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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8 February 2006
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned
The first time it happened to me, I was in a train, coming home to Delhi after a term at boarding school, and me and my two friends, also from the same batch had been fortunate enough to be in a compartment with three of the coolest and most popular senior boys. One of them was in the "dramatic society" (in quotes, because it wasn't a real dramatic society, just the same people doing the plays) as was I, the other, oh, he was delectable, with an eight-pack no less, and when his t-shirt clung to him, because it was getting hotter as we moved towards the plains, you could see the outline of his beautiful body. The third was an old friend, the only one I wasn't in awe of really, who stayed up late chatting with me after everyone had gone to sleep. I was pretty proud of myself, dude, a senior, so popular, talking till like one in the morning, with me. I wished someone else was awake so they could witness how cool I was, despite having braces and being, well, chubbier than I am now.
After a while I noticed Old Friend had acquired some new habits. Surely, it wasn't natural for someone to lightly run their fingers across my palm? And when I, (heavily blushing, for these were the last few years I was innocent) extracted my hand from him, in the pretext of putting on some chapstick, he took it again. Finally, it got too much for me, and I told him I was going to bed.
He was sitting all this while, on a suitcase between our two berths, and he showed no inclination to go to bed, despite the fact that I lay down, back firmly to him and closed my eyes. After a while, he reached for my hand again and *ick* pressed his lips to my palm. I can still feel the chappedness of his mouth, still remember wondering why he would want to do that considering my fingernails had chipped black nailpolish on them and they looked gross and why would anyone want to do that? I wasn't even pretending to be asleep anymore, my eyes were squinced shut and my arm lay across my face and he started to tug at it and oh my god, was he going to kiss me? He gave up the tugging after a while, and petrified, I lay there, hearing his deep breathing, still sitting on the suitcase. "Um, aren't you going to bed yet?" I asked. "Yeah," he said, his eyes unfocussed. His arm reached out again and I got up and ran to the loo, Indian-style, the train clackety-clacking under my feet, past a curious boy from my batch, the only other person still up. And I dry-heaved into the pot, my eyes streaming, and I felt so betrayed, so dirty that I spent about half an hour scouring my face, washing my hands till the tips of my fingers were wrinkly, wondering how I was going to handle this situation. He was popular, he was my senior, he was a prefect and if I told on him he would deny it and people would believe him and he'd make my life miserable. It was best to remain quiet, said my fifteen-year-old brain, like many other fifteen-year-old brains have done in similar situations.
I didn't get much sleep that night and as soon as my friends awoke the next day, I whispered it to them and they looked a little shocked, but sympathetic. They agreed I should probably not tell anyone, that's what they would do in that situation as well. And the next day, he judiciously avoided my eyes and I only slept with the comforting weight of my friends sitting on the same berth, keeping an eye on me.
And even though now, nine years later, I wish I had told someone, it happened to me again, this time even further than a chapped kiss on my palm, but no less scary. He didn't listen to me saying "No" softly, over and over again, till I said, "NO" and he saw my expression, the fear in my eyes at the sudden realisation that boys were so much stronger than I was and that Small, fast asleep in her room, probably wouldn't be able to hear me if I yelled and what was I going to do and he said, releasing my wrists, "You know I'm a nice guy, right?" and I was so relieved to be let out of his grasp and so stricken with guilt that somehow this situation was MY fault and I had no one to blame except myself and obviously if I had kissed him willingly about an hour ago, before I saw how very drunk he was, I couldn't be expected to say no now. And then another part of my brain kicked in and told me sensibly, "You're allowed to say no whenever you WANT to say no, even if the two of you are buck naked, because it is your body and if you're feeling uncomfortable there must be a reason." So I said no, repeatedly and finally he slept and I went to the bathroom, gagging again.
Hell, at least I've learned one thing in nine years.