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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28 March 2007

My Old Wise People

I love my friend the Duck Of Destiny. No, seriously, I do. And I'm even proposing marriage right here on this blog because of my great and passionate rush of feelings towards him. There are many reasons to love him (in fact, we're going to have a passionate affair in New York when we are both 40 and old and wise), but one of the biggest reasons is that he is a consistent nail-on-the-head-hitter. Every story I tell him--if he's listening listening and not just making fun of me--gets the most marvellous insights.

Like, recently? We were chatting about men, more specifically the men in my life, and he said, "Well, you're lovely till you have your first meltdown, so you should avoid that." And I was just so struck by that. My meltdown! How awesome! It had a word then, the drunk calling at three am, the weepy smoke breaks at work, the need to ask why why why don't you feel the same way about me. And such a succint word too.

Anyway. So Samit is awesome. Other people who know him will vouch for this. But now it's time to kick him off my blog and bring on an email I got from my mother this morning. I had mentioned the "meltdown" conversation and I was in a general snit about the State Of My Love Life. (Hey, if I can't whine to my mother who can I whine to?) and she sent me this (edited, of course, to save whatever little anonymity I have, but I did check whether I could post it):

Dear eM,

Have been sitting here for the last half-an-hour trying to formulate some golden advice on how to avoid a "meltdown" (what a wonderful word!) --a brilliant insight, in fact, of the mysterious way we women over how many generations yearn to abdicate all power and responsibility for our lives. Many years ago, when you were still a teenager (This bit I do object to, I'm only 25 in case my mother has forgotten, it wasn't that long ago I was a teenager!), you declared one day, half in fun, that what you wished most of all was to lead a dog's life. To my mind, what you were wishing for was the desire to surrender all your hard-won independence and self-empowerment to the idea of making yourself lovable. It's an innately suicidal thought that women have probably been nurtured on for ever, almost as inescapable as our genes: this idea of making ourselves lovable. I keep thinking of how we mothers, while training our daughters with such solicitude on how to grow into financial independence, yet fail in the more important task of making them as emotionally tough as men. How many men do you know, for instance, no matter how callow or how old, who are susceptible to this lethal meltdown? This need, this overwhelming hunger for a man's love, this readiness to strip off all our plans and dreams as if these were only unwieldy clothes we donned for the sake of propriety, and which we put on only for the joy of taking them off again.

When we can admit to ourselves that it's mostly women who have these meltdowns--and the few men we know who are prone to similar meltdowns are men we secretly despise, as someone weak and needy and clingy--how can we then believe that women are as emanicipated as men? All that talk of sexual equality--isn't it just a load of rubbish? Are we really ready to enjoy casual sex the way men do and move on, taking pleasure only in the conquest and onwards to fresh adventure? Are we ready to forgo the Great Dream of the charming prince who will sweep us out of our life--so humdrum and tedious and hard-won, it seems--and will bear our cross for us for the rest of our life, saving us the trouble of those decisions, so troublesome and yet so exhilarating.

Baby, until you give up that dream and truly embrace your life for what it is, the meltdowns will keep recurring, no matter how many Princes and their shadows keep coming into your life. Put your ardour and passion into something more lasting than boys, dear heart. I know this is easier said than done, but you have so many gifts that deserve your passion: reading and writing being only two of them. There's your compassion for animals, your curiosity, your need to explore, your need to play more than games of love and your need to excel at something---the hard, satisfying enviable pleasure of accomplishing something arduous to your satisfaction. Be a man, my dear, and battle that urge for meltdown, and you'll have done something worthwhile for all of womankind.

Love, Ma

I hope you all have such excellent Wise People in your tribe too.


  1. which is not even to dream of suggesting that you're not lovely after that first meltdown.
    and, since we're being all fuzzy, i love you too :D

  2. don't think of it as 'being a man'.. think of it as 'being rational'

  3. I wish that someone had said such wise words to me. You are a very lucky girl! And I bet you know that already!

    p.s. I am a regular reader but commenting for the first time. Absolutely love the blog!

  4. love your ma for her being a strong and feminist ma, for writing you this letter. it's a tough going, girl, and only when we realise that meltdowns affect not only our love life but us - us right there in the deep at the core - that we want to and can have a life without, beyond them. here's to the tribe of strong women.

