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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27 December 2023

The Internet Personified: The Best Books I Read In 2023

My beloved bookworms!

It is here! My annual “these are the best things I read all year.” I’d like to do a little ceremony around each one, because really, we’ve come so far together, but honestly, seeing as it is the 27th of December, right in the middle of Dead Week and you probably have all your reading material lined up already for the rest of your holidays, this newsletter may not excite you as much as it does me, but here we are together anyway for the last time this year so let’s have a good time together.

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Note two: I have linked to Amazon and yes, I used affiliate links but feel free to just use the Amazon page to see the Kindle preview as I do and then just buy the book from your local bookstore/borrow from the library.


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People are always asking me how I manage to read so much and so frequently. Alas, I have no one size fits all answer, but I think it comes down to three basic things:

  1. I count reading as part of writing so any time I spend reading, I tot up to actual novel writing. This is, in effect, my full-time job.

  2. Luckily, reading is also my favourite activity, so I also don’t have to force myself to do it. Abandon my phone in one room while I read in another? Bliss. I also leave my phone on silent literally all the time which my friends know (and sort of hate?). Sorry if there was an emergency! I was reading!

  3. Again, out of my control, but I read really fast. Not speed reading technically, like, I never learned how to do it, but I do manage to inhale a gripping book in about a day if I’m left to my own devices.

And that’s it, really. No magic formula, just spending a large chunk of my free time doing it. I seem to have a lot more free time than most people, perhaps because I don’t do meetings or bother too much about basic domestic admin like, oh, I don’t know, cleaning my house every day. Besides writing (I’m working on a new novel as we speak!), I do a lot of other stuff as well: I’ve taken up exercise again, for instance. I have a healthy social life. I cook almost every day. I watch TV. And yet, with the right juggling, I still have hours on end to devote to reading. Maybe it’s a priority thing, reading has been important to me since I first started doing it. I’ll tell you one thing that has changed though: I am slowing down. There was a time when I could do 200 books a year easily, not counting re-reads. Now, though, I’m only at 117, a respectable figure but a slip from my usual standards. Never mind, 115 was an easy goal to reach even though I meandered all over the place and I think I’ll set the same number for next year.

On to the books!

A Trendy Book Actually Published This Year

Ok, I read a lot of “next big things” this year and most of them left me cold except for Yellowface by RF Kuang. It’s not the best book ever written or anything and the writing is a bit… tacky in some places, not super smooth, felt like it was filler or a last minute addition, but damn, it kept me hooked. A satirical look at the publishing industry? Oh my god. I liked it a lot—but hated the ending. So there’s that.

The Book I’m Not Sure I Enjoyed But Still Think About From Time To Time

Obviously I had to borrow this from my local library because of the title, but this was such an odd little book. Like a fever dream of the city. The narrator almost certainly has an eating disorder, but this is never spelt out. She goes to language school and she languishes in her small sublet. She meets people and is extremely awkward with them. She is frantically, hectically lonely, in a way that almost seems active. It was just weird. I think I actually loved it in retrospect.

The Book That Introduced Me To A Long Dead Author Who I’m Now Going Out Of My Way To Hunt Out

The one Barbara Pym fact I keep trotting out to people is how she was really popular and then she wasn’t and her publishers dropped her so she had a nervous breakdown and stopped writing and I AM THIS CLOSE TO BECOMING BARBARA PYM. (Seriously. Please keep me relevant.) Excellent Women is my favourite kind of British story: an older woman, a “spinster,” and how she lives this ordered little life and then suddenly new people break into it and she does things quite out of the ordinary. Perfection. And so funny.

An Old Book I Read In A New Way Part I

Old time readers of this newsletter will know I came to David Copperfield late but was a swift and ready convert. To read then Demon Copperhead which takes that story and places it among poor white people in rural Appalachia where the opioid crisis looms, my god, what genius. I didn’t expect it to work but it did in a beautiful way and it was such a sad book which shouldn’t surprise me because look at the source material, but still. Lovely.

An Old Book I Read In A New Way Part II

Speaking of sad, this retelling of the Ramayana ends with Sita’s walking through the fire to prove her “purity” (yuck) after Ravana abducts her and it is heartrending. Set in a Mumbai chawl, the characters are all locals in two small buildings abutting each other. Like Demon Copperhead, The Memoirs of Valmiki Rao made me wistful, most of all, for missed potential.

