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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25 July 2010

White lies, fairy tales

I am Bloody Mary-d and broken, thinking about the lies we tell. In no small part, I owe my recent obsession with what-are-you-thinking-really to this show I’ve been hooked on to called Lie To Me. Just like doctor shows make me yearn to be a doctor, shows about people who are human lie detectors make me peer deeper into people’s faces, often startling them, to see whether they really mean what they’re saying.


On the other hand, how much do I say that I really mean? How much do I soften a blow with my tone? How much do I use qualifiers like “seems” and “maybe” to avoid giving my absolute one hundred per cent honest opinion? How much truth is too much truth?


This is one thing JC and I argue about all the time. Yes, he is still in my life and we’re still figuring it out, we’re trying, for lack of a better word, even though that statement makes me cringe. It’s trying to keep trying.He believes in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I believe in not saying anything if I can’t say something nice. I won’t lie to you, I’ll never lie to you, but I am skilled enough in my words that I can make you believe that I feel the same way you do about something that you like. This is lying, isn’t it? Yeah, I think it is.


What people don’t get about me, maybe what most people don’t do, is that I’m quite clued in, for an amateur, to the expressions on your face. If you’re hesitant, I can see it. If you don’t like something, I can see it. If you pause before you answer, I know why you’ve paused. Maybe it’s an only child thing, I learnt to be quite skilful at navigating my way around playgrounds, maybe it’s a writer thing, because I am always looking at people to come up with thoughts and phrases that I will use later. People have commented about my tendency to zone during parties, when I just sit there and watch people, watch the interactions and feel the ups and downs of their voices. It teaches me a lot, this little observer thing that I do. It may not make me the chick in the middle of the party, drawing all eyes to her, as I sometimes long to be, but I find the things I learn when I am the only silent being in a room full of chaos crop up later when I didn’t even know I had them.


Lying is weird, it seems no two people have one opinion on it. Most people will agree that to save someone’s feelings, they will lie or conceal the truth in one way or another. There is another school of thought that believes its for the better good of all mankind to be absolutely, radically honest in every way. Think of all the harm that would arise from that though. Think of your mind as an open window, think of all the petty or selfish thoughts you have, and think of using them to hurt your nearest and dearest. That doesn’t sound very nice at all, does it? I think absolute honesty would only work if you HONESTLY had no bad thoughts about anyone, ever. Therefore, you would have to genuinely believe that your best friend’s blue dress is the most delightful creation you’ve ever seen, that the meal your boyfriend’s painstakingly cooked you with so much love is DELICIOUS and you have to be prepared that the only excuse you might have to be late to a meeting is: I’m sorry, I was drinking last night and hungover today.


At the end of this very rambly post, I have to confess I have reached absolutely no conclusions. I want to be more honest—both for my sake and for others, but really, since we’re being more honest, honesty is REALLY for your own sake than anyone else’s, so let’s drop the “I’m doing you a favour” bullshit. What price though? Am I—by telling the truth, something that’s supposed to be always applauded—doomed to live a life friendless and loveless with no job? Maybe I should have a pact with someone—I’ll tell you the truth and you do the same. Tell me I’m being an ass and I’ll tell you that last thing you did was insensitive and selfish. We may wind up killing each other, but it’ll all be in the name of truth.


  1. So let me ask you this. If your friends found out that your husband(yes I know you're not married. But imagine if you were) was cheating on you.

    Would you want your friends to tell you? Or spare your feelings by not saying anything?

    Likewise, if you found out the same about your friends partner, what would you do?

  2. This post somehow reminded me of the way Carrie Bradshaw writes..I like it! :)

  3. I totally agree with the "if you don't have anything nice to say, just shut up" philosophy. Nothing wrong with a bit of diplomacy! I don't think it's lying and frankly there are just times when it's not worth it to get into a conflict with someone. Some people go ballistic when you tell them the truth and if it's not an important issue (or if I am not so close to that person), I just don't say anything. Other times, it's a way to avoid hurting people. Why tell someone their dress doesn't suit them, or their apartment is too small, or their child isn't smart enough, or whatever. You telling them the truth in cases like that won't solve anything, it will just hurt. On the other hand, say you are dating someone but you are not in love with them. The truth might hurt, but it's best to say it because if you don't say it, you will hurt them even more in the future. Likewise, I tell the whole truth and my honest opinions to my best friend a lot and she does the same -- sometimes it's tough to hear, but we are so close that I can take it from her and vice versa. Nothing wrong with a bit of tough love between two people who care about each other, especially if you are offering a solution rather than just criticism.

  4. you've brought out an important issue that often creeps up in relationships..although slightly simplistically handled. lies and truth are harmless when it comes to things like friends' dresses or boyfriend's cooking. there are some truths that can shatter, though.

    I think people who believe in the whole truth no matter what are being selfish, as you so rightly pointed out. The moral absolution of the confession at the catholic church comes to mind...get it off your chest and make it someone else's problem.

    It takes finesses, patience and strength, to convey a truth in a way that it can be handled. Just like sometimes it takes strength to be the asshole in the relationship and be brutally honest.

    Ultimately we need both liars and truth-ers. For contrast.

  5. One Word ... "Microexpression"

    (Google it - you'll find tons of useful tips and tricks for your "analysis" and "zoning" at the next party!)

  6. I'm in a marriage- the way to make it work is to ignore some, keep some thoughts opinions to yourself, speak when the time is right and make the other person feel good about being in the relationship. In a marriage - you need your spouse to tell you they care, you're important to them- not the truth about those little things which you already know are not right about you..

  7. I believe the truth is different for 2 people... there is nothing as an "absolute truth". You may think your friend is being an ass but she may not think so. Your truth is different from hers. My hubby does not agree with me on this... but I don't think "total honesty" is possible for me or for him... even though we may not admit it.

  8. i think honesty s a matter of perception...a lie is nt a lie if udnt get caught telin it ;) my granny usd 2 say its ok lying if it dusnt hurt ne1 ;) i sed...itt s a matter of perception :D

  9. I think there is a slight change in the air with a lie and if you are intuitive you can sense that energy change sometimes I can feel it when someone is lying.
    Ultimately lying or not depends on your conditioning some people cant lie to the extent that even lying by omission is unacceptable
    Some people so believe in their own lies that they become truths in their head.
    Right and wrong are matters of individual perception I might think lying is 'wrong' while someone else maynit have the same mental framework as me at all.

  10. Is he a cancerian? I am and I guess i can say that i get it coz im kinda like that in many ways..always wnting the truth n stuff...and hw difficult it gets for oders...umm...still in d name of "trying"..makn an excption once in a while wdnt be too bad i guess..

  11. Apart from truth, there are lies and there are white lies... its a horses for courses policy to be fair!

    I personally favor the truth being told to my face, I can handle that much better than any sort of lie.

  12. isnt that what a relationship is all about....being truthful to each other??

  13. Hi

    I believe you should give your opinions based on the person you are talking to - somebody like me would appreciate, respect and get angry with an honest opinion, but i would never be short of love or respect for that person. i know when i want to know the exact truth about what i do, i have to ask this person. i can only be with a person who is honest about what they feel - man or woman and no matter how much it hurts. i have noticed that when u get hurt, you do the learning faster. But then it depends on the person you are talking to - you need to know how the other person would react.



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