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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17 November 2017

Newsletter: Dreams and overthinking it

This week's newsletter now on the blog! Also if you'll cast your eyes upward you'll see lots of shiny new blurbs for my new book, which you really should read if you haven't already. Subscribe here to get me on the reg in your inboxes--no spam, I promise. I'm totally going to try to post more regularly on my poor neglected blog and not just Instagram updates either, so just shout out if you're listening.  

Call it the age of the house, call it the weird light that filters through the dirty skylights in the morning or the ambient noise of the birds (and the very non-ambient knocking on our window by some other bird) but we all have vivid dreams in our Goa house, and this includes the house guest we have staying with us. Mostly, I can't remember, because my internal clock has been set to 9:39 am for the last five days, and by 9:39, I am done dreaming, and half beginning the process of waking up, which for me--like many of you--involves reaching out for my phone, scrolling through my feeds, seeing what everyone has been up to. (It's a bad habit, but it wakes me up like nothing else does.)

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with a long description of my dreams, except for one detail: there was a machine, which you could attach to your finger and it would tell you what sort of music was inside your soul. And this ginger cat that went before me, had a jazz tune, but like in a cat sort of way: it went jazz-jazz-jazz-plink-plonk, and he was a happy cat. And mine was a classical tune, with piano, and I wanted to Shazam it, I remember, in my dream, but I couldn't find my phone, so I decided to go through classical piano playlists when I woke up to see which one it was. Alas, I can no longer remember how it went, but it was an uplifting piece of music though, poignant and happy all at the same time, so I guess that sums up my state of mind.

Our friends invited to us to a barbecue on the beach after hours, and I realised, sitting there, drinking red wine out of a plastic cup, that I am absolutely hopeless about camping or roughing it. I was of zero help to anyone, except for some comments made from the peanut gallery about how to position the wood so it caught fire. Watching food or the fire being prepared isn't fascinating, but what is is the muted roar of the ocean, the hulking, almost pre-historic shadows of the fishing boats parked next to you, the soft roughness of sand, the burn on your face when you lean in too close to the fire, the crackling red patterns on the wood. The food, when it was done, was delicious, but nothing compared to just being out there, on an empty beach, the sounds of partying in the distance. It's nice also that your friends accept your limitations, and know that you are a lily of the field, you don't toil or spin, but, one hopes, you make it up in other ways.
Goa has gotten quite chilly this past week, we've pulled out a blanket and sleep without the fan on. Which also means I'm woefully unprepared for returning to Delhi in two weeks--I have no sweater, no socks, not even a warm shirt, so I picture myself obsessively, standing outside the airport in the middle of the night, freezing and then making my way up to the flat which will also be cold and I will be too tired to pull out my winter clothes just then, so I'll just have to wait till the next day. What comforts me is that I can picture the red trunk in which our blankets are stored. I'll go into an obsessive spiral about being cold, and then I'll remember the blankets are in the red trunk and then I picture the trunk, the feel of the handle as I lift it, the heaviness of the quilts when I pull them out, the way one cat will jump inside the box, and it's almost as though I'm there already. Sometimes I live in two places at the same time: the place I actually am, and the place I visit in my imagination. If I can't picture something, I feel awfully... lost. Like I'm swimming and I can't feel the bottom with my feet. Like I'm moving towards something in the dark. Which is why when I travel to a new place, I like to look at hotel or Airbnb accomodations several times: there is where I will sleep. That is where the light will hit. That is where I will put my suitcase. Is this only me?
I wrote a few articles these past two weeks, which I haven't yet linked to so here's my books column for this month in Hindu BLInk, (two memoirs and a novel-memoir) and a cover story for the Deccan Chronicle which came out ages ago, but which I forgot to link on what the rise of mythological fiction means for India. (The nicest part of this story is that I struck up conversation with Karthika Nair who blurbed my book and whose book Until The Lions was one of my favourite reads for the year it came out.)
Thursday link list!
There were cries all around. The hard earned money of many, saved as little cash in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were no longer of any value. It looked like Nero’s Rome. For six months, I documented the lives of people in queues and their agony. The better part of Indians are resilient people, some helped each other, and the old and pregnant women were taken care of by people standing with them for hours.