An Old Book I Read In A New Way Part III

Yes, that Anne Frank’s diary. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. I read the original years ago, when I was a teenager myself and yes, I was moved by her story then and eventually, forgot the details until this popped up—another library find—and I found myself curious. A beautiful intricate adaptation, Anne comes to life with the drawings and some bits of her original diary which were censored by her father, her curiosity about her budding sexuality for instance, are brought to life in large full colour panels. The original diary is great, don’t get me wrong, but this graphic novel just elevates it. I promise.

A Trendy Book From Years Gone By That I Only Just Picked Up

And then I read the follow up Candy House which wasn’t half as nice, in fact, I picked it up again earlier this month forgetting if I had already read it. A Visit From The Goon Squad is interconnected short stories of a revolving cast of characters, mostly in the music industry. One stand out story is told entirely through a powerpoint presentation. Another is the story of a young boy on holiday with his father and his father’s new girlfriend. One is told like a tabloid article and harks back to a reference in a previous chapter. It’s so innovative and fun and yes, it was the It Book of its year but it’s not at all dated. Slim enough to fit in your purse as well, I read it on several underground journeys.

The Best Crime Novel Part I

Set in 1974, when Boston had a heatwave and there was trouble over busing black children to white schools, this book is not so much a police procedural as it is a meditation on what it’s like to be poor and without options. Small Mercies unfolds like an origami flower, just as delicate, just as intricate.

The Best Crime Novel Part II

Prep meets podcast, A Secret History meets A Secret Place. This is dark academia, baby, but full of twenty first century references. A teacher goes back to the school she attended as a teenager, takes a podcast class and the students want to investigate what happened to a girl who disappeared years ago. Twist: the girl was the teacher’s roommate. I’d never read Rebecca Makkai before but this made me run for her backlist immediately.

The Best Crime Novel Part III

All the crime novels I’ve picked this year are not exactly Crime Novels. There’s no hardboiled detective talking to suspects and figuring things out. Like I Have Some Questions For You and its true crime podcast, Penance uses a slightly different format to talk about the crime in question: the murder of a teenager by her peers, as interviewed by a true crime writer. There’s Tumblr, there’s bullying, there’s a small town, there are groups of girls who are terrifying. All my favourite things! You already know who did the killing in the beginning, so it’s more a whydunnit than a who, which it turns out, is my favourite kind of crime.

The Best Crime Novel Part IV

How about a Ted Bundy novel that puts the focus on the survivor as opposed to almost worshipping Bundy—an ordinary man who killed people? A fiercely feminist point of view, Bright Young Women featured one of my favourite main characters of all time. Pamela Schumacher, our heroine, firmly takes the narrative away from the serial killer and talks about what he left in his stead, making his victims so human, so real that you want to remember their names not his.

The Best “Light” Book

Although would I call it light? It was funny, it was smart, it gave me a book hangover in the best/worst way: I didn’t want to read anything else. There’s a good but strange marriage, a boy on the autistic spectrum who makes a lot of origami and just a good story. A comforting story. Snuggle up with this book on cold winter nights, it’s warmer than a hot water bottle.

The Best Really Long Novel About A Family

An Irish family breaks apart at the centre of this Booker-shortlisted novel. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different member: the teenage daughter getting in with the wrong crowd and going off to college, the young son who is making questionable friends on the internet, the father who is losing his business, the mother who is wondering how her life turned out this way. About one third into the book I was actually sitting up to take in their family secrets, when I had a few pages left, I was deeply in pain by what we do to the people we love.

The Best Autofiction

There’s one part of this story about a female author who moves back to London after her marriage breaks up that I keep thinking about. She’s at a dinner party and one of the guests tells her that she (the guest) reads so much that she can’t tell whether something has actually happened or whether she read it in a book. This keeps happening to her but there’s a memory of a cocker spaniel she could swear was true, Tiffy. But her husband denies that Tiffy exists, and she thinks she’s going mad, but then she finds a photo of herself with a dog and her husband says, “Oh, Taffy.” Transit is full of moments like this, you stop, you savour, you relish the prose.

The Best Literary Fiction

Delving deep into the past, The Paper Palace starts out with a really complicated but simple premise: Elle has just slept with her best friend, a man she has known with childhood. The present day narrative of the book unfolds over a single day, as Elle tries to make up her mind what to do next. Her husband and three children are on holiday with her, as is her mother, as is the best friend and his wife. The past darts from Elle’s childhood to her early years as an adult, the paper palace in question is a lake house made of cardboard fragments, where her family returns every summer. Everything is so lushly described that by the end of it you could be by that lake, you could be in Elle’s mind, age 4, as she gazes through the bottles in the living room to see her beloved father enter the door.

