The theme, in case you can’t see it, is belonging, and not belonging, and trespasses, and outsiders, and common ground. Soon, I will be in the country of my birth, and I will feel odd and alien there at some level and I will also feel at home like I don’t outside it, and another good thing about therapy is being able to be comfortable with two different feelings at once and not have to choose a side.


Chalo, I’m going to wrap this up because I’ve been desperate to send this for weeks and my flight is nearly boarding so if I don’t send this now I’ll have to wait another day. I’ll write to you guys much more regularly, so expect something soon. Buy me a coffee if you feel like tipping, I live, she says sweeping an arm dramatically, off your generosity.

Buy me a coffee


THE LINK SECTION WHICH ONLY 10% OF YOU READ, WHICH IS ODD, BECAUSE I PERSONALLY LOVE LINKS AND ALSO RECOMMENDING THEM

The billionaire yogi behind Modi’s rise.

What about whataboutism?

An adoptee from Sri Lanka goes in search of his birth family.

The best Harry Potter novel wasn’t written by JK Rowling.

Holy cow capitalism.

That’s my very sleepy airport update! Have a great week.

xx

m

Subscribe now

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

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (Plus my book recommendation Instagram!)

Got sent this newsletter? Sign up here to subscribe!

Forward to your friends if you liked this and to red eye flights if you didn’t.

Also, write back to me! I love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading The Internet: Personified ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

24 August 2022

Today in Photo


London got off to a good start. Went looking for a pub which would still serve (was midnight, unlike Berlin, this city closes early) and stumbled upon an old phone booth turned into a library. I broke the rules, you're supposed to leave a book behind if you take one but I don't HAVE a book and I wanted to reread Jane Eyre so I left clutching it. The pub was closing, alas, but I do have a book now so that's something. #london #traveldiaries

via Instagram

22 August 2022

Today in Photo


Night walks in Berlin. Last night the Bundestag was lit up (that big dome) and as I walked past it I heard "apple bottom jeans, boots with the furrrrr" so I thought it was some new club I hadn't heard of but when I messaged my friend whose house I'd just had dinner at she said it was open house at the parliament building that evening. Next year even I will go and dance to cheesy music with the chancellor (not sure exactly what happens at an open house but I feel like this could be accurate for Berlin.) #berlinna #bundestag #alittlenightwalking #citystreets

via Instagram

21 August 2022

Today in Photo


Berlin photo dump for July. The summer is sort of over, I have classical music on and feeling kinda melancholy that I won't see so many friends for so long. Featuring @ishygeee, @tarunsridharan and @supriyasodhi plus Andrew not on Instagram. Hard to be global friends but also nice that with all these friendships/cousinships you can pick up right where you last left off. Senti old Sunday. #berlinna #photodump

via Instagram

18 August 2022

Today in Photo


Newsletter this week is about returning to a place of past trauma and now I've written about it, I'm really excited about going. England! We get a second chance! Link in bio or mrm.substack.com #newsletter #theinternetpersonified

via Instagram

17 August 2022

The Internet Personified: A little early trauma

Marvellous Monsteras,

I have been to London two times before. It’s not a lot in my well-travelled circles, some of my friends know London really well, some know it enough to feel nostalgia for it, and I haven’t even gotten close to finding a single London secret. The fact is: London has always felt inaccessible to me, in an odd way. Intimidating. The sky grey, the accents clipped. Not cheerful.

Thanks for reading The Internet: Personified ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

Of course, when my dad and I went, it was February. No one likes anyone in February in this part of the world. We’d just come from a conference he was doing in Paris, a quick stop in London to see my uncle and aunt and cousins. It was cold. It was rainy. We stayed in, mostly. I bought a large wool coat from Next (where is that coat?) on sale in a basement somewhere. There was a very tourist-y shop selling all sorts of dinky things (Beatles posters, Keep Calm And Carry On thingummies) and I bought my friend a mug featuring—weirdly—Elvis Presley. It said “The King Lives” and when you poured hot liquid into it, it said, “The King Lives In My Heart.” [We bought presents for each other in those days, whenever we travelled abroad. It was a nice tradition, I should bring it back. But you know, you get most things in India now, what is so special about anything I pack up from here, apart from the fact that I bought it in Germany? Oh sure, the odd fridge magnet here and there, but remember when your friends travelled and brought you, oh, I don’t know: cute tops or travel hair dryers, or colourful bandaids?]

Anyway London did not leave a very deep and lasting impression on me that first time. Not like my first time in another English speaking metropolis: New York. Now, I loved New York, the last and only time I’ve been there, age 18, freshly graduated from high school. New York was busy and loud, but seemed oddly, more open to holding me within it than London ever did. I did a lot of touristy things in New York, and I did them alone too, because I was staying with a cousin who lived outside the city on a college campus. I walked down the streets like a cliche of every character in one of those “I’ve moved to New York City and I’m ready to conquer it!” movies.

