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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16 January 2018

Newsletter: Bad dates, dive bars

I'm assuming you've all seen the Aziz Ansari story yesterday about what a shitty date he is. I've been rewatching Parks And Recreation on Amazon Prime recently, and he comes up a lot--almost every single episode, and it's hard to watch scenes with him now without thinking back on his behaviour. Worse still was the set of episodes also guest starring Louis CK, because then you look at all these men who are known for being great actors and comics, and winning awards and what not, AND Parks And Recreation is also Amy Poehler's baby, and she's always seemed like an amazing woman to me, so how do you separate in your head the art someone creates with the way they are in real life? I find myself to be a lot more unforgiving of the men, even Aziz, who is this little brown guy winning awards and generally being charming, someone you WANT to root for, and when you learn about him being basically like everyone else, it's a little bit of a betrayal. Whereas with Margaret Atwood--a way more articulate person than Aziz or Louis--her saying that #MeToo was:
The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.
Which is kind of true, in one way: #MeToo would not exist if the legal system was perfect. But to dismiss it is unfair, because it is exactly what was needed. Maybe the legal system needs to change and embrace the way we can--each of us--go to the internet and say something each time something or someone has wronged us. I know from personal opinion that when you tweet at a company, they are more likely to fix something than when you just call them and sit for hours with a customer service representative. I've tried both. And the way women are taking down powerful men using their words goes to show that if you hold someone accountable in a public forum, they are far more likely to offer apologies for their actions, rather than just lame explanations. And hopefully, some man somewhere is reading all the testimonies and thinking, "Oh hmm, maybe it's a bad idea to put my hand inside my intern's shirt as she bends over." I think that's a win, anyway.

As for the people turning this into a "humiliation" thing, I'm not sure what their reasoning is, despite reading loads of tweets around the same argument, and this one long Atlantic piece I've linked to above. Is it just because the idea of a "bad date" doesn't gel with the idea of a sexual harasser? I have been on bad dates, and I have been on dates where a person doesn't listen to your body language (OR YOUR WORDS), and I can tell you that despite that, I still said goodbye to them with a semblance of a smile. Teeth gritted, face in an "I want to get out of here" expression, but still a smile, because politeness is drilled into us way more than saying no in a hard situation. So there's that.

This week in further meditations: I am still in Goa--leaving today for Hyderabad for a family wedding and then back to Delhi--and I have fallen into a comfortable routine. I write during the day, stopping for lunch and then a brief rest before writing again, and then go out to join friends. Which means my favourite part about Goa, its dive bars. Yes, you can keep your beach shacks and your fancy restaurants, for me, nothing says Goa more than rolling up to Siolim crossing and jumping into one red-walled bar where a man called Rock knows my drink order and always keeps the same table for us.

If there's one thing Delhi lacks, it is the character filled dive bar. I think it's also because of Delhi's attitude to women, most dive bars there have a faint attitude of seed. Like if you sat there alone too long you would inevitably become newspaper headlines on page three the next day. There are a few that I loved in Delhi but then 4S became too popular (the idea is you can dress how you like to go to a dive bar), Saki bar in Connaught Place is too far (Hotel Alka, I wonder if it's still a thing) and while I like Road Romeo, it doesn't really begin to compare to Rock or Paulo's in Goa in terms of sheer atmosphere.

A true dive has all of the following: a) cheap drinks, b) small, too-close-to-each-other tables, c) a regular clientele so you always run into the same people, d) something to distinguish it from all the other dive bars next to it, so you're justified in picking your favourite. In the case of Rock, I actually like the food, and I like how friendly the owner is, and I like almost sitting in the street as I drink. In the case of Paulo's, it's full of leathery old hippies who sit there, one imagines, from morning to night, and who are almost as much a part of the decor as the old prints of famous musicians on the wall. Paulo's has gotten a little trendy now though, they even gave me a laptop decal the last time I was there, and one Iranian lady will come around selling sandwiches off the back of her scooter. That's Goa for you. I return to Delhi drawing rooms soon enough.

This week in endorsements: Lots of love for Before, And Then After on the interwebs this week, and here is a screenshot from one reader on Twitter who loved it.

Then, to my complete surprise, I see Confessions of a Listmaniac/The Life And Times of Layla the Ordinary is on this list of the 121 best Indian books in English OF ALL TIME. So that's very flattering and nice, especially for one of my young adult books which I always feel get a little lost in the shuffle. Just the sort of motivation I need to finish up my next book. (Here's a link to buy my books in case you're curious now.)

Monday morning link list:
When Nathalia brought two new poems to her father a few days after her mother’s faux pas, he was very impressed, as he told it, but wanted a more expert view. He suggested she send them to an editor at the Brooklyn Daily Times whom he knew vaguely from his short stints at various copy desks before reenlisting when the United States entered the First World War. There was a flurry of attention at the Times, and Nelda started sending out more of Nathalia’s work, some of which was apparently published without further fuss. So a year later, when Edmund Leamy, the poetry editor of the New York Sun, accepted a poem that Nathalia was said to have sent on her own, he had never heard of her. He assumed the author was an adult. After all, in his experience, no “child would ever submit any work from his or her pen without adding the words ‘Aged __ years.’” And “The History of Honey,” rhythmical and ingeniously rhymed, bore no obvious literary mark of immaturity. Nor was there girlish handwriting to supply a clue. When Leamy invited this new contributor named Nathalia Crane to drop by to confer about another poem and have lunch, he mistook her mother for the poet. Flustered to learn that “Miss” Crane was the “little, long-legged, bright-eyed child,” he forgot about the promised meal, as Nathalia noted years later.

- This story about a child-poet genius (including her rather excellent poetry) is a fun and sad read.
But online, we inhabit an unrelenting present, where artificially spatialized time appears severed and successive. The present is announced by the externalized whims — notifications, replies, mentions — we swipe at, scroll past, click through to. On Twitter, for example, each tweet’s timestamp — 17 min, 42 min, 3 hr — announces time since. Time, rather than passing, continuously refreshes. The latest is, of course, predicated by news, or by whatever resembles news. The unrelenting present is continuously under threat of assault from the caprice of one man’s sleepless whims. A new sense of dread accompanies checking one’s phone in the morning. It can feel like waking up and tuning in to the apocalypse.
- The more I stay off the internet, the more sense life makes to me.
Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it - in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.
- Before she died, Holly Butcher wrote a letter to the world.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Randomly (re) visiting blogs I used to frequent during the heydays of my blogging life (2006-10). Good to see many have kept up even if visitors don’t leave comments on long-form prose any longer, do they?


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