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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23 January 2018

Newsletter: Garbage fires, strange but true stories and what's cooking

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Since I left Goa, I have been embroiled in a wedding. This was of my cousin--my mother's younger sister's son--someone I grew up with and have spent many merry summers with as a child. My mother used to travel quite a bit for work, and when she did, she'd pop me on a plane (as an "unaccompanied minor") and send me off to my grandparents and aunt and uncle in Hyderabad. I remember the first time I did this on my own quite well, I was only three or four I think, and it was an Air India flight and the stewardesses made a big fuss of me and gave me an entire bag full of boiled sweets to carry away with me. I felt quite grown up arriving with my sweets, doling them out to my cousins if they were nice to me. (Although this time they told me that I also used to carry a large bag of Hajmola candy and only give them one or two at a time instead of sharing it nicely. I countered that if I had shared it nicely, the bag would have finished before we had even started.)

At age 11, my mother was going to be traveling to South America, and she decided this was a great time for both of us to see the States. So off I went again as an unaccompanied minor, only at age 11, I was not a very attractive child, so not much fuss was made of me this time. I had a horrible "boy cut" my mother insisted on keeping my curls in and I was skinny with scabby knees and I wore boy clothes and everyone basically thought I was a little boy, which delighted me, because it was much more fun than being a girl. The stewardess who was in charge of me during the layover and transfer was black--the first black person I had ever seen in my life--and she kept joking that she should put a sign on me saying "It's a girl!" I wasn't insulted, only deeply jet lagged, and I could only follow around behind her in a state of surreal waking dream-ness.

The last time I was in the US, I realised, talking to another cousin last night, was right after school, age 18, which was also the year before 9/11. Getting around was fairly easy then, the embassy still gave you ten year visas, without much fuss, and my first impressions of New York were the Twin Towers against the skyline. I wonder when I will go again, but it's so FAR and I have so many other places I want to visit as well. Tickets are expensive, and life as a freelancer will just about get you a round trip to Europe which I love. Not to mention, at this wedding was this young American, a friend of a cousin of the bride's, and he kept asking me questions like "do people live together in India?" and "are there gay people in India?" which made me want to roll my eyes back into my head, but I didn't, I was very polite and answered his questions with the minimum amount of irony, but I think I had a glint in my eye, because he avoided coming up to us after that.

But the wedding was fun, even though after five days of party, I am not ready to face the world for a good long time yet. I've barely settled in to our flat, and next month, I am off to Trivandrum for a lit fest, back to Delhi, and then to Kochi for a party my father is throwing for us, then to Bombay for another lit fest, so February will be busy and I am TIRED already.

This week in crazy but true stories: I heard this one while I was waiting for a delayed flight in Hyderabad: an airline had been killing pets in the hold consistently for three or four trips. (There's a regular baggage hold and a special one for your pets, and you can't pressurise the regular one, so if you mix them up, your animal suffocates mid-air.) One flight, they took out a cat from the regular hold but the cat was dead. They freaked out, because hello lawsuit, so with some quick thinking, they acquired another cat to replace the dead cat and proudly presented it to the owner. The owner was like, "DUDE WTF. A) This is not my cat and b) the cat I put in the hold was already dead!" (This is totally a true story, I promise.)

This week in how to be eco friendly when the world around you is a garbage fire: In Goa, not only did I get my period, but I also left my menstrual cup behind in Delhi. This would not be a big deal anywhere else, but Goa has a garbage garbage disposal system (heh) and so, unless you contribute to the many landfills cropping up all over the place, it's hard to get rid of things like tampons. Luckily, I had borrowed some organic cotton ones from a visiting friend, but when I was done, I still had this whole bag full of used tampons I didn't know what to do with. We decided to bury them in the garden, but the stray dogs dug them up, so finally K said, "Let's just burn them" so that's exactly what we did. Two were still charred lumps of coal when we were done, but at least the rest disintegrated, and we buried the coal-y ones again. Things you never think you'll be doing on holiday: burning your menstrual blood in a bonfire.