- Gorgeous photo essay on the effects of demonitisation. #neverforget Modi began act two of his passion play with a feather-light tickle of the audience’s funny-bone. Across the country, he said, crores of people are sleeping peacefully in their beds. But the corrupt, numbering a few thousands, cannot sleep; they try to buy sleeping pills but they can’t get any because, no money.
The illusion he conjured up had the audience in splits. And an audience that is laughing is an audience that is not thinking – thus, it never wondered for a moment why those imagined insomniacs couldn’t get their fix, given that the demonetized currency remained legal tender in pharmacies.

- And while we're on this subject, I loved this story about Modi as a master magician, showing you one thing to distract from another.

I think she would be shocked. If the client never reveals the truth, I must continue the role indefinitely. If the daughter gets married, I have to act as a father in that wedding, and then I have to be the grandfather. So, I always ask every client, “Are you prepared to sustain this lie?” It’s the most significant problem our company has.

- What if your father was a man hired by your mother to make you feel better about yourself?

In truth, in the years since its peak in the mid‑2000s, Second Life has become something more like a magnet for mockery. When I told friends that I was working on a story about it, their faces almost always followed the same trajectory of reactions: a blank expression, a brief flash of recognition, and then a mildly bemused look. Is that still around? Second Life is no longer the thing you joke about; it’s the thing you haven’t bothered to joke about for years.

- On how people are using the platform Second Life, for just that, a second life. Yes, still.

Curious how this cliché influenced real women, I conducted a poll on Instagram that asked women whether they’d ever worn a man’s button-down pre- or post-romantic encounter. I wasn’t surprised when 81% said no. I also received hundreds of direct messages from women weighing in on the topic, a significant number of which pointed out that it reinforces problematic body standards wherein women are assumed to be more petite than men. One woman confessed that she purchases large dress shirts to keep in her closet because she often hooks up with men who are smaller or shorter than she is. “I have large shirts awaiting me so I still feel small,” she wrote.

- Literally some of K's shirts fit me as well as mine do, except for being super long. On the women-wearing-their-lover's-button-down-shirts trope in film and TV.

In October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national campaign called Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, meaning “Clean India Mission.” While it sounds well-intentioned, the announcement came one week after the announcement for a campaign called “Make In India,” which encourages international corporations to bring their manufacturing jobs to India—a goal many see as contradictory to promoting a cleaner environment.

- Another photo essay on the people who live by the Yamuna.

‘World class’ is a term Shammi frequently uses while giving a tour of the building. Physical education classes are underway for senior girls in the new covered courtyard. Some pause to wish the principal. Shammi points to the panelled false ceiling, diffused lights, clean and tiled washrooms, large cans of handwash, water coolers — all newly added at the school. All classrooms have new blue desks and seats. The fans and lights work. But the school’s overarching pride is the 25m swimming pool still under construction. “Can you imagine a government school with a swimming pool?” asks Birender Gupta, the school’s estate manager, who recently moved his children to this school from the private institution they were attending in Bihar. Parents like him are on the rise, says Shammi. “This year we’ve received more enquiries from parents whose children are in private schools,” she says. Education is free in government schools up to Std VIII and the fee is ₹20 a month thereafter.

- In the good news, a lot of Delhi's government schools are getting a full on makeover.

These houses are now being named ‘Portuguese Houses’ perhaps because of the influence of tourism since ‘Portuguese’ is a more exotic denomination than Goan…There is no need to point out that houses such as those in Goa exist nowhere in any town or village in Portugal, Brazil, or Portuguese-influenced Africa. They are solely Goan.”

- This article is why I no longer call our Assagao house a "Portugese home" but it's also about so much more.

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