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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26 January 2011

Notes from the Lit Fest that have absolutely nothing to do with literature

All of this past week I have been at the Jaipur Literature Festival which was even more of a circus than usual. I cannot sum up the last five days without devoting pages and pages to it, so instead, I’m going to offer you my (very random) tweets, with a little explanation to follow each one. I got into the habit of taking down time sitting by the fountain area near Diggi Palace’s Flow Cafe and tweeting whatever came to mind as I sat there with my coffee and a cigarette. MADNESS.


Feel v. virtuous because I managed to get the writing I had to do done before I go off to schmooze for a week at the lit fest.

It’s true. I did. I’ve decided my awesome alter ego Nina (has very short hair, may or may not be a lesbian, is very capable) is responsible for all my organised-y things. Post this, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up till my friend arrived from Bangalore, and I got into a major rush over packing and showering and getting to Bikaner House on time. Bikaner House being the place off India Gate where you get nice luxury buses to go to Jaipur or Jodhpur or wherever else in Rajasthan you fancy. We got lucky, because not only was our bus very nice, with reclining seats and a foot rest and everything, but also, we reached Jaipur in about five and a half hours.


Unfortunately, Nina didn’t step in in time for me to collect my newly made business cards from the place in Khan Market I ordered them from and there they languish, thinking of the might-have-beens.


this year's writer most likely to be mobbed award goes to... gulzar!

Girl on the bus to me, after I asked her whether she was going to the lit fest: “I’m only going for one session, because I have to go back to Delhi tomorrow evening. I MUST see Gulzar, I even tried to get into his house in Bombay and couldn’t.” Commitment? Or stalkeritude? You decide.


But seriously, everywhere the man went, he was followed by a literal TRAIN of people, including his own private personal paparazzi.


authors get separate eating section this year. I'm average Joanna this year so feel very left out. esp since that's where the bar is.

The lit fest’s biggest claim has been its egalitarianism, you get to lunch with the greats, maybe share a table with a Nobel Prize winner, but this year they all got their own eating area, and we (the great masses) were left to fend for ourselves, alone and un-famous-people-table-y.


still haven't spotted candace bushnell, I hope she's ready for a new bff.

Oh my god, I was so excited about Candace. I don’t know what I was expecting, that she’d throw her arms around me and be all, “Sister from another mother!” but I was expecting something. Which, if you’ll read on, you’ll find was not the case.


in today's awards also add writer everyone wants to seduce. winner is junot diaz, surprised no one actually threw panties on the stage.

Junot  Diaz was rather unprepossessing looking, but then he talked. And he did such a good job, all the ladies in the audience were in a collective swoon. You could see the sappy faces everywhere, and when I spotted him and went up to chat to him the next day at the cafe, he had the look of a man who was used to it, patting my shoulder, saying “that’s very kind” and moving on to brighter pastures.


On the plus side, SO MANY CUTE BOYS! Yay!


watch me on where I and @mriganayanika talk about the lit fest and hot boys. 


My friend Pragya, who is awesome, and I did a couple of “festival diaries” thing. They’re fun and funny, but I can’t find the links, so just check on Tehelka.


Today. I. Am. Interviewing. Candace. Bushnell. (inhale, Minna, inhale)

For Marie Claire stepped in at the last moment and made all my dreams come true. I was actually going to meet her! Face to face! The woman who revolutionised sex writing so long ago.


But while Ms. Bushnell was very articulate and intelligent, we didn’t quite get into the discussion I wanted to have—about sex writing abroad versus sex writing in India, about feminism and so on. It was probably my own fault—I did come with a prepared list of questions, and perhaps it was the time constraint, but either way, I felt it fell a little flat.


Of course, this means I have to dress very nice. I'm thinking grey cowl neck wool dress, with a lime tube top inside, tights, boots.

Either writers are finally dressing better, or the mild winter sun made for some interesting sartorial choices, but Jaipur was just like a fashion show. LOVELY outfits, beautiful people, it made my people watching all the more interesting—and of course, upped the ante on what I would choose to wear that day too.


I have to dress nice for Carrie.... er, I mean, Candace.

Author  Ira Trivedi did the session with her and made the same mistake on stage, which I thought was very sweet. We do always imagine Carrie Bradshaw when we think of Candace Bushnell, no?


only 10 am and the place is packed. this is going to be a crazy weekend.

I’m not kidding you guys. It felt like the Khumbh Mela or something. There was even the obligatory “has anyone seen a little lost boy?” announcement. I couldn’t get into any of the sessions, so I sat outside quite happily and eavesdropped.


someone just touched gulzar's feet.



people are certainly dressed better this year.

And you thought readers were nerds.


if everyone's here, who's attending the sessions? does anyone really come to watch the discussions or is it all about people watching?

What I didn’t realise is that I answered my own question, just by posting all these random tweets. Ah, irony.


dna this morning called kiran desai orhan pamuk's trophy girlfriend. wow.

She went on to be supremely giggly, and from all accounts, quite annoying, while he acted like quite a brat on stage, said my conscientious friend who actually, like, you know, watched stuff instead of schmoozing like me. So I take back my “wow” of amazement.


“aap heroine dekhne ja rahe ho?” auto driver to me when I ask to be taken to candace's hotel.

I wanted to answer about how she was the heroine of my heart, but I didn’t want to get into it, so I just nodded and smiled widely.


well that was interesting. don't think she'll be my new bff though.

Another hope dashed, alas.


since I'm at a table with no one else I know, let's play lit fest hot or not!

Unfortunately, with a sketchy signal and my Android acting up, I couldn’t actually do this, but it would have been SUCH FUN.


