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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22 August 2005
Let's get it started, in heee-eee-ee-re
The dance floor at Elevate is usually pretty packed. It's a really large dance floor, perhaps bigger than anywhere else in the city, but come Saturday night and the hordes descend. Saturday night is hip hop/Bollywood night, both of which are pretty popular genres. Friday night is a lot calmer--psy-trance and house music, and all you get is assorted groups of people, perhaps lurking in the darker corners with some chemical or the other, or the ones who have already visited the dark corner and who now buzz with energy on the dance floor. Nothing is as exciting as being in the middle of a dance floor, not too packed, but not too empty and feeling the energy of the crowd take over you as you jump and shake your arms and feel your feet vibrate with all the other stomping feet near you.
Saturday night is a little different though. For one thing, the crowd here doesn't do drugs, but they drink like fish. And alcohol makes you rowdier. For another, it's a little harder to dance to Dus Bahane when the Sardar near you insists on raising his arms and one leg and hopping around, right on your toe. The dark corners on Saturday are taken over by couples, all shapes and sizes. Where we stand--upstairs on the second level, looking down at the moving mass of people on the dance floor--there is a couple behind us, the guy old and fat and balding, the girl, very young and in a tight red dress, sharing a bean bag. The guy pulls at her face, looks like he's murmuring pleadingly into her ear, but the girl's entire body language faces away from him, her knees are tightly pressed together, her face cringes away from his caresses and every now and then she looks around her, for an escape route. I see them everywhere, these balding guys with young pretty girls, one sits on a red velvet chair with the girl sitting on his lap, giggling into his eyes. I think I prefer to be single, yes, most definitely.
I am out with Iggy and Urvashi, and I am, unfortunately, the designated driver for the evening. We've had quite a day. Before heading to Elevate we were at Buzz, in Saket, with a bunch of my other college friends. We took advantage of their happy hours by ordering three pitchers of Electric Lemonade (that's vodka, triple sec and blue curacao, for the uninitiated), which made it six in all. By the time we got through those, it was ten o' clock. We had been drinking for three hours.
A good friend of mine, Ananya, who I haven't seen since May, was there as well. Ananya and I were pretty close in college but then over the years and circumstances we happened to drift apart. But I think out of my entire college gang, she reminds me the most of me, at least in her relationships with everyone else. Like me, she doesn't live in the central South Delhi, which is where we convene. That makes a lot of difference, where you live. It used to be worse before I started working and before I drove. I was excluded from a lot of the after-college socialising because I didn’t live there. Even now, if Iggy just wants someone to hang with briefly, say half an hour or something, she’ll call someone else, because it makes no sense for me to go out of my way for just half an hour. Same with Ananya. You bond a lot more with a person you see casually every day than with someone who is only available on the weekends, or weekdays after eight pm sometimes. And I think Ananya, like me, cares a lot more about whether her friends like her than the others. The others assume everyone does anyway, but we have to put in more effort. Ananya is loud about it though, she gets her approval through constantly telling stories, laughing the hardest, teasing the rest of us and I am quiet and I listen. Oh, I tell stories too, but my stories involve laughing at myself and getting everyone else to as well. I'm comfortable with that, who are we to argue with the roles the universe gives us, right?
It surprises me how different I am with different groups of friends. It’s not something I can explain, that my role here is this and that my role there is that, but the fact of the matter is, that I have a lot of friends. And I hang out with all of them separately. Which means keeping track of who doesn't like whom, of going from places as different as cheap Flames to ultraexpensive Aura, switching personalities from Sarah Jessica Parker-type, to boho chick to Woman Of The World. (Sadly the last one is not something many people buy. Oh well.) My college gang has had its share of politics, I can sense that even as we sit and smoke each other’s cigarettes and talk about how all men are assholes, there are delicate invisible lines joining each of us over the table. And how we all put on our masks, no, not masks, that has negative connotations, we put on our nametags which will define us for the evening. And we play our roles.
I get tired at around one thirty. It's been a long night. Urvashi and Iggy are contemplating brushing past a bitchy girl with a lit cigarette, I am lazily making eye contact with random cute guys, enjoying dropping my eyelids after they look twice and then a third time to see if I am Just For One Night Girl. “Let's go,” I tell the girls. I've been working like a dog the past week and perhaps this just wasn't Elevate Saturday. I need to be a little more energised. They finish their drinks and we stagger into the mall, to the all-night Barista, getting scalding cappuccino with other clubbers, the girls in off-shoulder tops and the boys getting them their coffee and fooling around with each other, turning chairs backwards to sit on them. They will be kissed, the boys and girls who sit under the white light of the insect killer and armed with that knowledge, they are sitting very straight. No tired, end-of-the-evening silences for them. At our table, my mouth tastes of Bacardi and cigarettes and coffee and my throat is beginning to hurt and the drink someone spilt down my top now is getting annoyingly sticky.
It is raining when we leave and we make desultory conversation. I am thinking only of sleep, as we zip down the beautiful toll bridge, and up a few others. I am thinking only of sleep as we drop off Urvashi, park the car and stumble into Iggy’s house. We attempt to dissect the evening as we always do but then the murmur of the A/C and the television (which she likes to watch just before she goes to bed) are too much for me and Saturday is over for another week. We've already made next Saturday's plans.