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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20 April 2018

Newsletter: Ground control to Major Tom

(Last week's newsletter. This week's just went out on Thursday, and I now have close to FIVE HUNDRED subscribers, so please join them by signing up here.)

This week in Inner Resources: Remember when you were a kid and you complained about being bored and some older person (usually a parent) told you "Only boring people get bored." And then you were all like, "Gee, THANKS for that, and now I'm STILL bored, but now mixed with my boredom is a sense of inadequacy because obviously I am boring as well." It was a bit like that one moment in 1992, when everyone insisted the dictionary definition of cute was "ugly but bearable" and you had to live with that for the next two years every time someone called you cute or you called something cute, some wit would pop out of the woodwork and wink at you and go, "DO YOU MEAN UGLY BUT BEARABLE HO HO HO." I remembered it the other day when someone said I was cute, and I was the wit going ugly but bearable ho ho ho. I couldn't even help myself, the eleven year old girl inside me just took over the steering of my brain for a second there. It's funny the things you retain--your old landline number, the lyrics to a song you haven't heard in fifteen years, the smell of other people's houses--not somewhere in your head that you can immediately access, but say you time travelled back to the year 1998 and had to dial yourself--your fingers would know the numbers that meant "Home" before it was just a single button on your cellphone.

But while we're on boredom, only because this week has been a waiting one, the week before I finish my book, so close to the end that I can taste it, here is my favourite poem about boredom, called Dream Song 14 by John Berryman, perhaps you know it already.  It goes:
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. 
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, 
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy 
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored 
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no 
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
This week in Doing Something About It: So I went to a doctor about the RSI, and he said, as we suspected, that there was nothing much that could be done medically, and had I considered changing the way I type? I'm trying to touch type now, and also resting my wrists on an external keyboard, but it is so slooooow. Every now and then I get so caught up in what I'm typing I go back to my normal way of doing things, but that's not great. The other night I had a dream that my hand was amputated, and I was an artist, so I was very sad, and when I woke up and remembered that I was a writer, I felt a lot better. Once the book is done, once we make our travel plans for the summer, I'll take a nice long break from writing and come back with stronger limbs.

This week in Finally, I Have Earned My Indian Woman Badge: I put on a sari by myself and it only took me ten years to do it! I prefer dresses to saris, just because I find them more interesting. For me, the only interesting thing about a sari is the way the fabric looks, but it's always felt like just that for me: fabric. You wrap it around yourself, you look exactly the same as everyone else who has wrapped it around themselves. I mean, it's nice and all, but it's a little... boring. (I'm sorry, guys! I know a lot of you are sari fans, this is just a PERSONAL OPINION.) Given the choice between wearing a dress (made out of nice fabric as well, there are lots of "fusion" dresses out there these days) or a sari to a party, I would always pick the dress. But to a wedding, it's easier to wear a sari than try to formal up whatever dresses I own. I appreciate them as a wedding outfit, especially with a nice blouse. You look pretty mostly, and conventional, and if it's not YOUR wedding, then what does it matter in the end, right?

(Side note: your sari too can be sexy and unconventional, thanks to this website Janice pointed out to me. A lot of them look amazing, and I was fully inspired to try one myself, but the damn thing wouldn't drape as nicely as the girl in the video's.) (Side note two: a lot of the drapes on that website are the between-the-legs pants ones, and I wonder how you pee in them. No one has said.)

Anyway, with the help of a YouTube video and a little ingenious tucking in here and pulling out there, I managed  not only to put on a sari to a wedding party but also have it stay on all evening long. Hurrah for me!
And now on to the Link List!

OMG this column by a woman trying (and failing) to become a domestic goddess is making me so jealous because it should have been my idea!
Excerpt: As I scrolled through picture after picture of these fancy cookies, I became overwhelmed with envy. I too wanted to post a picture of my beautiful, salt-flaked creations with some self-effacing caption like “All aboard the shortbread cookie bandwagon!” or whatever. But the thing is, I dread baking: It requires a degree of patience and precision I simply don’t seem to have. The last time I baked, I was 12 years old and set out to make meringues for my mom’s birthday. I carefully measured the sugar, separated the egg whites, then one thing led to another, a carpet was ruined, and I was grounded for a week.
Beauty is the next big lifestyle beat, and this is a nice read about what it means to be a cult beauty product. (Also that fact about Ruby Woo blew my mind.)
Excerpt: “Classic” can be another word for basic; it’s not that fun to hand over your credit card for a tube of Ruby Woo knowing that somewhere in the world, three other people are doing the same thing that very minute. But cult classic reframes that experience. You aren’t joining everyone; you’re joining others like you, whose beauty journeys, particular needs, and discerning tastes have lead them to this singular thing.
If famous authors described my attempts to date. (OTOH, you could just read about my experiences in my essay in Eleven Ways To Love, out now in your local bookstore.)
Excerpt: Dr. Seuss on Texting

They had a great hang, so full of wonder and fun,
She felt happy to be passing time with someone.
When it had ended and good time had been spended,
She went back home feeling quite glad she attended.
I find myself thinking of this essay called Why Go Out a lot these days.
Excerpt: Of course, telling someone about an insult is like telling them about a dream; the specific emotional core of it cannot be communicated; all that comes across are disconnected and meaningless symbols. But let me assure you, this conceptual poet was digging his nails into my heart – he knew it, and, five minutes later, I suddenly felt it, too, like a kick in the stomach – which led to a week and a half of fuming in bed, unable to sleep, my declaring this man to be my enemy, the reconceiving of a magazine article I was writing in such a way as to include a subtextual layer that would annihilate conceptual poetics, a week and a half of going out every night and talking through the insult with each of my friends – what am I even saying? It took leaving the continent for the insult to finally recede into the background of my days, and for me to regain my equilibrium.
Excerpt: Another product of 1925 was the woman’s ‘pullover’. Not today the most exciting item in anyone’s wardrobe, it was in its way revolutionary. A pullover is pulled over the head both on and off and the person who does the pulling is the wearer. Yes, I know, but until then it had been, for more than a century, virtually impossible for a woman to get dressed – or undressed – by herself. The rich had ladies’ maids, the poor had one another, but the laces and hooks and eyes, the fastening behind, required assistance. This was not true for men. In the persisting convention that women’s clothes have buttons on the left, for the convenience of the average right-handed dresser, while men’s have them on the right, to suit themselves, there remains an archaeological trace, a fossil record, of the different history of women and men in their relation to their clothes. Fashion writers, who are apt to discuss new trends with the urgency of war reporters on a particularly dangerous front line and to misuse the word ‘iconic’ relentlessly, can be forgiven for idolising the Italian couturi√®re Elsa Schiaparelli and her ‘cravat’ pullover. It stands for a new age in women’s clothes. Not only could you get in and out of it by yourself but the fiddly bits, the bow and ribbons, are knitted into the one piece. Schiaparelli, who was a surrealist and worked with Dal√≠, had made a satire, a cartoon of female dress.
An oldie, but suddenly relevant all over again: when Salman Khan shot that blackbuck.
Excerpt: If any of the villagers in the area of the hunt heard anything that night, they kept quiet about it. Likewise, the guide, the driver, the hotel staff and the cook. The party, again led by Khan, went out hunting again and again: on the 27th, the 28th, the 30th. No-one breathed a word. These, after all, are the kings of Bollywood, India's new maharajas, and they do as they please. By day Khan strolled around the Umeda Bhawan Palace topless, baring his glorious torso; management implored him to cover up but he ignored them. By night he and his friends hunted. Who could deny them? Who would have the courage to stop them?

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