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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20 January 2022

The Internet Personified: Conjugations

My polite persimmons,

Welcome to all new subscribers! I have no idea how you found me (magic? links in bio?) especially at such a quiet time for me, but welcome nonetheless. This is my very personal newsletter which I send out periodically—sometimes when I’m feeling very chatty, once a week, but other times, like this one, once every two or three weeks. Think of it as a super long letter from me to you, and if you don’t know know me yet, don’t worry, you soon will. (She says, threateningly…)

funny prank GIF

Berlin COVID rules have just changed as of this weekend. Now they’re saying if you want to go to a bar or a restaurant, you have to have both vax doses plus either a booster shot or a test. This is a great way to get a lot of people to take the booster, as we did early this month. This time our vax centre was this mall, a short walk from our house, we went up in the lift with people going to the gym next door, and emerged into a official-looking area, where we filled in forms and waited. No choice of vaccine this time: if you were under 35 and/or pregnant you got Pfizer, over and not got Moderna. Being neither of those things, I got my third Moderna, and for those of you keeping track at home my fourth vaccine since last summer. That combined with the fact that I might very well have had COVID some time last year, means that I feel pretteeee good. Pretteeee immune, all in all, but let’s not tempt fate. I go to the little test centre down the road for my free rapid test about once a week, it’s an old nail bar turned COVID testing centre so it’s all pink with a gold rotary phone and neon lights spelling out NAIL BAR just above the head of the guy who twirls the little stick in my nose and puts it on the strip. It’s all very Class 9 chemistry experiment.

Language Lessons Part II or wow German is hard

I need to get tested every week because I’ve started language classes again. This time I’m in a class of almost all women, and we’re studying German A2.1, which is so much harder than the class I did earlier. A1.1 was all about learning how to introduce yourself and saying basic things: am I married? Do I have children? What do I do for a living and so on. In A2, the dreaded Akkusativ comes in, so it’s no longer “where do you live?” but “where are you going?” the answer to which is both a harder sentence to formulate but also depends on these itty bitty little changes of grammar which are crucially important to make yourself understood. For instance, everything in German has a gender, as you probably know: the table is male, the lamp is female, the bed is neutral and so on. But if you are putting something on the table, or near the lamp or hanging it off the wall, you have to remember which gender goes with which thing and then tweak that to a completely different word to indicate what you’re doing. And that’s just when things stay still. When you’re moving an object from point A to point B, you must also remember the gender, but with new rules forthwith. I know the rules okay, as you can see, but putting them into practise is a whole other thing which I’m not sure I’m going to master in the two weeks my course has left. Oh well. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the German language is notoriously difficult with all sorts of random rules so you can be like the Germans, super specific about exactly what you mean and what you want.

One interesting thing I learnt though was that “my friend” (and of course the Germans have a different word for my “male friend” and my “female friend” although no word yet for my “gender neutral friend” although you can indicate that in writing) always refers to a romantic partner. If you’re just going to a party with a friend who you have zero romantic interest in, you say “this is a friend” and everyone gets it. Cool, huh?

I also learnt how to frame a “because” sentence, like “why are you so sad?” “because I have no friends here” sob sob, which I guess is useful, but hard for an English speaker because you’d construct the sentence like this in German: because I no friends here have.

In case you’ve never learnt one of the European languages before, the A2 etc I refer to are part of something called the CEFR levels, that is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which is a sort of broad strokes generalisation of where you should expect to be after each level. A2 is “can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters” which I guess is all the “put the telephone on the table near the chair” stuff that we’ve been banging on about.

A funny thing has happened though. Suddenly I can understand SO MUCH German, like it was a coconut and I’m able to extract all the meat. Our teacher speaks it exclusively in class and fast too, but when it comes to forming a sentence, my brain just sputters between connections. Isn’t that strange? To be able to understand so much and say so little? A little like a pet, I suppose.

Cosmo Kramer Yes GIF

The return of a room of one’s own

German efficiency, the famous everyone’s-always-quoting-it “German efficiency” is mostly a myth, I’m learning sadly as I live here. The thing about Germans? Is that they like to do as little work as possible so everything is built for convenience. The supermarket is filled with examples of this: you buy your fresh bread and you put it in the bread slicer, conveniently located right under the loaves, you choose what sort of thickness you’d like and shink-shink-shink, your morning toast is all sliced and ready for you. Okay but, you’d argue, isn’t that efficiency? And I’d still argue that it’s laziness that drove them to invent all these wonderful time saving things. Miss your train? Don’t worry, another will be along in three minutes, unless it’s the weekend, then you’re slightly fucked. Our shower curtain rod has these adjustable ends so you just stick it on the wall, adjust the length and it stays, no need to drill holes or anything. Being a very lazy person myself, I appreciate all the ways Germany’s like “no it’s fiiine, chill, there’s a super easy way to do this.”