  5. Hey, I love strong women... especially the ones who can give it right back to me... While we're not all out for the conquest, the ones that aren't (primarily the kinds I find myself in the company of) aren't necessarily prone to meltdowns either... Some just like to live life as it comes, and take each day, one at a time...

  6. Wow, now we know where you get your ability to write from.

    I may have misunderstood what you mean by 'meltdown' but I really don't see what's wrong with having them. We have meltdowns, men go to the pub and get pissed and bang anything they see. When they lose someone they really care about that is. Otherwise they just bury any semblance of emotion and 'bear it like a man' and why is that supposed to be a good thing.

    I agree with your mum that for all our independence, we really just want to find someone we feel safe enough to toss that independence away with. But so what? Why is independence such a virtue anyway? Because it's a man's world and maybe that's a fundamental problem. Maybe we don't need to change into men but change the world so that we don't always have to strive to be men.

    Let's wear pink and cry over soppy movies (if we do) and have our meltdowns, I say!

  7. it's clear where you get your writing abilities from. You have a wonderful mother.

  8. This is probably one the most insightful and well-written entry in your blog.

  9. Love the letter.. I actually sent it to my mom! heh..

  10. I *love* your mom.

    Can I send mine to her for classes?

  11. your mother's insight in to your teenage canine ambitions summed it up the best for me. if you have such a wise elder in your tribe then why hell do you not listen to her eM?

  12. oh come now. does anyone listen to their own mothers? :) if i listened to her, i'd be going against essential mother-daughter tradition, and i'm a traditional creature i am.

    in other news, i'm now tagging all you commenters to come up with Words Of Wisdom from your mothers. if we don't listen to our own, perhaps we'll listen to other peoples? It'll be fun! Let me know, and I'll link accordingly. :)

  13. Loved the letter, though i never listen(err....bother to listen) to my mom, i somewhat used to belong to 'and the few men we know who are prone to similar meltdowns are men we secretly despise, as someone weak and needy and clingy' category...but changed over the way, u wrtie really good, m a regular reader but posting comment for the first time!!

  14. May you always have excellent wise people in your tribe... :)

  15. "This is probably one the most insightful and well-written entry in your blog."

    talk about a back handed compliment. heh.


  16. Lovely and thoughtful!

    I liked the way you and your mom have penned down the thoughts.

  17. Not all men are Genghis Khans; some do have the balls to fight for a woman's love (it is much more arduous than the 'conquests' and 'adventures').

  18. I so so so agree - more because I am going through a painful breakup now. And I know how differently both of us are reacting to this. FOr me it is more of being lost and unloved. It feels almost like being 'abandoned'...

  19. Can i please borrow your mom??
    just for THOSE days i mean to say, when i am in need for some emotional support and someone else than myself to restore the belief in myself and my qualities??

  20. oh yeah, we have you. ...
    thanks for sharing those wonderful words of wisdom, those etchign feelign inside get a name, and a possible sense of direction, at least if i choose to follow it :P

  21. I had the good fortune to know your dad. How i look forward to meeting your mom someday too.

    Kudos, to the mother and the daughter!

  22. you got a really cool mom...

  23. My mothers words of wisdom:

    "Always take the math courses. You'll always need math in your life."


    btw, isn't "meltdown" a very american term? I've heard a jillion people use it here.

  24. "be a man?" why would you need to be a man to do what you have to do? the challenge is in being a woman and doing what a man does, not by becoming a man. Sigh. That's what feminism's problem has always been.

  25. Cool mom! I'm beginning to believe that good writing has genetic roots!

  26. Hats off to your Ma. I have read your entire archive, and I think her mail is the most intelligent piece I have read, as yet (I still have to read the rest of 2007 and 2008). :P

    I think she is proud of you the way you are carrying yourself, but as they say - parents always expect much more from us, they always feel that their loved one is the most special. And not all parents are so frank to their children, so feel privileged. Everyone should have someone to fall back to when they are lost, someone who can console them when they are sad, to share the joys, and its comforting that your family is always there for you (Severe home sickness speaking here ! :P)


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