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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7 March 2006

I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do, about you now

(Okay fine, already! I'll bring back the old template. I just thought it would be nice to look at something new. :) But you'll have to wait till I go to my mom's house early next week, because the old template is saved on my desktop. Darn, try and introduce a little change around here and no one likes it!)

Today I was going to begin as part of the Women's Day blogathon, a long post on being harrassed and being afraid, and being a woman and all that. And then I got to thinking, and scrolling through my phonebook and thinking of happy memories and yeah, boys figure heavily in that. Boys whom I have loved, boys who have loved me, boys who have backslapped, boys who I have slept against, boys who looked at me admiringly as opposed to lecherously, boys who I have met briefly for coffee and have given them extensive advice about their love lives, we all know boys like that.

For every ghastly incident, every nipple tweak in a crowded place, I've had men who stand glowering behind me, or next to me, when we're in a crowded place together. Okay, perhaps not glowering, but if I light a cigarette say, in a place where women usually scamper around hidden by their dupattas, they will look casually threatening, so no one dares to say anything, and usually no one even dares to look. There are men, friend's lovers even, who know me only because the woman they love loves me, who would come if I called them at 4.30 in the morning with a flat tyre. And think nothing of it, waving away my effusive thank yous. There are the men I know professionally, photographers who I work with, who are careful to let the PR guy who addresses them because they are men and not me, because I am a woman and on top of everything else, look rather young, know that I am the one doing the story, and I should be treated accordingly.

There have been boys who have seen me home, boys who told me a hundred times to give them a damn missed call when I got home. And if I forgot, they'd call me, to see if everything was okay. There are men, boys whatever, who live with the same fears of Delhi not being safe for women, because we are its women, the other men, the ones who rape, the ones who held a knife to the throat of one of my friends, the ones who attempted to drag another friend into their car, the ones who follow me, so closely, that I can feel every indicator of mine being watched and mirrored and almost drive off the road with panic, they are not all the men in Delhi. They are, I admit, about eighty per cent, but they are not all.

There has been a cop who helped me when my car broke down, helping me push it to the side of the road, keeping an eye on me in that lonely place and when the mechanic arrived asked me whether this was the person I was waiting for. Auto rickshaw drivers, who, when I'm followed by some men on a motorcycle, speed up so that their rickety machines vibrate even more. Men brought up by parents like mine, parents of almost every woman I know who ingrain into us how our bodies should be sacred, special places, ours, to be guarded. For every man who doesn't listen when I say no, there are men who respond to even the slightest stiffening of my shoulders, stopping when they feel I'm not comfortable with where things are going.

Women's Day is about women, yes, my mother, my flatmate, my strong friends, my aunts, even my gentle non-confrontational grandmothers. But we're open enough to let the men share it--my father, my grandfather with his "burden" of four daughters whom he encouraged to study as much as they could and get proper jobs, Small's boyfriend Rahul, whom I love, and who goes to investigate mice in the kitchen because we're too scared, and my friends, always ready with a muscle flex, a cigarette and a back rub.

ps: I got this email the other day, from a male reader, Nishant Ramachandran who has some strong thoughts. I haven't edited anything, except added paragraphs.

I remember as a little kid standing amongst my peers in line at the school prayer, shouting with the sincerity and gusto of the very young, hand rigidly extended forward, the lines "all Indians are my brothers and sisters." A day came whence the shorts were replaced by pants, the face started sprouting hair albeit soft and downy, a growth spurt began with physical changes that were too baffling (anyway at first) and too surprising to comprehend fully. The same girls we ran and romped around with, playing and hollering around without any thought nor mind to being different from us boys, began to look like an alien species from wonderland. Emotions so unfathomable yet so deep began to flower in our flighty minds. Yes my friends the day came when we stood in the prayer lines, albeit among the senior students, and shouted with equal gusto and insincerity "all Indians are my brothers and your sisters." This last came about when we began to comprehend and appreciate the opposite sex.

As a young man dealing with the emotional lability associated with puberty and the growing realization of my own sexuality, I used to look upon girls with awe and longing, not knowing what was right or wrong, just that they fascinated me like nothing ever had before. I believe every boy who enters manhood goes through this phase and it is at this phase that the grain gets separated from the chaff. Boys compete with each other to grab the attention of the opposite sex, vent their energy through approved channels such as sports and some through violence towards each other. Testosterone surge and immature minds make a heady mix.

