Saving Maya long listed for Saboteur Awards 2018, UK.

And I just discover that Saving Maya had made it to the Saboteur Awards long list in the Novella category, and the only Indian author in my category. Had no clue and didn’t even cast my hat around for votes. Thanks Ishaan Jajodia, Vivek Rao and Kausalya Saptharishi for the trust.

This is about the Saboteur Awards, UK, supported by the Arts Council, England:

Sabotage Reviews was founded in 2010 by Claire Trévien to provide dynamic commentary and reviews of small-scale and ephemeral literature that might not otherwise receive such critical and public attention. The focus is on independent, small-budget literature; poetry pamphlets, short stories and live performance (particularly open mic events and spoken word shows).
Sabotage is representative of the hugely diverse amount of work actually being made and written in the ‘literary ecology’. They stand for inclusiveness and commitment to new voices in literature.

Here’s the shortlist and the longlist:

Best Novella Shortlist

Dead Dogs & Angels by Mickela Sonola (Holland House Books)
How to Make A Window Snake by Charmaine Wilkerson (Ad Hoc Fiction)
The Reactive by Masande Ntshanga (Jacaranda Books)
Seed by Joanna Walsh (Visual Editions)*
Tumours by Chay Collins (Ampersand Publishing)


Gaudy Bauble, Isabel Waidner (Dostoyevsky Wannabee)
El Hacho by Luis Carrasco (époque press)
Love by Hanne Ørstavik, trans. by Martin Aitken (Archipelago Books)
Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
The Ogress of Reading by Eithne Cullen (new Generation Publishing)
Our Bright Dark Summer by Richard Daniels (Wild Soar Books)
Saving Maya by Kiran Manral (Bombaykala Books)
Sealed by Naomi Booth (Dead Ink)
Water into Wine by Joyce Chng (Annorlunda Enterprises)
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (Picador)



Saving Maya review: “Kiran Manral does not offer her readers the assurance of a happy ending”

SUNDAY, 6 MAY 2018

Book Review: Saving Maya, by Kiran Manral

When I picked up Saving Mayaat a book store, I half visualised a woman named Maya who had to be sent to rehab or needed to be rescued from a cult. However, the blurb on the rear talked of a divorced woman in her mid-thirties (with a young son) finding love and I was intrigued enough to drop the book into my shopping bag.

Read the entire review here
Thanks Vinod Joseph for the kind words.

Featured on Flipkart for WorldBookDay yesterday

Delighted and honoured to be among the 12 featured authors by Flipkart on World Book Day, amongst stalwarts I admire and peers I respect and enjoy reading like Ruskin Bond Sudha MurthyArundhati RoyAshwin SanghiAmish TripathiSavi Sharma Durjoy DattaYashodhara Lal Sharma Anuja ChauhanNovoneel Chakraborty and Sudeep Nagarkar
Get our books here:


In The Quint: ‘Indians need to appreciate the rich repository of its languages’

Author Kiran Manral.

By Mamta Aggarwal

New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) The purpose of language is to communicate, convey thoughts and bring us together. But now, at a time when languages are more often used to divide, to create an impression of superiority, to make you look like an out-of-touch elitist, “the need to begin appreciating the rich repository of languages that we have in India, is a dire need”, says versatile author Kiran Manral.

One way is greater emphasis on the use of mother tongues and more translations from this rich repository we are fortunate to possess, said the Mumbai-based writer who supplements her eight books in English — both fiction and non-fiction (on a variety of topics) — with being an activist in various spheres, a regular columnist, a Ted Talk motivational speaker and an indefatigable organiser of literary events.

“The fact remains that we are all polyglots in India and that is such a beautiful thing. All languages are born of the basic need to communicate. We have our mother tongue, and then perhaps Hindi and English. We need to begin recognising the richness of all our languages and appreciate them; perhaps no other country has so many official languages, not to mention regional languages and dialects, some of which are dying out. With each language comes its entire written culture… we have such a rich repository. We need to begin appreciating it, rather than using language to create walls between us.” Manral told IANS in an email interview.

Read the rest of the interview here

I got a little angry yesterday and I wrote a little something.

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  • That’s what we do. Keep quiet. The horrors that go on #BetiBachao
  • It is our blinkered attitude that has led us to this point today that every single day we have cases of sexual abuse

At a press conference today, the brand ambassador for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao mission, Amitabh Bachchan was asked his views about the heinous rapes that have shaken the country in the past month. But before I go onto what he had to say, let me jog your memory a bit, dear reader.