Why am I suddenly going on about London? We’re visiting for a few weeks at the end of this month. My time in the Schengen area is almost up, so we’re extending a little by going to the UK in the middle. (BUT! My visa woes are ALMOST OVER! Finally got an appointment for early November so by next year Germany and I can make it official.)

(Our last house guests for this month arrive tomorrow, and after they go, it’s a quick round of pack and also prepare the cat sitter for everything, which reminds me, we have still not gotten a vet in our area, because knock on wood, the cats are pretty healthy, but I feel like it would be a good idea to register with one before we go in case of emergency so I think we’ll sling Olga into a cage and trot on down the road to where I saw a vet’s office.) (Don’t worry, I also checked out the Google reviews, and this person has great recommendations. The only negative feedback is “they’re too busy!” or “they don’t speak English!” both of which don’t have a bearing on how they are as vets, you know?) (I found a cat sitter off this Facebook group called “Dog & Cat Sitting Berlin” where people who miss their pets often are happy to stay with animals for a few weeks for that Pet Experience. A Facebook group is also how I made two friends here, so you see, it is still useful for something, though my feed has long stopped giving me life updates of friends and not-really-friends-but-added-on-Facebook-so-long-ago-I-can-no-longer-unfriend-them and instead is serving me exclusively weirder and weirder “crafts” videos. Like it started out okay, the crafts were normal, but then one day I watched this whole video about a woman who split her skirt when she bent down and her colleague came and said “Don’t worry I’ll fix it” but then the woman takes off her blazer and the colleague is like “phew! You stink!” and gives her a makeover using scissors and an umbrella, while saying, “I’m doing high fashion” and all this while, the boss, who is just ONE DESK AWAY, keeps saying, “Hurry up for the meeting!” and she’s like, “One sec!” and finally she emerges, cut up skirt and umbrella top and everything, and he’s like, “You look nice, were you wearing that this morning?” and she smiles and gives a thumbs up to her scissor wielding colleague. And now I’m exclusively seeing videos about cement being poured on plastic bottles to create… something.)

But I’m not just visiting London, we will be staying with friends in different parts of the country, however I’d like for London to be the majority of the trip. K is organising it, he spent many years living there as a teenager and then later as a grown up, so this is really his holiday and I’m just going along for the ride. (If you live in London and want to hang out at some point, let me know!) I’m even looking forward to it, it’s going to be strange to be in an English speaking foreign country after so long, like, you know, I’ll understand all the street signs! And the announcements! And the understanding will be a little odd! (As I was telling my friend G who was visiting last week: I like that I can’t understand most German, because then it just becomes white noise, the sounds outside, the people I walk past, the supermarket etc. I have to actively switch on my brain to have a conversation in German, whereas in England, I’ll have to switch it off so I’m not pricking up my ears at every overheard conversation. But don’t you like eavesdropping you’re thinking, and sure, sure I do, but it also makes me extremely judgy.) Also England on the whole is so much more expensive than Berlin (I mean, hotels here are expensive but otherwise eating and drinking is as expensive as Delhi, and sometimes cheaper. Okay, Delhi is a ridiculously expensive city, the prices make me cry, but after crying all these years when friends go to fancy bars and restaurants, Berlin prices don’t make me bat an eyelid. London is like double that. I Googled “budget bars in London” and all the lists were “here’s where you can get cocktails for 10 pounds” and I’m like “EXCUSE ME? TEN pounds? That is NINE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX rupees. Call that a budget drink?” By contrast, in Berlin on average, you’d pay about 300-400 rupees for a glass of wine, 200-300 for a beer and 500-700 for a cocktail.)

Several days later: I stopped writing this newsletter halfway through, and then my friends arrived, and so I have been in a whirlwind. However, this morning, a free morning before we have to go select a new faucet for our kitchen sink—the old one broke unceremoniously—I have some time. Not clarity of thought, mind. My brain is full of things that are unrelated to each other, but the only way sometimes to get any writing done is to pick your way through a blizzard of thoughts.

Anyway, England. London. The last time I was there was in 2010, under very different circumstances. I was dating this man, and he had just asked me to marry him. I don’t think I loved him, and there were several moments in our relationship where I actually paused and thought, “Wait, why am I doing this?” And yet, I stuck with that relationship for three years. THREE YEARS. We fought constantly, I was frequently sad. Even now, looking back, I can’t remember good times. There must have been surely, some periods, when I felt light hearted and full of love? But all I remember is walking on eggshells, any moment could set off a fight, any nice afternoon with other people could so quickly turn cold as soon as we were alone. But when he asked me to marry him, I thought, wearily, “Why not?” I only remembered this later, mind you. In the moment, I performed every single thing one is supposed to perform when they get engaged. I waved my ring around (we chose it together, a thin ring with tiny diamonds in a circle, so pretty. But I remember the salesman who sold it to us saying, “There’s a good return policy.” And at the time I thought that was so crass, how can you say, “There’s a good return policy” to a couple starting on a new journey? But maybe he saw something in our faces, or his at least, because by now I had bought entirely into the fiction that this was all extremely delightful for me) I had a small engagement party, I told everyone, my mum started thinking about venues, you know, the whole shebang.