The family plays an important role in this stage of a male's development. I was fortunate in having an older sister who was very influential in shaping my outlook positively towards the opposite sex. Peer pressure at this stage is another difficulty to surmount as a group of young men make as much trouble as an avalanche if given the right conditions. The pressure to smoke, drink, indulge in objectionable attitudes and acts to prove manliness rises and many succumb to it. This is the cauldron that gives rise to such grave social ills as eve teasing and worse. Some young men make it their pastime, getting around in groups, following and annoying passing females with indecent propositions and suggestive filmi songs. I would be a hypocrite if I said I have never been tempted in my extreme youth upon seeing dark flowing hair and beautiful eyes to sing "ai haseena zulfon wali jaane jahaan, dhoondthi hai kathil aankhen kiska nishan," but respect for my sister always kept these ditties in my minds eye rather than on my lips.

It is said a thing of beauty is a joy forever and there is nothing more beautiful in a young man's eye as a beautiful woman. An appreciative and admiring glance was all I indulged in. Most young men look at this as harmless fun and outgrow them as they mature, but when this seemingly harmless sport becomes a serious affliction for some then it becomes a menace to society and women in general. My first awareness of eve teasing as something other than harmless fun was in college. By this time I was losing interest in studies, bunking classes, into alcohol, getting influenced by revolutionary ideology a la Che Guevara, and making serious attempts at disrupting peace. A classmate of mine was being followed around and harrassed by a group of hooligans from another class. A classmate who interfered in their sport and told them to lay off got himself roughed up. I had the pleasure of making them see the error of their ways and this incident hammered into me how difficult it is for women to live a normal life with the threat of such harrassment constantly hanging over their heads like the sword of damocles.

Our society is unquestionably a male dominated one where women traditionally have little or no rights. Nothing illustrates this better than the practice of female foeticide and infanticide that has become such a menace that the government has been forced to outlaw sex determination tests such as amniocentesis etc., but still people find ways to detect and abort female foetuses. The government of Tamil Nadu even had to initiate a cradle baby scheme so that parents would rather give up their female children than kill them. Child marriage is prevalent across large parts of the country and it is as yet undetermined how many young women die of pregnancy related complications every year. Then there are conscientious people like Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan who got gangraped and abused as punishment for requesting people to not be part of child marriages or Shakuntala Verma in Madhya Pradesh who got her hands chopped off for counseling people against the same.Women are perceived as weak and helpless, dependent on males for their protection and survival, a burden to their families as the dowry that has to be given in the marriage market usually bankrupts a family. This mentality is deeply entrenched and all pervading in our society thus giving rise to male chauvinistic behavior such as eve teasing, which in turn progresses to sexual harrassment and more heinous crimes like sexual assault. In no way am I suggesting that eve teasing, sexual harrassment and sexual abuse is a situation unique to India, it is a worldwide phenomenon, but this menace is much more dangerous in the context of the Indian Subcontinent because few women here would care to make an issue out of it for fear of social ostracisation. Even though we have laws to deal with crimes against women, there are too many loopholes in the present legal system which allow the vast majority of perpetrators to walk away scot free. This is best proved through the example set by our capital Delhi where city courts found only 16% of alleged rapists guilty in 2005. This is keeping in mind the fact that only a miniscule of rape cases actually get reported.Women from the socially and economically forward communities have the advantage of education, equal opportunities and hence are making a difference in the way society perceives them by occupying decision making posts and contributing towards the emancipation of women as a whole, but the vast majority of our country lives in backward villages, agricultural communities and slums where there is little or no social justice, where feudalism still reigns, where women are little more than puppets to be manipulated. It is very rare for a girl child to not lose her humanity if she survives to become a woman in such conditions.

Today's India is not the India of five years ago. There has been a quantum leap forward in terms of economic prosperity with the economy growing at an estimated 8% per annum. A lot of effort is being put in by the government, but more needs to be done to raise the female literacy level which would be the key to tackling poverty, raising awareness among the women about their rights and empowering them at the grassroot level.

ps 2: (I seem to keep updating today)
But, before you think I'm glossing over the whole thing, and missing the point, here are some facts I found out today, to make you think.

> 84 per cent of women who are raped know their attacker.

> Less than one third of rapes are reported to authorities.

> 8.5% of college men in the US admit to sexually abusing women - but don't consider that rape.

> In India every 26 minutes, a woman is molested.

> And every 42 minutes, an incident of sexual harassment takes place.

> Worse, every 34 minutes, a woman is raped. (By the time you finish reading this post, and check a few more blogs and drink your first cup of coffee. During your lunch break. As you drive home. It's happening to someone.)

And always remember this and this.

Be safe. Celebrate your women (and your men) friends. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.


  1. Thank you.
    You, for not sterotyping men and for acknowledging those men who are decent and acceptable around women. I'd like to think I'm part of that sub-set.

    And thanks to Nishant for his take on growing up as an Indian male.

  2. It's great to see that Women's Day is not getting equated with Anti-Men/Men-are-the-enemy sentiment everywhere! :)

    Nishant's mail made for a very interesting, insightful read. Thanks for posting it,eM.