However, when it comes to human effort and human labour, it’s not great. Getting an appointment with say, a handyman, could take any amount of time from “it’ll be done tomorrow” to “I’ll come between five and ten after March 10th on any possible weekday so make sure and be home for me or you’ve missed me again.” Our building has a lift which hasn’t worked in four months because they’re “waiting for parts.” And when we tried to buy a fridge off Amazon it took about the length of time that we’ve been living here. The first fridge we ordered was in December, about a week before Christmas and Germany pretty much shuts down for Christmas, so we thought fine, after Christmas we’ll get a delivery date, which didn’t happen, so then we waited for the first Monday following New Year’s Eve and still no update so we cancelled that fridge, and bought another which was also supposed to arrive in two or three days, but the delivery date kept moving along and the fridge didn’t. All this meant that the enclosed balcony—the “winter garden”—where I planned to write, which already had my desk set up was a sort of walk-in fridge, because we closed the door to the living room, left the window open in this one and it was icy cold enough to keep our food from going totally bad.

Now we finally have a fridge, and because this kitchen was already built with cabinets and everything before we moved, we had to get a super specific under-counter without freezer one, which is why the hassle, and so I am back in my study, which faces a building and right now, it’s dark outside and all the lights in the building opposite are on, so I can see into each house as they can into ours. One is full of plants, the other has a man by the sink, a woman is pouring out her pasta water as she makes dinner, it’s all very Rear Window. I love watching them, is that creepy? I have a great view of the street too, my fishbowl study is all windows so I can see people going back and forth and sometimes I notice their fashion if it’s exciting, but really, I’m most interested in other people’s dogs.

Where are you all going? I want to shout at all the pedestrians, Where do you go to my lovelies? You know the song.

Friends your own age

Long time readers of this newsletter may remember that back in the summer I joined this Facebook group called Berlin: Girls Gone International. (If you don’t remember, don’t worry, here’s a link to that newsletter just to refresh your memory.) Anyway, here I was, and still medium-friendless, not quite as friend-ful as I was in Delhi, shall we say. So I lurked on the group but I wasn’t seeing much of interest until a woman posted about wanting to meet people maybe around her own age, which was 37.

The Internet: Personified
The Internet Personified: Arm aber sexy
My darling gazebos, I absolutely feel like Amy in Little Women, taking a moment to pick up my pen and write to you all about my adventures on the Continent. (Although I haven’t stolen my sister’s trip, nor am I about to steal her fella, so this comparison ends there.) This will probably be a letter written to you across a few days, currently it’s Sunday …
Read more

Wait a minute, I thought, I’d like to meet people my own age too! It gets harder, you guys. I mean, when you’re new, it seems like all the other new people are in their twenties. Everyone who is your contemporary is already settled in, already with jobs, and friends groups and maybe kids, even, so they don’t have much time to play with you, let alone become your new instant bff.

So I commented on the post, got added to a Telegram group and made my way across the city that weekend—K was away visiting his parents—to meet a group of women, all my age or thereabouts. It was great, and I made one really good friend (already!) out of it, so see, put yourself out there if you’re in the same situation as I am.

BUT re: putting yourself out there. It is TOUGH. I understand. I’m no shrinking violet, and yet I’m still daunted. It’s a lot of taking the initiative and messaging first and being okay with rejection and trying again next week and so on. It’s like dating, but also not like dating, because all you’re hoping to get from the evening is some personal connection.

Reunions

If you read that old post, I mention how I’m very curious about someone who goes around the city tagging it with “Clit.” I got so fascinated by the end of the summer, I was looking out for the tag wherever I went. Well, it turns out Clit Person almost definitely lives somewhere around here. All down our road I see “clit,” across the station walls and even on ATMs sometimes. I think their style is evolving too—they used to just write “clit” in black and leave it at that, now they’re doing funky 3D lettering, playing with perspective and I’m quite proud of them, I’ve got to say. I mean, it’s still quite ugly, Clit Person is no street artist, but it feels like I’ve found an old friend.

Make Up Reaction GIF by Lifetime

Related: a lot of the stuff we have for the flat is either free from someone, second-hand from someone, or literally taken from the curb, and one of those taken from the curb things was an old Ikea shoe cupboard (Germans are like Indians, no shoes inside the house) and someone had already tagged it before K picked it up from the road. Sadly not Clit Person, though how great would that have been?