I was pretending so hard, I had no idea how I actually felt. I would’ve married him too, probably unhappily, maybe had a baby to “fix” things, maybe be divorced by now, but stuck to him forever because of the child? There but for the grace of god and so on. I had no self-preservation instincts at this point, everything that was happening felt like it was happening to me, like I had no choice but to drift.

Example: we are staying in his parents house a little outside London. I’ve come to make a long visit so they can get to know me since we’re, like, getting married. Halfway through this, he tells me, “Whenever I think of getting married, I feel sick.” Are we broken up? Our engagement certainly is. No one has filled in his family, and I feel too far away from mine to say anything. A healthy person would pack a bag and leave. One of my closest friends had just gotten married and lived in a flat in London. My uncle and aunt live there. I could have gone anywhere, I could have chosen myself, instead of holding on to whatever tattered remnants remained of our relationship. I told myself I was being loyal, but I think I was so isolated at this point, I truly felt like this was normal. You went on a holiday engaged, you became unengaged, but the relationship still existed? And for some reason, ending the relationship was the ultimate betrayal? I didn’t want to make a fuss.

This is turning out not to be about England at all, but you know how sometimes when you are unhappy or uncomfortable somewhere, it becomes what you feel about the place? We did do a lot those two months: Brighton and Cornwall. Too few trips up to London for my liking, but his mother and I did make a trip to Hampton Court. I met people I wouldn’t normally have met, and did things I wouldn’t normally have done. And then I went home to Bombay and six (SIX!) months later, finally called it quits. My mother had to come to Bombay and physically extricate me, because I was still stuck, unable to leave, and dying as I stayed. I was done with England. I had no desire to visit again. It was cold. It was unhappy. It was hostile.

But now here I am, returning. Twelve years have passed since I was that young woman, twelve excellent formative years. Of course, this time I’m travelling with K, and we are home no matter where we are, but also, I’m forty. I’ve been places, I’ve done things. No one can intimidate me again without expecting pushback.

There was one night in England, where I lay there, wide awake and lonelier than I’d ever been before or since, and I thought, “I’d rather be single than have to keep doing this.”

Why am I writing this, I thought just now, and then I realised. I’m writing this for you, if you need a sign that things get better, that you can come out on the other side, happier and healthier and undamaged, consider this that sign.

Of course, there’s a chance that all of you are extremely happy and healthy people already who have been to London multiple times, in which case, please send me tips.

Leave a comment


If you liked this newsletter please buy me a coffee! It would be nice to make some money because my book edits are going very slowly *sobs in writer’s block*

BUY ME A COFFEE


LINKS I LIKED (& ONE I WROTE)

In my sometimes-funny sometimes-column for the Economic Times about service industries in Germany vs India.

The best death scenes from classical literature to pop culture is such a fun list.

Using dog walking to learn French. (I wonder if this would work in German.)

The dystopia of Sao Paolo.

Have a great week!

xx

m

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

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (Plus my book recommendation Instagram!)

Got sent this newsletter? Sign up here to subscribe!

Forward to your friends if you liked this and to your worst ex if you didn’t.

Also, write back to me! I love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading The Internet: Personified ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

15 August 2022

Today in Photo


Just a monkey looming over Boxi. (But really celebrating both Austrian artist Gabriel von Max and his most famous painting "Monkeys As Art Critics" from which this is a detail. von Max, I find from further Googling, really liked painting monkeys, I mean so much that if you knew him back then you'd be like "oh the monkey guy." He owned a capuchin monkey which he then bred in Munich and then painted them all both living and dead.) Anyway this was just street art when I saw it and photographed it yesterday but now I'm looking at the wise little face of the monkey looking down on all of us and thinking "Huh. This shit is deep." Who's judging me, Monkey? #graffiti #streetart #berlinna #boxhagnerplatz

via Instagram

13 August 2022

Today in Photo


Giving Wednesday Addams vibes in this photo but really I was feeling quite cheerful in my new red dress. Bought this FabIndia dress last time I was in Delhi but it was too thick to wear during the Heatwave From Hell so carried it to Berlin with the tags still on, waiting for the right occasion. Girl's night yesterday seemed perfect and we were going to eat Mexican and this dress sort of reminded me of Mexico so I added a pearl choker and felt like a Lady. #whatiworetoday

via Instagram

12 August 2022

Today in Photo


Reddys underground. #cousins

via Instagram

Today in Photo


Some little drawings I did recently without a plan while I was watching TV so I guess their technical term is "doodle" but really they're free association what's in my brain situations. Pleased with the brush pen look. #sketch #drawing #abstract #shapes #nudewithchickenlegs

via Instagram