Bonus Number 16! The Best Book I Published This Year

But don’t listen to me, listen to Sayari Debnath in Scroll: “Soft Animal is about millennial marriage and motherhood, but it is also about how at the heart of it, we are all selfish, vengeful, self-preserving animals who crave touch and softness. While most of us manage to chain this unlikeable animal, in the direst times, we don’t hesitate to let it loose and devour the façade of humanity that we have so carefully built around us. I have rarely come across books by Indian authors that dwell on the rough edges of marriage or unwanted pregnancies, and this might be the only book that does both against the existential threat of the pandemic.”

If you haven’t read it yet, but you like the way I write (and you must because you’re reading this!) here is a link.

What were your favourites this year? Leave me a comment.

Leave a comment

And that’s all from me in twenty twenty three! I wish you all a happy new year, however you’re celebrating and I’ll see you again soon. I might take a little break from this newsletter in January because I’m feeling slightly burnt out but then again I might not so we’ll all see won’t we?



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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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.)

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  • 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.

Follow me on Instagram! (I have a special account for book recommendations)

Forward to your friends if you liked this and to your heartless employer insisting you work just the same as usual even though everyone KNOWS the second half of December is essentially a holiday that you get paid for if you didn’t.

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3 December 2023

The Internet Personified: Life, the Universe and Everything Part II

My dear songbirds,

When we left off last time, I had covered my years and advice from year dot to twenty one. You can read that one here, ICYMI.

Now since December is busy posting time for me—almost time for my Great Books 2023 round-up!—I’m sending you part two in plenty of time and ten days ahead of my actual big birthday!

A reminder: if you look forward to this newsletter, if you open it as soon as it hits your inbox, if you enjoy reading my dispatches from my corner of the world, please buy me a coffee! It’s very little investment and it helps keep me motivated and writing to you.

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When we left off, I was telling you about my twenty first year, when I chose to go on into journalism and abandon a briefly started masters degree in English Literature.

Year Twenty Two: Make financially irresponsible decisions every now and then. I chose to move out of my very comfortable parental abode and into the “real world” with a starting salary of Rs 7,500 (say 75 euros?). This mostly went into my rent, leaving me super broke and super stressed out but I’d done it, I’d moved out without a cushion. The years that followed got easier, I learned to live on my own and run a household, I learned to live with other people who weren’t my parents (only child, see?). It was immensely difficult and immensely rewarding. I think you should find the same thing for yourself.

Year Twenty Three: If you’re going to move into a house with your friends, you’d all better make your expectations clear in the beginning. Otherwise… awkward.

Year Twenty Four: Do that wild project you’ve been thinking about doing for ages with no expectations at all, except that you’ll have fun doing it. Did I ever tell you I was once a reasonably well-known blogger? I was famous for my blog. And I poured my heart and soul into that thing. It paid off, not financially, but in terms of building a public profile greater than anything I had with print journalism. My blog quite literally led to a book deal, and twenty years later, here we are.

Year Twenty Five: Upend your life from time to time just because you can. Move cities, move countries, or even smaller, move house. Take a really large decision at the spur of the moment, and then enjoy watching it come together. You’ll never regret it.

Year Twenty Six: I should’ve used all the publicity I got for my first novel and leveraged it into publicity for life. I had no idea how to do that. So, basically, talk to people who have been doing things for longer than you have and use their wisdoms to build your own. There’s only ever going to be one debut thing for you, and that’s when the publicity will be at its highest, so take it all and use it well.

Year Twenty Seven: Do not let your period of self-loathing allow you to get into relationships with people who are bad for you. You’ll always be happier alone than with someone who actively makes you unhappy.

Year Twenty Eight: What’s holding you back from creating your own good life? A partner (or a house, or a job, or a child) isn’t going to change the fundamental-ness of who you are. Start by living the way you want to, in my case, it was a tiny house, an annexe flat, once the servant’s quarters of the house next door, where I started again with my cat and hosted several dinner parties and sat on the terrace and watched the metro go by.

Year Twenty Nine: Take a chance on love, even if it might break your heart. Sometimes it works out in ways you’ve not even allowed yourself to dream of.

Year Thirty: (my thirties are all a bit of a blur, they spun by so fast so the advice for this decade might be out of chronology.) These next few years, everyone you know is going to have children. It’s a good time to decide what you want to do. You kind of know in your bones though.

Year Thirty One: YES you need more animals in your life, YES you will probably regret this whenever you travel, YES this is not a decision you should make impulsively, YES you love them so much even in the face of their mortality (and stinky litter boxes and vomit on the floor). Living with another species is a beautiful and unique human privilege.