Thank you for reading The Internet: Personified . This post is public so feel free to share it.

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If you liked this post, or any of my others, would you consider buying me a coffee? It helps keep me encouraged and also keeps this project freeeeeee for everyone.

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A few things I enjoyed reading recently:

Kottke’s “Things I learned in 2021” list.

Inside one of India’s biggest influencer families.

You probably already know Wordle, but I’m obsessed.

And some newsletters I enjoy:

The Whippet
The Whippet #138: Nothing rhymes with money-laundering
Good morning! To new readers: I stop talking about myself after the newspaper icon, if you want to skim. To everyone who knows me IRL: sorry I’m still talking about how great contact lenses are, this is my identity now. To everyone else: I got contact lenses and they’re the best, I’ll never go back to glasses, you’ll have to pry them off my cold dead eyeb…
Read more
Griefbacon
old friends and the parties they throw
There is nothing to do about grief, so we make a lasagna and take it over to the old building. There is nothing to do about bad news so we text some people and then eight people in a room together is a party. We tell stories. There is nothing to do about anything. It’s Sunday; we are all trying to shut out the day, an…
Read more

Have a great week! Speak soon, email me back or leave a comment so we can chat.

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!)

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Forward to your friends if you liked this and to whoever decided OBJECTS must have GENDERS if you didn’t.

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

19 January 2022

Today in Photo


Red velvet ropes around the rapid test centres. Cases booming here in Berlin so they're a hot ticket. I'm getting tested once a week to keep an eye on *waves hand* all THIS. Switched from surgical masks to N95s as well, what the Germans call FFP2s. Now to wait. Odds are that we'll all eventually get it but I'd like to put it off as long as I can anyway. #berlinna

via Instagram

17 January 2022

Today in Photo


Some photos from the History of Berlin exhibition we went to this weekend. Very interactive as you can see. There I am dancing with my headphones in a "club" (the closest I will get to dancing in an actual club for some time sigh) a "grave" burying the once low rents of Kreuzberg, which was an actual installation once in the centre of that area, a nice little layout of what to wear if you want to get into Berghain (again someday) and some stickers, because I like stickers. Very fun. I'll take you when you come. #historyofberlin #humboldtforum #dancingqueen

via Instagram

15 January 2022

Today in Photo


Very cool bar just 350 metres from our flat, very cool (and authentic!) Chinese restaurant just a ten minute walk away. We've been super lazy about exploring because it's cold and more expensive than staying in and it's just so COMFY at home in pajamas but no more! Pledging to go out and have a nice new time once a week if possible in these covid ridden times. Good date night and also someone at the next table was like "can I ask how old you are?" and I said "forty" and she's like "nooo you look 29 AT MOST" (Lighting was dim also but STILL.) I am delighted. Must always leave the house so I can collect more compliments. #urbanexplorer #berlinna

via Instagram

12 January 2022

Today in Photo


Have been super busy with, well, LIFE I guess and then I started language classes again so here's an accurate portrayal of how I've been spending my evenings. Cats, cooking and rewatching Grey's Anatomy which has not lost any of its shine despite my many years away from it. No deaths only sex in the first two seasons which is refreshing especially when you consider how unlucky that hospital is with constant disaster. Newsletter as soon as I'm able to form sentences again. #catcuddles #blackcatsareawesome #squishythecat

via Instagram

4 January 2022

Today in Photo


New newsletter out and a photo of K and Squishy to grab your interest and make you swipe for excerpts! 😁 Link in bio #newsletter #theinternetpersonified #lifeinberlin

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3 January 2022

The Internet Personified: Just your basic (update) bitch

Happy New Year, my most beloved companions!

I’m not going to bore you with my new year resolutions: honestly, I keep seeing them blazing fresh and new across platforms: people tweeting them, Instagramming them, sending me long newsletter intros about them, and you know I will always be like, “Cool, that’s not going to last” because I am a cynic. I like to here about resolutions one or two months later, when your goal to say eat a different salad every day or finally start that kitchen garden has got some steam under it, so I can see results, not just wishful thinking. I also think that any time is a good time to start a resolution: January 1st or April 15th, who cares, just do that new thing and enjoy yourself in doing it.

New Year Cat GIF by Susanne Lamb

I just re-read that paragraph and I also want to tell you that I’m not the Resolution Police, don’t worry, I frequently do things other people think are boring, so go ahead and post those resolutions in the first week of January and who cares what I think.

In Berlin, it is warm and rainy. Not warm-warm, you understand, just warmer than it was the day we went for a long walk in Lichtenfeld (or -berg, one of those is close to us, one of those is a 40 minute drive away, we did the drive one). It was December 26th, what the Brits call Boxing Day (because it was the day the landed gentry gave presents to their servants IN BOXES so of course they had to name it after themselves) and what the Germans call second Christmas.

