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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8 January 2014

The Book Party

(A version of this article appeared in last month's Elle magazine. Great issue, by the way. You should see if some stands still have it and pick it up.)

Unrelated photo from birthday weekend. Good book though.
Just five more minutes and you can leave the house. Five minutes, and you won’t be the first one there, you won’t have to make awkward small talk with the author, while both of you wait around for more important guests. Five minutes, and you’ll still be on time enough to snag a parking spot—or a seat, if you’re wearing heels—and not so early that the waiters are still setting up around you. If you give it half an hour, you might be able to miss the interminable author reading, the questions that the moderator, usually a friend, feeds them, the ha-ha-look-how-funny-we-are-in-the-inner-circle questions from a friend, and make it just in time for the bar to open. You sometimes go for the readings, for an “important” book, or an author you’ve read before, or, most likely (who are we kidding?) your friend’s. If the invite says 7.30, you aim to leave your house at 7.35, if there are cocktails after, the invite will say “Cocktails will be served after the launch.” Otherwise, it’s just “beverages.”  Beware the “beverage” launch. 

The “high tea” launch, too, is misleading. The first time you saw that on an invitation, you were immediately slung back to one of Enid Blyton’s books of three or four chirpy siblings on a farm, who did all the chores without complaining about child labour, and who went in for high tea every evening, with sausages and meat pie and what not. You’re not expecting a meat pie from the book launch, but a chicken patty from Wenger’s would do in a pinch. More than a pinch. Biscuits and instant coffee is what you get. You stop going to book launches for the food.  Some venues will still surprise you — the British Council Library in New Delhi, for instance, has a fried fish that’s moreish, and an apparently endless supply of wine.  In case of emergency, you always have your after party, your back up plan, your cheap dive bar in the neighbourhood that you’ll take people to only to have them exclaim over the authenticity, the is-that-double-whiskey-only-that-much?

You consider your outfit in the mirror — too much, and you’ll be trying too hard, too little and no one will comment at all. The other girls have a casual hand with statement jewelry, piling it on over black tops and skinny jeans, but you’ve decided to go with a simple shift dress, a deceptively loose cut, which clings to you as you walk. Casual but elegant.  Giving you the air of a person who only goes to certain parties, and who probably already has another three plans this evening.  You sling your bag around your shoulders, a little extra cash in case you want to buy the book and have it signed that evening, a souvenir, as it were, and the mantra: car keys, house keys, wallet, cigarettes, lighter.

Your friend who told you about this evening is standing by the door when you enter. She’s in publishing, or journalism, or PR, or she’s an author herself. She’s a useful person to know on a Tuesday night, when the only thing there is to do is crash a book party. She knows the very glamorous young male author, who is probably gay, but might not be, by the way his eyes rest on her bosom, as she introduces you to him. “There might be an after party,” she tells you, typing out a message on her iPhone, and raising one cool eyebrow and the side of her mouth in a smile to someone across the room. 

You are not late enough to miss the reading. Young Glamorous Male Author goes on and on.  There’s a challenging question from the audience about his homosexual themes, and whether that’s from real life. A frisson goes around, and the lulled audience sits up, alert and excited for gossip. He answers diplomatically, and you’re reminded of something you read about publicity: “If someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, answer another question.”

Finally, they announce the drinks. This is the best part. This is the only reason most people are here. You grab a glass of wine from a swamped waiter. You throw your head back and laugh.

You are having a wonderful time.


  1. Wonderfully written, loved the touch of glamor. Tough to write in the second person, but you have done it so well here, giving us readers a taste of what it's like at a book party.

  2. Not related to this.. but can you suggest some good books to read? Hit a readers block! I ve read the earlier ones you suggested (Gone girl, Dinner, Finding Alaska, etc) and liked them. Thanks!


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