The thing I miss most about Berlin is walking everywhere. I always arrive a little soft, a little weak from my months in India where a taxi whisks me away from the gate and drops me straight at my destination, and in about a week, my calves and thighs are used to being used again. I always get this weird ache at the base of my heels for the first week I’m back, because I invariably overdo it, but it’s incredible how quickly my body gets used to wandering for hours a day, just one foot in front of the other, taking me where I need to go. Even travelling by the U-Bahn (Berlin’s underground) is a short walk away from my flat, and because, though we live in a central-ish neighbourhood, connections are not great, I’ll be going up and down stairs to switch platforms a lot. I manage to easily walk my recommended 8000 steps, often it goes up to 12000 or 15000 in a day (about five or six kilometres). This summer I’m switching out my Converse All Stars (I have them in red!) for silver Birkenstocks that I’ve been wearing all over Delhi, and I hope they won’t make my ankles suffer, but these are things you can only figure out once you actually do them.
I realised how much I missed this a couple of days ago when my mum and I walked around the state emporiums on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, right opposite the VFS office (I did get my UK tourist visa—so a trip to London in the next six months is on the cards, but nope, no sign of my German spouse visa, so I’ll be back here on this very desk, sitting on this very chair, sooner than you think.) We just wandered through the shops, but I don’t know, the standing, the heat, the unaccustomed walking, my hips felt like they were going to fall out of their sockets, which is always where my personal joint pain happens, not in my knees like most people. Meanwhile, my mother, who does yoga every morning as well as a long walk, was so fine by the end of it, that she even went onwards to another shop by the time my butt was ready to sit for the rest of the day. (I had to sit down on the staircase and die quietly.) So: exercise is the key, I guess. I often see older Indians on flights and at airports, all with wheelchairs, not that they can’t walk but because even a short trot from the check in desk to the gate is too taxing for them, and I definitely do not want to be one of those people. And since my besetting sin is laziness—I finally identified why I don’t want children, I really just don’t want to raise them—I’m glad I (partly) live somewhere that forces me to be slightly active. Anyway, I’ll be in Berlin NEXT WEEK (June 10th!) so I have all sorts of stroll-y activities and errands prepared. (First order of business to get our flat summer ready: black out curtains. This will be priority number one, jet lag or no jet lag.) (My other plan for this summer is to cycle to more places, which means getting over my phobia of both cars and other cyclists.)
Does it bother you when people tell you that certain words you use online are/might be offensive? I feel there are two types of people online these days: a) people who get really upset if you reply to them and slightly disagree or ask you to reword and b) people who don’t really care. Thanks to my above mentioned laziness, I am firmly in camp b. I’m not attached to some words—today someone asked that I reword a tweet where I said I was “crippled” by writer’s block, and I was quite okay to apologise and reword. I know people online who would have been like, “OH NO NOT THE LIBERAL WOKES” and eh, I think choose your battles. Some small things might be your hill to die on, for example, I like saying “hey guys” but I feel I’m clear enough about not gendering that “guys” is read as “folks” and if you feel like I’m excluding you, a woman, from my “hey guys” then, well, we should discuss. Maybe I’m too lazy for Recent Internet Strong Opinions? I don’t seem to have many. If something I say makes you feel bad, I’m always open to CIVIL and COURTEOUS dialogue. (If you start railing at me, I’ll block you, I just can’t deal with more anger.)
However, a little note for fellow fiction writers: do NOT let internet arguments affect your writing. If your character is an older man, say, he’s not going to say, “Oh I’m so ableist.” You need to create authentic dialogue, and if this is impossible if you keep reading the internet and finding more ways to be woke, just get off the internet when you’re writing. I believe literature should be full of characters you actively loathe. Not every book exists for you to make a new best friend. (My new book is actually an example of this, I think.) (It’s easier for me because I am old and have written many books, so I have the hang of a fiction voice vs an “on the internet” voice.) (One way to combat this is to read a lot of books, especially older ones.)