(Christmas in Germany starts on December 24th, where you decorate a tree and open your presents, then December 25th where you eat a big goose type lunch or dinner and then December 26th where you go and visit friends. There’s a church visit on the 24th as well, and I think most people eat fish or some sort of fasting food on that day. Santa Claus here is the Weihnnachtmann (literally: Christmas Man) who leaves presents, St Nicholas himself has his own day on December 5th when he leaves small sweets and toys for children. This year, I was struck for the first time how creepy the whole Santa legend is: he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows whether you’ve been bad or good etc. I started singing you better not shout, you better not cry in a creaky horror movie voice, but no, seriously, a strange man knows you and the ages and interests of your children, comes into your house at night and leaves little presents to show he’s been there. Down the chimney, no less. There’s a murder mystery waiting to happen.) (Of course, a quick Google of creepy Santa or something will probably show that Hollywood got there before I did, but still, creepy!)

Colin Raff christmas weird xmas creepy GIF

This Boxing Day was minus eight degrees. Now Delhi gets plenty cold, I wore ski pants indoors for all of December 2020 and January 2021, going swish-swish-swish around the house and elsewhere. (They’re warm and flattering! Decathlon in Delhi has nice ski wear including the puffy down jacket that you can wear with just a t-shirt inside when the temperature’s low but not so low. Cheap too.) However, -8 was something else. Pretty soon my feet turned into blocks of ice I could barely move despite my thick soles and warm socks because the ground was so icy it travelled through them. I am inordinately fond of these boots, I bought them with some birthday money my parents gave me, and even more pleased because I set out with a budget of 200 euros for good boots and found a pair I loved for 35, so I tossed in fancy cashmere merino socks as a side treat. (Later, I bought fleece insoles to line them and now not even icy grounds give me pause from clumping all over them.)

It started raining soon after that, so my enduring memories of Berlin this winter are wet ones. Because it’s rainy, the temperature’s gone up—weird because in Delhi when it rains in the winter it suddenly gets colder—and when we went ice skating on the 30th, a first for me, the rink was already dripping. Ice skating is a lot harder than it looks, but I dismissed this truism with a wave of my hand. After all, hadn’t I been a champion at roller skating when I was four or five? I never once fell down, and I didn’t ice skating either, but probably because I skated very close to the inner guard rail, beloved by all beginner skaters, because you can just hold on to it for dear life and move your feet very slowly. You soon learn to move your feet sideways, like a crab, to get any momentum at all, but the ice is a lot slipperier than I expected, I mean, I don’t know what I expected, it was all very new, but people went swish-swish around me, and I held K’s hand and let go of the guard rail and actually managed some speed by the end, which was fun, like one of those dreams where you’re not exactly flying but you’re running so gracefully and so hard, you’re floating above the ground. People skated with great speed through the puddles on the ice, so it was a good thing we wore our ski pants, everyone else was soaked. It gently rained through all of this so my hat was sodden and whatever was exposed of my hair stuck to my face, but you get so warm doing this that it doesn’t matter.

ice skating schaatsen GIF by Videoland

I wanted to tell you about our apartment, which I already love, so you can picture me here in it, writing to you. It’s in a new building, new for Berlin that is, because this area (East Berlin) got heavily shelled during the war, so not many old buildings remain. Which means our ceilings are low, our floors are linoleum but we have super insulated windows and even with the heating off, we stay warm as toast. This also means it’s so quiet that when Olga da Polga starts off her six am “where’s my breakfast” song, it echoes around the house and shakes us awake like a very irritating alarm clock. (Earplugs as soon as the shops open tomorrow. German supermarkets and pharmacies and so on are all closed on Sundays and public holidays, so since yesterday was January 1st and a Saturday, and Friday was a half day for New Year’s, we’ve been without groceries since Thursday. This is okay, because we had enough staples to feed ourselves, but have now run out.) (The second thing about our house you should know is that it came so unfurnished that there’s no fridge and the one we liked and bought on Amazon still has not given us a delivery date because they ran out of workmen over Christmas and of course no one is working this week. So all our food has gone into my study, a small enclosed balcony which closes so we can leave the window open there. This was all very well and good in our -8 days, but now it’s too warm for anything to last very long, so we’ve turned vegetarian in self-defence, but even the tofu I put in Thai green curry yesterday was tasting a little extra fermented. This also means I’m not doing any writing until the fridge arrives, unless I write here on the dining table.) The house is also so insulated that we can smell the cats’ poop as soon as it leaves their little anuses, great for fast clean up, not so great when you have a friend over and the two of you wrinkle your noses at the same time as it hits you. (Hah, my friends who are reading this are now reconsidering coming to visit, but we—and I mean K, I do nothing—do clean it as soon as we smell it, so twice or thrice a day at this point.)

