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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4 October 2019

Crosswords are totally romantic

26 across: moves aimlessly

I punch in “drifts”, which fits with “igloo” my answer for 28 down: traditional Arctic abode.

Crosswords have always seemed like a couple activity to me. Blame it on an old sweetheart who waited for me near the gates of my college with the Delhi Times crossword conveniently folded to the right section and a cigarette for me behind his ear. (He couldn't wait for me at the gate because the college was for “women only” and was guarded by a fierce man with a stick who took his job as Protector very seriously.) Some days, it would be just the right kind of winter sunshine, warm and mellow on our faces. Some days, it would be aridly, desperately hot, and I'd have to stop on the way out in a nearby loo to spritz some floral body spray fragrance all over me, in the kind of bottle that was trendy then: small, and blue or pink, with a sickly-sweet bubblegum-meets-jasmine undertone. Sometimes, he would have already done a few of the clues, but he saved most for us to solve together, our heads bent over the page. Since I've always been one for tall men, and I haven't grown since I was sixteen, you have to imagine us, him bending down like a dandelion in the breeze, me lifting myself up on my toes like a pansy straining at the roots.

My current relationship started off in a weird way, with a crossword too. I was bored and on Twitter (which happens a lot) and decided to solve the Guardian quick crossword with my followers. So I was tweeting out a clue every 25 seconds, entering in people's guesses, and generally having a grand old time. Into all this, I got an email from an old acquaintance who had been following me on Twitter, remembered I lived in Delhi and asked if I wanted to meet for a drink some time. Many years later, old acquaintance and I do not sadly, do the crossword together, as I had envisaged, but we do read together on Sunday mornings, sometimes. And raise a family of three cats and several house plants we're trying not to kill.

The crossword always seems like it should be a somewhat solitary activity, and yet, I'm always coming across evidence that it is the next big romantic tool. My friend Umang* (names changed everywhere) introduced me to an app called Shortyz when her and I were on holiday together. Shortyz downloads free crosswords from all over the place, and when you're doing a road trip holiday that involves a lot of sitting and waiting, like we were, it was the perfect thing to keep us occupied. “How did you find this app?” I asked, delighted. “Oh, my boyfriend, and I solve crosswords together all the time!”

Funnily, the word itself, broken down, sounds like it should indicate a fight. Cross words were spoken between the two as they couldn't agree on a clue. And yet, I think it works as a metaphor for modern relationships. Will your 43 down meet his 51 across for a perfect match? Will your words marry each other with an almost audible click as you realise you're perfect for each other? Neither mine or Umang's Crossword Relationship lasted forever, but we had gotten out of it a tendency to watch how we laid out our words—side by side or up and down—so that in the end, everything is spelled out and there are no blank spaces left.

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