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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11 November 2006

In which my deformities are brought into light (and the reason why this blog doesn't have any pictures of me)

(You know where this post has been.)

On an anon blog, the rule of thumb, the rule of forefinger actually, is never to post anything that can be too easily traced back to you. Nevertheless, seeing as this picture is all blurry and hard to make out features from, I think it might be safe to let it go out there. Yup, that's me. Age two, I think, up in the Himalayas, wearing a sweater that belonged to my mum, looking cross at having to pose for one more picture. The reason this picture is important, the reason it's being posted at all, is because I think this was the last decent picture ever taken of me.

I was a rather good looking child, even if I do say so myself, she said completely modestly. Well, not good looking, so much as photogenic. I'm telling you, whenever I'm overcome with a nostalgia trip, I'm all wonderstruck with my beauty. I mean really, the smile, the hair, the eyes? I should've been a child model, at least when I could, so that I would have some money to spend in my old age. Once (and this is a high point so pay close attention), I was even the kid in the Life Insurance ad. Sure, they pixellated my face, and sure, you could barely make out it was me. But still. I was the face of Life Insurance, dude, were you? were you? I didn't think so.

Anyway. Then I grew older and my face got bonier, and my teeth came out, and I just wasn't good looking anymore. I had too many teeth and too small a face, but still, I photographed okay. I wasn't the Vision of Splendour I used to be, but I was okay. And then things just spiralled downwards from there.

See, I hate my nose. Absolutely hate it. In profile, I look like a duck. Really, no kidding. It's sort of bumpy at the edges and flattens out over the tip and any picture you take of me sideways makes me look like a cross between a rat and a duck. Oh, and a hermaphrodite. I make sure most people take only full frontal pictures, and even those are touch and go. Sometimes, my eyes disappear if I'm laughing. In others, I look vaguely constipated. The worse ones are where I look like a boy, because I'm not wearing any earrings, and the picture taker has only taken neck up. Oh, and let's not even go near passport pictures. One of my eyes is smaller than the other, so if I'm smiling I look something like a serial killer. The kind with a twitch.

From all this, you must have gathered that I'm not terribly photogenic. The picture I like most of myself hangs in my old room, where I'm doing this model thing at 19 and scooping my hair away from my face. People have seen this picture. People have laughed at this picture. People have said I look like a Malayali porn star in this picture. So when even my sexy pictures fail, you know, I'm really a lot better looking in real life. I have to be. There's no way someone could be that unattractive. Sometimes, the rare times when the camera decides to take pity on me, I get photographs where I can actually look at me and not flinch and those pictures are safely in a vault somewhere in Geneva. Even my own mother prefers to hang up pictures of me as a baby, all Unicef-y, rather than put out the more recent ones. I offered her the sexy one? The one I like so much? And she looked at it and looked at me and said, "I think this would look better in your room! Go hang it up there!" And I did just that.

Anyhoo. Maybe there was something about being a kid that just made me a better subject. Even now, it's so much easier to take a nice picture of a child, even a really ugly child, than it is to take of a good looking grown up. We dissect our smiles, do our picture faces, stop sitting in profile, make sure our hair is not sticking up at strange angles and when we finally get the picture, we're always disappointed. Surely that's not me, we say, surely that's not how the world sees me? Do I really look like that?

No, actually, you don't.


  1. Dear Compulsive Confessor,

    Please remove the blackground from ur blog. Use the old style. From the day u started using this disgusting looking black background, I have stopped visiting ur blog. Please keep the white background.


  2. And you are anything but anonymous.


  3. He didn't want to be anonymous. He just didn't know how to use the comment fields.

    Now, eM, can you and Scout start a joint blog or something. You're good and she's getting better. Fast.

    This i-need-a-bib blogsite of yours is quite the pain you know.

    And from what I've seen, you're cute. In an impishly-pixie way.

  4. and if you happen to stay somewhere around Andheri (w), we could catch up and exchange some notes about The Beatles. no kidding.

  5. hahah.. join the un-photogenic club. although from what I CAN see, that's a really cute pic, id love to see that expression though - it looks dangerous!! And I agree, we all look better in real life than in photos... we'd BETTER!

  6. well then sugar, there you go, you wanted someone to tell you that, now you can go love anonymous fo'ever...and as for my part, here is the comment in exchange for the song:

    carmen est bonus

    at least i think that's what i mean to say

  7. White on Black. Unreadable. Please oblige our aging eyes.

  8. Why are u using this blog just to drive traffic to ibibo? Seems like a waste of time and energy. Suggestion: Paste the post in both blogs.

  9. for all your looks, or lack of it, you sure get a lot of sex!!