The kitchen might be my favourite part: it’s so large and while the house came unfurnished to the point of no cupboards or light fixtures, the lady who lived here before had a passion for kitchen cabinets it seems, and suddenly we have so much storage in that room that we could put one different thing in each drawer and still have plenty of space. This building belongs to one of those faceless corporations but our landlady bought it in some savings scheme she had, and for many years it was rented out at rent control prices to one woman who lived here alone and then with her caretaker when she got too old to look after herself. The caretaker finally had her shifted to a home because of dementia and all her belongings went with her except for some elaborate china: tens of saucers, little espresso cups, fancy gold rimmed tea cups, a whole tea set in fact. I never learnt her name, so I’ve named her Ursula, and with this naming I feel a lot closer to her as I use her cups and wipe down the counters she installed. It reminds me in that sense of another old lady whose house we rented, in Goa.

Our bed is also wonderful, we were sleeping for a while on just piles of carpet. Every morning we woke up with sore backs and stiff necks. K found the bed frame on eBay Kleinanzeigen which is a German subset of the regular eBay, just for second hand things. Note: we also found our flat through listings on this same eBay, so it’s a super useful platform. Almost all our house—except for the furniture K’s parents brought up in a trailer—is second hand things off eBay and in some cases, off the road, like our shoe cabinet someone left outside to be carted away, already tagged with graffiti. Outside our building, every day someone leaves a new empty ceramic plant pot to be taken by whoever fancies it, we have picked one up each time we see it, so now we have more pots than plants, but they’re all so pretty, I can imagine them full! Anyway—the bed. We bought a really expensive mattress to go on it, and it was worth it, I’m sleeping better than I have in ages (apart from Olga’s morning shouts), it’s so soft and comforting.

itsrach cat cats sassy puss GIF

The rest of the house, well… it’s coming along. The living room is mostly done thanks to K’s parents furniture, including a dining table with four chairs and a wide soft sofa and two armchairs. The bathroom needs a cabinet to be complete. K’s study/guest bed still needs the most things, and in our bedroom I still need more shelves for all of my clothes and sundries, but we got three DIY shelves from a hardware store (meant for gardens and toolsheds but they do for clothes right now, and I think I will turn one into a bookshelf for my study when I get a better cupboard.) Hard to believe we’ve been here less than one full month, so much has happened, but there you are.

Time to stop before I run over my word count limit on Gmail, but I had to tell you all my news so the next time I write you’ll be able to picture all of it. Setting is so important for a character.


If you liked what you read, would you consider buying me a coffee? THANK YOU to everyone who bought me coffee/s last year, you made me so happy and thankful.

Cat Money GIF

Buy me a coffee!


Some links to start the week (and the year!)

12ft.io removes most paywalls from most websites. Useful if you want to read just one story and are blocked.

I know stories about the Indian immigrant experience and how people say your food smells is so five years ago, but this story is beautiful and tbh, it’s hard to not internalise the “your food smells” thing when you’re abroad even though it smells DELICIOUS.

JK Rowling and the limits of imagination.

Ten ways to confront the climate crisis without losing hope.

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!)

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Forward to your friends if you liked this and to your pet who you love dearly but wish would expel their waste in unsmelly little pills if you didn’t.

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

2 January 2022

Today in Photo


Here's what I wore on the last day of the year. Bought this from a vintage shop close by so I could fully lean into my 70s look. Paired with heat tech, obvs, which is amazing and is keeping me toasty warm. We partied at a friend's house till 3.30 in the morning (small party, vaxxed, covid tested) and then made our way home with all the other revelers done for the night. Happy New Year you guys! May you have all the invitations you want and the perfect outfit for all of them even if only virtually. #whatiworetoday #happynewyear

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31 December 2021

Today in Photo


A mad, glad and sad year. What will the future bring? #happynewyear

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30 December 2021

Today in Photo


Some excerpts from the graphic diary I've been keeping since my birthday. (Names and identifying places blacked out in the first picture.) I just draw because I enjoy it, no larger project in mind which is always refreshing for someone who has turned something they love doing into a career. It's nice not to hustle and just draw my day but also ideas begin to ferment at the back of my mind, whether I like it or not. For now though: no agenda. #graphicdiary #berlinsketches #penandink

via Instagram