This week in recipes: So happy to be reunited with the kitchen and the Instant Pot! I am really getting into cooking, and the garden went sort of crazy when we were away so we have kilos of spinach and aubergine plus some kohlrabi which looks like a satellite and which I am completely clueless how to prepare. But since I've been looking up the internet for recipes and things to do which are easy, I thought I'd share them here. (Note: I haven't made them yet since I'm waiting for some ingredients, but they look fairly fool proof)

First: a spaghetti aglio e olio but with SPINACH so I can use some of it up. Very easy recipe and you can totally omit the parsley and the parmesan if they are hard to find or too expensive. I always put some whole dried red chillis into my aglio olio and it tastes amaze. (You fry it with the garlic for full flavour.) \

Then some Instant Pot recipes which you can also make in your regular pressure cooker: this chicken and spinach ramen (did I mention we have a fuck ton of spinach?) I will be making this without the bacon, using water instead of stock (and one spoon of fish oil for the umami flavour), plus adding lemon grass and sriracha instead of chilli paste. It won't look EXACTLY the same, but it will be quite hearty, I think.

And finally this mutton curry, which looks really simple.

I've already made this paleo butter chicken (and replicated on stove top for my friends in Goa who loved it). Cauliflower soup (bumper crop of that too.) And some other things which were also good, but not as successful as those two.

Monday link list to start your week out right:

Because of the amateurish way the Babe report was handled (her wine choices; her outfit), and the way it was written with an almost prurient and unnecessarily macabre interest in the minute details of their interaction (“the claw”), it left the subject open to further attacks, the kind that are entirely, exhaustingly predictable. The usual subjects emerged with the usual opinions: within minutes, alt-right toad Mike Cernovich was dismissing Ansari as a “beta”; within hours, neoliberal icon Caitlin Flanagan had written a confused, disingenuous essay in The Atlantic using Ansari’s race as a rhetorical device for her disdain for #MeToo; within days, hardline carceral-state cheerleader Ashleigh Banfield was accusing Grace of harming the entire #MeToo movement. To no one’s surprise, The New York Times’s Bari Weiss weighed in on Monday night, rolling her eyes at what she considered to be Grace’s requirement that Ansari be “a mind-reader.”

MORE on the whole Aziz Ansari thing, but this time about the reporting which felt really salacious to me and most of my friends.
Our mom never thought that our blackness would hold us back in life—she thought we could rule the world. But that optimism and starry-eyed love was, in fact, born from her whiteness. It was almost impossible for her to see all of the everyday hurdles we had to jump, the tiny cuts of racism that we endured throughout our lives. For our mom, we were black and beautiful and smart and talented and kind—and that’s all that mattered. And in the confines of our home, it was all that mattered. But as we left home, and our mom began to see us interact as adults with the real world, she began to suspect that there was more to being black in this world than she had previously thought. I could tell that this made my mom uncomfortable, to know that the babies that she had birthed from her own body had entire universes she couldn’t see, so the more that my world and my career became focused on race, the less my mom acknowledged it. She just really didn’t know what to say.

How do you, a black woman, talk to your white mother about race?

For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise. They could always use him as leverage against me — "We don't need you; we have Patrick" — which they did for years. I don't know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey's Anatomy and I'm Meredith Grey. They wouldn't give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn't I? It's my show; I'm the number one. I'm sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, "I'm not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house."

Sort of lost touch with Grey's Anatomy a few years ago--after they killed McDreamy---but this interview with Ellen Pompeo, the star, on how much she gets paid is really fascinating.
I remember going to one city, not particularly famous for its culture, and discovering it had two literature festivals. When I got there, I realised they were both happening at the same time and they seemed to be intent on clawing each other’s eyes out. One apparently was calling the hotels where the other had booked guests and cancelling the bookings. As the organiser handed me two drink coupons for the inaugural party, she complained that two of her writers had gone to the rival camp’s party. To add insult to injury, they had used her festival car, which she proceeded to recall with some relish. [...] Later that night I discovered my hotel bathroom came with one tiny sliver of green Medimix soap. My friend who was attending the other festival said his bathroom came with soap, shower gel and ear buds. I feared I was at the lesser festival. I just went down to the reception and asked if I could have a second Medimix soap, so I was not ferrying one sliver from shower to basin.
Going to Indian lit fests during lit fest season


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