"What are you working on?" is the lit fest equivalent of "What's your sign?"

Then, we talk about agents and book deals and feel all shop-talk-y and cool and I was all flipping my hair and LOOK AT ME IN MY INDUSTRY DOING INDUSTRY TALK!


barkha Dutt being hustled into flow."don't worry," says her companion, "there's a celebrity hideout in the corner."


It’s where Rahul Bose skulked last year, looking around in his aviator glasses for someone to recognise him before he ducked his head and looked Private and Busy. Also, sundry other authors. It’s the “big table” in the corner and chances are, if you go next year, and want very much to celebrity spot, that’s where you’ll find them all.


and now there's a double mattress being shepherded out. this place is surreal

Again: really.


someone should write a book just on the happenings at flow cafe.

Remember, you saw it here first! I want a cut and a loving, thoughtful dedication. Along the lines of: To eM, without whom, not.


nursing my hangover and feeling very sorry for myself. all alone in a crowd etc.(dehydration makes me dramatic)

Writers drink a bloody lot. Three days of non stop partying (including one as soon as I got into Delhi) has made me grumpy and hermit-y today. I’m almost thankful it’s a dry day.



The grumpiness started early though. But soon, you’ll be happy to know, I met my friends, and all was right again.


I wish my hair just naturally smelt of hot buttered popcorn.

Um, yeah. If you do follow me on Twitter, I assume this is the time you unfollowed. I was so drunk on constant socialising (actual alcohol can only be consumed post sundown, this is my usual rule, though I break it for brunches, because really, what is a brunch without a nice cold Bloody Mary?) that I began to babble a little bit. And babbling on Twitter—well, I’d have unfollowed me at this point, so I don’t blame you if you do.


But wouldn’t it be awesome if they made buttered popcorn smelling shampoo? I’d always be hungry though, so maybe it’s for the best that they haven’t.


giving out Twitter awards again, @mriganayanika wins for best dressed.

She really was.


tell Sarnath banerjee you like his socks. they're very nice.

They really were too. I love interesting socks.


also @samitbasu has on the best jacket ever.

It had leather on the elbows! Awesomeness.


this band is truly awful.

The lead singer for Fire Exit was the best thing about it, and you could hardly hear her. Good lord, was I thankful when that was over!


certain writers about whom I wrote certain very loving blog posts have read it and mentioned it and now I want to DIE. stupid blog.

I was referring to this post, and yes, he did bring it up, and it’s all coming back to me now and I want to die anew. Stupid internet with stupid online archives.


it’s better to lose a lover than love a loser (via @avnidoshi)

This is my new favourite quote in the whole world.


yay for finally locating the elusive authentic laal maas I've been craving. go Jaipur!

Having searched all over Rajasthan (okay, just Jodhpur and bits of Jaipur) for this, I was THRILLED to finally find a version that were true to the stories I had been hearing about this mutton curry’s deliciousness. If you too have been looking for a good fiery hot meat curry, look no further than Copper Chimney, on Jaipur’s MI Road. Hint: order some raita too, it’s REALLY REALLY REALLY spicy.


and that's all from me about Jaipur. intrepid tweeter signing out!

Phew. ‘bout time, eh?


  1. Oh. My. God. You met Candace Bushnell!!! That was the one event I was crying about missing because I couldn't go this year. (I hate being stuck in situations when you have to "ask for permissions" for the simplest of the things.) And I would have totally asked her about sex writing abroad v/s India as well!!

    That's really funny that Vikram Seth should bring that up!! I am very curious. So, what exactly did he say about it? :P

    Did I mention that I am super jealous of you? Meeting Candace Bushnell, Vikram Seth and a lot of other writers as well, no doubt and talking about agents and publishing. I wish I can be in your shoes (which I am sure are very pretty :P) in a few years time.

  2. Em,

    I have read your blog and your book and I think its good writing- its entertaining, interesting and honest.

    However, I do not think you are anywhere close to Candace Bushnell,in content or style. I almost wonder why you'd like to be. Candace Bushnell's writing is characteristically New York- its dry, witty and sarcastic. It doesn't take one long before knowing that you two are VERY different people- the only similarity being openness towards sex in your writing(s).

    If I were you, I'd rather have a style of my own, than adopt the tag of a a Sex-and-the-City-type writer. Even Candace would agree! c

  3. That's an amusing account of proceedings.

  4. I sooooo wanna attend one of these fests, I am sure they would be so much fun

  5. I was there and saw you by the fountain on day 2 but was being pushed along in the flow of the crowd to the Mughal tent or whatever place.and damn I missed Samit!

    and bang on about the Kiran Desai observation

  6. It seems like the usual Jaipur fare. Sounds like fun though.

  7. GAH so jealous. Sometimes I can't believe I'm sitting here in the north of america while you do all this amazing stuff over there. And I was almost named after one of the characters in Vikram Seth's A SUITABLE BOY.

  8. I saw a lot of knee-length boots and super tight jeans.
    And who would have thunk that lit-fest-type people know how to dress and so well at that!
    Some outfits were super sexy...

  9. I loved the Vikram Seth bit in the post. He's SUPER. I can't imagine how it'd have been for you when he mentioned that blog post. Haha! Please write more about it?

    His was the only event i could catch and boy, it was awesome. Even if it made me wallow in self pity for weeks after because i couldn't afford his book to get it signed. I wanted a picture with him and he said "you can take one when i'm on stage." :(

    But his voice, his laugh... And he's so witty! And cute! Sigh. I just wish his books were cheaper.

    P.S. Fun post!

  10. omg you met Candace bushnel ????????????????????? i am so jealous of you


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