Year Thirty Two: Bad jobs are really not worth the money you’re getting. Do you want to be unhappy every waking day of your life? Find a workplace that respects you and treats you like a person instead of an automaton.

Year Thirty Three: The best sign of an intelligent mind is someone who doesn’t know everything. If the politics of your country depresses you, try and find out why it’s happened and why it’s continuing to happen. It’s not going to leave you any less depressed, but at least you’ll be well-informed. I find from my psychoanalysis, that once I know why I’m feeling a certain way, it helps me cope. This was advice I should’ve given myself in 2014, but hindsight is 20-20.

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Year Thirty Four: Get out of town! Learn how to travel well: what are the things you can live with and the things you can live without? Breakfast included is always worth it. Carry your own coffee stuff, it’s surprisingly hard to find. Remember to leave room in your bags for what you’re going to buy. If you travel light, you don’t have to wait for anyone and this is amazing. Do research only in the last week before you go and mark all the places you want to see on Google Maps. (Otherwise it gets overwhelming.) Always leave room for a rest-day, where you do nothing but read in a nice cafe. I also like to leave time for a daily nap, but I’m getting older, and I prefer naps to seeing everything.

Year Thirty Five: Go back to the same holiday destination over and over again for a whole year or two, till you know it intimately. The place becomes a friend. You’re a regular at certain places. It might sound dull—why go back?—but the pay-off is that suddenly there’s a place that’s not home, where you just go on holiday, that becomes a sort of offshoot of home, where you feel at peace and everything is familiar and yet, everything is so different from where you’ve just flown in from.

Year Thirty Six: Yes, it’s possible to get married and have a party and not break the bank doing it, but it should be something that you want to do instead of something you’re forced to. Some people love huge weddings, I never did. Your wedding is about you and not your entire extended family. This is sometimes hard to remember in India, but there’s only two people going into a marriage after all. Put your foot down and let it be one of the first acts of assertion in your married life.

Year Thirty Seven and Year Thirty Eight: Some years in your life are just a waiting period. You only realise this later, when you’re looking back at your life such as it is—maybe writing a newsletter about it—and you think, “What was the point of those years? I wasn’t doing anything, just repeating what I’d already done.” But you wouldn’t be here, at whatever new point of your life you’re in now, without those fallow periods, the patterns so deep you could do them sleepwalking. I am generally a restless person, but I’m also a very lazy one. I liked my 37th and 38th year, because I felt like I had curled into my life like a caterpillar, inside my cocoon. Eventually, you’ve got to split out of them, and emerge into the world like a butterfly blah blah blah, but sometimes you can stay in your cocoon for ages, hibernating like a bear (have switched animal metaphors but you get my gist.) (How terrifying would a bear-butterfly hybrid be?)

Year Thirty Nine: Massive world events will sometimes occur in your lifetime. Once you get over being stunned by them, you do the only thing you can do, what humans have done for centuries in the face of adversity: you look forward. What will I do after this, we all thought to ourselves. Sometimes you do the thing you thought you would and that’s satisfying. Sometimes you return to your life with a sense of gratitude, and that’s satisfying too. Don’t forget though. It’s important not to forget.

Year Forty: Making new friends is much harder than it used to be, especially if you work from home and only leave the house to meet new people, but everyone has the same problem and so the internet has several solutions. They may not be best friends, or even people you see after a short two month burst of enthusiasm, but every time you meet someone new you’re learning a little more about how to be comfortable in this situation.

Year Forty One: (AT LAST) What a great year I’ve had. After about a year and a half of inefficient German bureaucracy, I finally got my national visa and was able to stay in Berlin for longer than 90 days. This has changed everything, I finally feel like a resident of this city. Thanks to being here full time, I’ve managed to sustain friendships and take up hobbies and figure out writing rythyms and all sorts of other life-skill-y things. This was also the year Soft Animal came out, a book I’m extremely proud of. I’ll tell you one new thing from my forty first year that I think makes for good advice: I started challenging my own beliefs. Like, did I think I didn’t like something because I once didn’t like it at age 22? Or was there something else to it? I don’t want to become one of those narrow minded old people, who refuse to listen because they’re older and therefore know everything. It’s so easy to slip into that. I want to keep finding out things about myself and about the world. It keeps me young.

And with that, we end! Let me know what you think in comments or reply to this email.

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I have many other stories for you but those will have to wait till next time. Have you watched Fleishman Is In Trouble? We binged it all in one day, and it’s really good.



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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