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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30 April 2007

God's own country, my ass

Even though the Kochi airport code is COK and that is helpfully emblazoned on your boarding pass and luggage, it did little to cheer me up. And this when you consider the Mumbai code is BOM and so basically it says BOM COK, you can imagine I was pretty low.

I don't know what it is about Kerala or actually, just about family holidays, that instantly makes me metamorphise into a thirteen year old again. I find myself being sullen, and rude and cranky and nearly bursting into tears every now and then.

Of course, this could have to do with the lack of nicotine.

I kept waiting for some sort of, I don't know, call to my blood or something, something to acknowledge that my roots lay there, something like the feeling I always get when I'm in Delhi, a distinct feeling of this, this is where I belong. But apart from noticing that for once my hair didn't stand out as uncontrollably frizzy, and that everyone there looked like me before I had my braces on (seriously, that entire state should get free orthodontia) there was no burble in my heart, no call to my bloodline. And so like mongrels everywhere, I resigned myself to not really belonging anywhere. Like that Beatles song, Nowhere Man which incidentally, was insistently running through my head this entire weekend.

I thought perhaps being a coastal city, Cochin and Bombay would have quite a bit in common. Not true. They have exactly three things in common: a) the weather (which is dreadfully muggy) b) an Elphinstone Road and c) a Marine Drive. Although item c doesn't even count as the same thing, because the Marine Drive in Cochin is more like a Marine Path where people walk across this fancy suspension bridge and young men in lungis lounge lazily.

Between avoiding Effusive Aunt (who kept touching me and talking to me in Malayalam, despite blank looks) and Conservative Aunt (Life In Cochin Is Not Like Bombay Or Delhi, It Is Not Fitting For A Young Woman, No, You Can't Go For A Walk Down The Road), I managed to sneak into the bathroom and smoke a cigarette quietly, window open, air freshner ready. By day two, I was ready to kill someone, and luckily my dad and I were out alone so I said to him, "Listen, either I smoke in front of you, or I sneak off somewhere RIGHT NOW." So he deposited me in a rather nice little coffee shop (full of foreigners, so no chance of someone knowing who he was) and I drank my cold coffee and exhaled with jubilation. I stubbed out my smoke not a moment too soon, because my cousin and his friends entered. Seriously, I am so the best looking person in my family. It's rather gratifying.

According to my dad, we are related to practically everyone in the city. Even at this very posh hotel we went to for lunch, he pointed to a portrait of this old Brahmin dude, hanging in the lobby and said, "Related by marriage." I didn't realise my lineage was so distinguished. Y'all should treat me with some respect now.

And I saw Vasco Da Gama's original grave (before he was dug up and taken to Portugal). And bought myself tapioca and jackfruit chips. And two starfish, one for Chrisann (which should be a surprise, but oh well. We have a present thing going on, her and I, where whenever we travel we attempt to get back something pretty) and the other starfish for me. (I offered it to the Nonboyfriend but he was all like, dude, I don't want a cadaver to which I was like FINE then I'll just KEEP it. Men.)

Oh, and it rained, and Kerala rain is lovely and stormy and beautiful. The kind of rain poetry is written about, and the kind of rain, even in this day and age that you can run outside, head turned upwards and catch in your mouth,


  1. u poor mongrel! i know that feeling. happens when i visit calcutta and do not feel at all at home even though the language is mine and the effusive relatives are (regrettably) mine too!!

  2. Can you please please take some pictures. I've been to Kerela once about 9-10 years ago and it was rather sunny weather. I got odd looks from my mother when I said i wished it were raining. Somehow imagined it would be better

  3. hey starfish!
    so much for a surprise
    am mentally makign space on bedside table for it...
    I think this whole must get a present when I travel thing is a fine, fine idea...
    hug hug

  4. mallu men, though quite excellent elsewhere, are incredible leches in kerala itself man. after having travelled to all sorts of places across the country, i was quite horrified on my first trip to kerala last year. it makes zero sociological sense to me - you'd think all that education would do otherwise, no?

  5. BOM COK?? bhwaaaahaaa :)

    I've heard such horror stories about mallu men in kerala. Apparently the mundhu (mudhu right? the lungi?) makes for easy flashing!! Ewwww. But Cochin was supposed to be all hep and cosmo no?

  6. Kochi is one of the few places I've been to and liked. Loved, actually. Fort Cochin and Mattancherry and the Jewish bits. There was a killer bookstore in Fort Cochin that gave you yuor books in these adorable jute bags. You been there? And this place called Kashi Art Gallery that had a cafe that made killer chocolate cake.

  7. Mongrel... that's a word I use all the time to describe the kind of people you described, yours truly included... I've spent as much time in the country as out, and I really need to see more of it... really really really do... very much so... really.

    Zfuzl said word verification... well zfuzl you too!

  8. same with benny on the pictures request. and i want a starfish!!!! hmph!

  9. I don't think it's so much about the place itself as much as about the things you have come to associate with it: conservative, no-smoking zone, relatives you couldn't care less for.... Happens to all of us!

  10. rain!!! wow. delhi is lava central right now. may has just started. 6 more months to go. oooof!!

  11. really? i live in cochin and smoke whenever i feel like it, drink like a fish - am a known dipsomaniac - and also walk down the road when i feel like it. maybe you were giving out vibes of "i think you people are so uncool", so OF COURSE they felt they had to be ultra conservative to live up to your expectations?

  12. Loved the book shop with the jute bags.. Incy Bella!

  13. i'm a bit ashamed of this being my favourite line in the post....... The kind of rain poetry is written about, and the kind of rain, even in this day and age that you can run outside, head turned upwards and catch in your mouth....... awesome description man!

  14. cochin's a mixed bag. it's home for me, so i'm not exactly objective, but it's got a lot of great things to see and do. Fort Kochi including Kashi Art Cafe and other excellent eating places would definitely be one of those. I regretfully agree about the mallu men. The orthodonty point is something that never struck me but now that you mention it bloody hell yes!! While i wouldn't echo Sherry's sentiments exactly, it might not hurt to open the mind...just a crack.

  15. I know exactly what you mean. When the extended family is breathing down your neck,it would be difficult to be who you are in Bombay. But it's a whole lot better now. You just haven't managed to meet the right people:-)
    P.S. Cochin's my home and I like the place and am happy here but I so get what you mean.

  16. i was in trivandrum for my summer internship at the world's largest condom factory!
    language is the biggest issue there. one month into my program, i catch my boss singing a pure hindi film song. I was surprised he knew Hindi! and he says, "hindi bolne mein sharm aati hai"

  17. how/why did you feel bad for him??? he sounded sooo sidey no?

  18. After wondering for ages why I’m subscribing to that Sunday supplement (which one reads in the morning-after haze and then dozes off, only to forget some of the best bits when I wake up later) instead of just buying it at Crepe Station later, if one’s up to it…I finally remember to put the sheet with the article (which must be familiar enough to you by now to be called just “the article) under my pillow for later devouring..

    Am glad I did.

    Especially that pre-historic post about a certain library with tall wooden shelves, where I remember discovering probably the nicest thing that ever happened to sarcasm, also called Wodehouse… In the frenetic need to keep a bit of the magic with me beyond the summer break, I remember borrowing, a lil permanently, a moth eaten copy of “Aunts aren’t Gentlemen”, which adorns my old steel trunk to date…. (You ain’t the snitching kinds..are you:-)

    Wrote this three days back. Managing to send today. I think the Saturday-from-hell-followed-by-sadness thingie is catching..

    Adios !


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