On the other hand, I’m getting slightly tired of people scolding other people on the internet. Twitter especially is full of scolds. (Not the person who messaged me this morning, it was a DM and we know each other so it was a respectful exchange. What I mean is frantically quote tweeting just so you can prove the other person is WRONG and you are MORALLY SUPERIOR.)
For this reason, I’ve pivoted more to Instagram Stories, I like both the temporary nature of them and how, in order to engage, you have to message me so we can chat. Much more civilised plus I really like the little community I have there, it’s like you guys, but instant. (Here’s my personal handle and my bookish one.)
I was literally so desperate about this visa sitch (I have now made my peace with it, and in fact, have started to look on the bright side of returning to Delhi, it means I don’t have to pack everything in one go!) that I turned to magic. My friend is into crystals, and she said (a little hesitantly, because I’ve always been a skeptic) that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to wear a tiger’s eye bracelet, it being a stone that removes obstacles and helps with travels. Well why not said I, might as well add a little magic into this, so I bought one. It cost enough that I believed in it, but not so much that it made me feel odd about buying one, and you know, I’ve felt slightly calmer since I had it on. I mean, this whole thing is so uncertain that even using magic to control it made me feel a little better. I just murmur my wishes into it and leave it on my wrist to do its thing.
I’m not sure when I divorced myself from all magic and became someone who was so rational and mocking of all rituals and whatnot, and here’s the thing: I don’t really believe that the reason you’re having a shitty week is because Mercury is in retrograde, but if you want to tie together random instances and say, oh this happened because of some planetary alignment, sure. Just don’t not do something because it’s Tuesday or because your Neptune is in Venus. Have magic, by all means, but don’t let your life be decided by it.
My tiger’s eye bracelet is really pretty too, so there’s the added bonus. Plus when I look at it, I’m reminded that anything could happen at any moment, so no need to despair.
And now some liner notes: I had a haircut recently which I was only intending on being a trim, but she cut too much off so I had to embrace the scarf around my head look, which turned out to be quite nice, so win-win *** I’m doing a book signing tomorrow in Khan Market at 11.30 am at Bahrisons, followed by Faqirchand and Full Circle, along with Devapriya Roy (editor) and Jai Arjun Singh and Vangmayi Parakala (fellow contributors) to Cat People so if you’re around and want to say hi/get a signed copy etc etc, I’d be delighted.*** I bought these really nice jeans from this indi brand called Madish. Super soft and flattering. (Mine were light blue, but those seem to be out of stock.) (They also sent me a little necklace for free!) *** Recently apart from another Harry Potter re-read, I’ve been going slowly through Ruth Rendell’s massive backlist, and all her books are so good. Crime, yes, but the crime is beside the point to the psychological studies she does of people. If you’re looking for more straightforward whodunnits, her Inspector Wexford series is brilliant. *** I really liked Panchayat season one, so much that I made my mum rewatch it with me so we could both watch season two, but season two has lost its magic. It seems to be a victim of its own popularity: you can see the gags coming a mile away, the music (which was lovely in season one) is now very generic and the characters just seem to be playing set pieces. So sad. *** Also bad in a sentimental lecture-y kind of way: Modern Love, Mumbai. Thus far, I have not seen a single Indian anthology show that I’ve enjoyed.
Here’s a playlist I really enjoyed recently and sent to K and another friend, both of whom really enjoyed it too, so triple endorsement.
If you liked this post or any of my others, would you buy me a coffee? THANK YOU to everyone who has bought me one before! You don’t know how happy it makes me. Your support lets me keep writing this thing.
Links I enjoyed reading recently (& one I enjoyed writing)
For my regular column in The Voice of Fashion, I wrote about Charlotte Brontë and the history of chokers.
Who is Deux Moi?
Resh, over at The Book Satchel, put me on a list of her favourite internet newsletters!
The guide to social climbing.
Forty thoughts on a fourth daughter.
Oh, also, I’m looking for more freelance work/columns etc, so if you’re an editor please get in touch.
That’s all from me for this edition. I’ll write to you again from Berlin.
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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