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'My life is like a bra that's been put on wrong'

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August 11, 2008

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's first book, You Are Here documents the typically chaotic love-life and soul-searching of a 25-year-old Delhi [Images] girl, Arshi.

The author is a Mumbai-based journalist and writer of the popular blog, The Compulsive Confessor, which features her views and experiences on dating, the opposite sex, parents' quirks, pets and other issues of consequence to India's Gen Next.

One of the country's most famous women bloggers (she's been at it since 2004) and with tongue firmly in cheek, Meenakshi has always been writing about life as a young, single woman in India. Refreshingly candid about her life and detailing everything from drinking and smoking to sexual escapades, she has won an audience that loves her bold style and can relate to her experiences. This talent has now translated into a book, which promises to be every bit as insightful and funny as her online diary.

Presented below is an excerpt from the first chapter of You Are Here:

NO ONE SHOULD TELL their story unless they're absolutely certain they have something to say.

I'm actually not absolutely certain that my story is life-changing or earth-shattering, but I know that the words are collecting at the tips of my fingers and that if I don't shake them out over the keyboard they could go backwards and form word clots around my heart. Word clots are worse than blood clots -- because blood clots more or less kill you as soon as they reach a vital area in your body, but word clots just stay, occasionally giving you heartburn with all the things you could have said but didn't.

The problem, I believe, the essential issue with humankind, the reason we are all always at some level or another pissed off, is Reality Sucks. No, no, really, hear me out. Animals don't have the same problem because, hey, face it, no matter how much your dog chases balls in his sleep, he's not dreaming about how great life would be if something were a little different. He's okay, really, with his schedule -- scratch, eat, sleep. How wrong could you go with that? He's not in line for a promotion and there isn't this list of things he wants to get done before he's twenty-five, because he'll be a lucky dog if he lives to see sixteen.

Now people, since we evolved from cavemen and all, have issues. We tend to think that if so-and-so (or such-and-such) were totally different, our lives would be perfect. How many times have so many of us said 'It's not fair!' or 'Why (not) me?' Sometimes, if you're really lucky, you get a chance to make that change, live your fantasy as it were. And still, nine times out of ten, it's not enough. It's never bloody enough. We're greedy as a species, and at the same time a little pathetic because, well, we're always searching for something or the other outside of our everyday lives. And, really, who are the people we admire? We admire movie stars. People who seem to have their shit together. And who makes the most money? Plastic surgeons, for one, and therapists. And, again, people in the entertainment industry. Anyone who makes reality look a little less real. True story. You can Google it if you like.

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The trouble with my life is that it's like a bra strap when you put your bra on wrong. So there's one part of the strap that's all twisted and sticking out under your T-shirt and you fix that, and then the part near the hook becomes tangled. Then, after you've struggled with it for a while, because you can't see so far down your back, and straightened it out, the bit near your boob is all funny. So if I've got my career sorted, my love life magically vanishes without so much as a goodbye. Then I've got my love life all perfect and I'm seeing us making fat, happy babies, and boom! my family is fighting, and so on. You get the picture.

My name is Arshi, and I'm twenty-five years old. I turned twenty-five about a year ago -- I'll be twenty-six in a month -- and I was totally depressed and all because, hello, here I was with a quarter century of a lifetime behind me and I had zero to show for it. My boyfriend, Chetan Saxena, aka Cheeto, aka Lying-Cheating-Bastard had just told me of his infidelity. We had been seeing each other for exactly a year and a week when he zoomed off to Manali with some colleagues, one of whom happened to be a pretty young thing who was also his work buddy, as in she went to the balcony to smoke with him and she was the one he looked at and rolled his eyes with every time his editor said something stupid and so, yeah, I guess they were pretty bonded. Evidently they got even more 'bonded' in Manali. I refuse to use delicate terms like 'made love' when it was so clearly fucking. He on the other hand insisted on saying they 'made love'. I hate that about Cheeto. He's always so forthright about things. I mean, would it have hurt him to lie a little?

That wasn't the only reason my life seemed so screwed up. I had this shit job as well, with a random PR company. Only it wasn't so random in the larger scheme of things, because it was one of the top agencies in Delhi, at least when it came to being classy. We always drew the most glamorous P3P for our dos, and handed out the best press kits -- all fancy-schmancy and ribboned and with little tokens in them. One time, my boss, Shruti the Horrible, sent me to Janpath to pop in and out of the little silver jewellery shops they have there with the list of journos who were invited to some pub inauguration to, get this, buy fifty-four one-of-a-kind silver earrings for the women and thirty-three one-of-a-kind silver cufflinks for the men. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this, this jewellery choosing, was my job description. My grandmother should've been working there. She might not have multiple college degrees but she still rules at picking out baubles. Besides, Dadi has No Patience for women who aren't nice to other women. A diehard feminist from another era, I bet she'd be only too happy to give Shruti an asskicking. 'Be nice to my granddaughter!' she'd growl. 'Women have to support each other; god knows men won't!' My grandfather was a sweetheart, though, willingly giving in to all her fussing. I think in the end she managed to bully him to death.

'What do you really want to do, Arshi?' asked Topsy around this period when I spent most of my nights weeping and most of my evenings in my PJs, refusing to step out of our little flat in Jangpura. Topsy is my flatmate and best friend. One of those friends who know everything, even the very minor details of my life, things even my mother isn't aware of. Like how I like to drink Coke with my meals, especially if we've ordered in, or how when I'm confused or can't think immediately of a response to something someone's said I play with my lower lip. She's also the sweetest person I know. I mean, sure, we get on each other's nerves every now and then but it's mostly either because I'm being grumpy or she's being super-organized. She has a very annoying habit of either being right or sounding like she's right or refusing to believe she's not right, which I tend to indulge but sometimes completely detest. But I love her, because she will Take No Shit when it comes to the people she loves, who include: (a) (and at the top of the list) her boyfriend, Fardeen, all-round good guy whom I adore; (b) Daman, her 'baby' brother and certified hottie whom I have gazed longingly at on many occasions; and (c) me.

Excerpted from You Are Here by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan with the publisher's permission. The book is 257 pages long and priced at Rs 199; it is being launched on August 15 by Penguin India.

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