  10. Loved this post, eM. Really, really did.

  11. BIlding and BOnding is all just fine, but I'll be darned if I'm going to use a service that requires me to sign up for yet another id. Arrrgh! And to add to my misery, blogger kept telling me all of yesterday that there was an error and that somebody was working on it. Why the dickens was somebody working on the error? It was annoying enough as it was, no need for further improvement.

  12. sherlock, excellent sleuthing, but am afraid had to delete your comment. :) you understand, right? i need to stay anonymous for several personal reasons, and so, reader, if you too, like sherlock manage to put two and two together, just chuckle quietly to yourself rather than publish it? Thanks.

  13. Sherlock - maybe you should have shared that directly via e-mail. Some people enjoy their privacy and stuff.

  14. On an anon blog, there is a rule of fingernail also - don't harp too much about your anonymity.

    Nobody is truly anonymous in this web. Not even you.

    You are a journalist. You have written, several times on this blog, about the kind of articles you write in the MSM. That itself is enough for anyone to put 2 and 2 together. And yes, you do have a distinctive writing style. That helps.

    To make it worse for your supposed anonymity, you talked about Orkut as well.

    I pity anyone who still wants to know your identity but is unable to figure it out.

    Note: To post this comment, I have to type "scxmaxil" in your word-verification :)

  15. and comment modification is now back ON.


    such a pain.

  16. okay while all of that is understandable and i know anyone who gave a damn could probably hunt around and figure out who i was, i still prefer not to have images/my real name on this website, which i think is my prerogative. i just dislike the idea that because google can link my real name or face to stories, i have to be more censored, and if i AM more censored, i can't blog the way i do. having a psuedonym allows me many liberties, even though a SHITLOAD of people i know read this and know it's me, it's still eM. end of story.

  17. i agree with the above.
    My parents discovered my blog and now they want to know me better.

    this is really quite a pain.
    its gotten so bad they liquor up my friends who come over and try and pump them for information.
    but comment moderation is still a sad.

  18. a sad?
    if only i didn't have such fat fingers.

  19. No intention to take away your prerogative, but please realise that it is only a matter of time before someone posts your identity on, well, another anonymous blog.

    And then you would just stop writing.

    THAT would be sad.

  20. some days your comment section is simply more exciting than your blog-post itself :)

  21. Anonymity has it's advantages.

    The biggest disadvantage, however, is that it's good sport for the herd to find out who you are.

    If you want to continue to blog using your pseudonym, I suggest you spend some time sanitizing your blog (both of them) and read this like it's your new bible..

    But like someone said, it'd be a pity if you had to stop blogging.

  22. Yeah, and don't link to people who use their real names on their blogs.
    That + Orkut makes it a cakewalk.

  23. I don't see what you have to complain about. Unless you are a Parsi, your nose can't be all that bad. I KNOW. Tragically, I am and mine is. And besides you sound cute.

  24. P.S. I was once almost the fat Rasna kid who runs away with the big jug. But my mum didn't let me go and the part went to the other fat (but less cute) kid in class. Does that count? Can I be part of the cute-when-we-were-kids clique? Please oh please...

  25. With you on the being the very opposite of photogenic. Thank god they invented digicams though... they are the un-photogenic girl's best friend.

  26. after all the self-hype about the way you look, your pic (not the blurry kid one on your post) was underwhelming, to say the least. I wish your blog - which can be occasionally intelligent - would focus less on how you look, unless of course, that occupies a lot of mindspace. I'll bet my comment will get a lot of angry responses from your fans if you decide to publish it! But just offering my personal opinion - beauty is subjective, after all.

  27. the last anon: it's amazing you have the intellect and maturity to recognize that beauty is subjective but unfortunately you lack the grace to know better than to make disparaging comments about someone's appearance, (out of spite? perhaps. or whatever it is that motivates your malice) on a public forum.

    eM: i'm not going to validate you because of the last commenter's skewed sense of aesthetics but will say that that hairdo in the kiddie photo is WRONG. never let that happen to you, or to your child.

  28. Take it from a retired baby model-the best years were 25 years ago!

  29. em,
    i'm sorry. while i thought i was trying to be very smart, i think the whole thing backfired very badly. didn't mean it to be like that.
    mockturtle, it honestly didn't strike me that i could email the link.
    really sorry.

  30. oh please... don't analyse so much... everybody is ugly/beautiful in someway or other. Even models and filmstars who set the so called standards of beauty have flaws which are clever hidden with make-up or clothing.If we keep thinking of all these then it is never ending. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Cliched but useful...always.

  31. That's not you. That's Sai Baba when he was little.

  32. I kept feeling weird about the post and the comments, until I came across Gurinder's comments.
    OMG. Lol.


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