  3. Hey em, hows u?
    What i am afraid more's emotional harassment. Just because you're a woman or a girl of marriageable age. Not forced, just pressured so much that you give in and accept it as a part of your life.
    What about urban women like me, in respectable jobs, armed with good education and all but facing the same marriage market shit?

  4. i fully agree. education is the key. educate ppl about proper sexual behaviour. Talk about it, in the schools, in the family, in the work places. And rise against it.

  5. ze cool template. ze beet difficult on ze eye, though.

  6. Good post!
    And I guess the few need to be acknowledged for all the good they do. Yay for the nice men in our lives :)

    And yeah, given the environment, it is a huge step to keep those thoughts to yourself and not throw it on unsuspecting women. Kudos to Nishant.

  7. The last time I visited Delhi was 7 years ago. I was 14. Growing up, looking left, looking right, but never harassing. From what I've read, much has changed.

    You mentioned that we are a male dominated society. But we also a society that has many of its people praying to Goddesses. I wonder why we have this bigotry in us. Why chop off hands? Why rape? The men who tease might be the same who adorn in saffron--- Is something wrong with our religion?

    The email was a good read.


  8. the best write-up about women's day i've come across. why keep it confined only to the blog?

    and i love the new template. if only the colour was a bit subtler, though.

  9. Amazing writing..and I agree with tiny black cat,its the best write up about Women's day i've ever come across.
    btw,I was going through the archives..and felt strangely happy when I found out that ure an LSR studying there right now:)

  10. Let's not celebrate "Men's day" or "Woman's day". Let's celebrate Humanity. Education and mutual respect can bring about a societal transformation which is so very important for the entire evolutionary balance. Animosity gets us nowhere.

    Eve teasing is plain stupid. Intelligent people do not eve tease or adam tease(if there is such a term)

    Great post though.

    ze cool template. ze beet difficult on ze eye, though...Nu pair of glasses senor..:))

    Peace out,
    The beatnik baba

  11. Like your blog very much. Am going to add the link to mine.

    Love your women's day post - a really fresh persepctive. I totally agree. And I hope to bring up my (currently 9 month old) son to be the kind of man who will respect and celebrate women.

    I read some of the other stuff you wrote as well with great nostalgia. It sounds a lot like my life before I got pregnant and had a baby....

  12. Nishant's article was impressive. But even more so were your opening remarks. A 'thank you' to all those guy friends who care,know to protect and be gentlemen.

  13. Cool new template, eM, although I agree, a bit hard on the eyes.

  14. Cool to be teal and all, but man do i miss the old template/old format.
    That was SO you. That was compulsive confessing, and i was hooked, addicted.
    Pliss to change back.

  15. I'm starting a Bring Back the Old Template campaign.
    I know I do not walk alone. (Apart, that is, from Ms Arunditty Roy who will join any Cause there is.)

  16. Am I the only one who's having a problem with this template? I can't see the first half of the current first post. I've tried refreshing it, just to check, but there seems to be something wrong. eM, please to find a cure quickly. :)

  17. I second the bring back the old template motion.
    And we likes Nishant.

  18. beautiful post eM and not a mere tirade on all men are bad :)
    I dont quite like your new template though - cant see half of this post.

  19. very hard on the eyes and takes forever to upload.
    PLEASE M, pretty please, change back to the old u.

  20. i like the new look of your blog. the color is refreshing.. so much a summer color :)

    and I am so glad that while raising your voice against eve teasing, you did not turn it into male bashing..

  21. eM - the things we readers suffer for you! I had to use IE to read your update. And then I saw the template properly realized, "Oh, this is what it's supposed to look like!" Hope you change back soon, because the template looks ghastly on Firefox.

  22. Lovely post.

    And I really like this template. The woman in black is very cool. :)

  23. Hey... Lemme just say thank you to begin with.

    All day, I've read the most depressing posts. Some have hope but most were scary and depressing. And after all that reading, I got here and you helped restore my belief in that 20% of men who are good and chivalrous and gentlemanly.

    Oh and by the way, I absolutely love the new template. The colour's a little bright but it still looks mucho awesome.

    Happy Women's Day to ya.

  24. you made my morning, you did.
    i'm cartwheeling, and shouting a million yipees in my head!
    thank you, goddess, thank you. for promising to bring back old template.

  25. Great post...& i love the heading too :)....for obvious reasons..
    And all the roads we have to walk along are winding
    And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
    There are many things that I would
    Like to say to you
    I don't know how

    Because maybe
    You're gonna be the one who saves me?
    And after all
    You're my wonderwall...
    p.s.: chk this out..

  26. "admiringly"

    now thats a warm fuzzy feeling right there !!

    rfc on we mens day.


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