It is our blinkered attitude that has led us to this point today that every single day we have cases of sexual abuse

Back in September 2016, Amitabh Bachchan had a movie on the verge of release. Pink it was titled, rather subversively. Pink, after all, stood for all things girly and pretty, and vulnerable. The movie, with its rather strange shift from Mr Bachchan playing creepy stalker uncle in the first half to messiah of wronged women in the second half sought to be woke on patriarchal constructs and educate the Indian movie going public on the concept on consent. We’ve had debates on consent. Informed consent. Active consent. Enthusiastic consent. Misunderstood consent. And even ‘feeble consent,’ which we’ve had judgements delivered in rape cases on. Consent of course, feeble or otherwise, didn’t even play a part in some of the gruesome and horrific cases we’ve grappled with as a nation in the past month. Mr Bachchan even delivered a rather rousing speech on consent and female empowerment in the climax of the film, that drew much applause from the gallery.

In the run up to the release to Pink, in 2016, Mr Bachchan wrote a rather well publicised letter to his grand daughters, an empowering letter, a letter that told them to never rely on their surnames, to not worry about the log kya kahenge, to not worry about the length of their skirts, to not live in the shadow of other people’s judgement. It was a heartwarming letter indeed. It ticked off all the boxes. So what if it was part of the promotion of a film, and in its blinkered vision, completely negated the wonderful legacy of the mothers and grandmothers of these two lovely young girls, choosing to focus only the grandfathers.

We fell for it hook line and sinker. It said all the right things. It gave us feel good feels, as they say. Well, Mr Bachchan is now the ambassador for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao mission, and given his massive reach with the population of India and his now genial public persona as the friendly host of Kaun Banega Crorepati, this makes him the ideal choice to advocate change in mindsets.

This is what it is then. Don’t talk about it. In homes, don’t tell us who is touching you in a way that disturbs us to hear it

And so it came to pass that he was asked his views at a press conference on the spate of rapes in the country recently. His reply, as the ambassador of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao initiative, is perhaps emblematic of all that is wrong with this country. He said, and I quote, “Even discussing this issue feels disgusting, don’t bring up this issue. It is terrible to even talk about it.”

Read the full article on here 

When hope dies in you…

It has been a week of churn for me. Ever since the details regarding the Kathua case began emerging in all their gruesome horror, I’ve been choked. The knot in my intestines refuses to disentangle itself. The hands tremble at the keyboard, with both rage and despair. An impotent rage that bangs itself against the impenetrable wall of uncaring that we, as a people, seem to have barricaded ourselves into.

What does one say, to whom does one say these things. This is not something that has emerged overnight, it is years upon years of impunity, of preying on young girls that led to us becoming a nation that treats its girls and women like carrion, to be torn apart limb to limb, with no consideration of them being human. The girls and the women in this country seem to exist, it would seem, purely for the slaking of male lust.

At eight I was travelling from Goregaon to Bandra on BEST buses. It was the first bus I took in the morning. The first time someone sat next to me on an empty bus, I didn’t know what to expect. The elderly bus conductor came across and told the man to move to an empty seat. I had no idea then how evil the world was. In retrospect, I am grateful to the bus conductor whose face I can’t recall today. Where there is evil, there is also good, I always believed. I was wrong. There was no good for the hapless child in Kathua not even in the place of worship she was confined in for days, sedated, raped, brutalised, kept unfed under a heap of cloth. Like a thing. Not a person, not a human. A thing.

I read about sex robots and how some people prefer them to real human partners. The sex robots I’ve seen in all the reports are female. I don’t know if male sex robots exist and if they do, are they as popular as the female ones. The female body, whether that of a grown woman or that of a delicate eight year old prepubescent, is domain to be claimed, by the right of the allotment of chromosomes. To the men who commit these crimes, it matters not that there is a person within the body, the body exists and as such it has only one function, to sate their lust.

One of the perpetrators was called back from Meerut to participate in the rape. One, a police constable, asked them to wait a bit before killing her so he could rape her one last time. These are grown men. Over twice her size. One is only grateful for the tiny mercy that she was sedated while they went through their heinousness. Perhaps, one hopes, she didn’t feel the pain. Perhaps she was already at peace, her soul elsewhere, while they mauled her body.

Again in the newspapers today is the report of another body found in Surat. A nine year old. 86 injuries on her body. Raped. Another girl condemned to be yet another statistic in the war against our girl children, a war being perpetrated by the men of the country who don’t see in these children anything but their mischance of getting the XX chromosome in the lottery of conception.

Years ago, few friends and I began the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month across social media. We ran it for four years. Nothing has changed. Things have gotten worse. I despair at what every girl child we bring into this country faces, the threat of being raped and murdered, a demon that will stalk her every step from the time she is an infant. An eight month old was raped in January 2018 in Delhi. Let that sink in. An eight month old.

When does this end? How can one stop this epidemic? Because this is what it is, an epidemic. Is there any will to curb it, from the authorities? Are we as a society not complicit in encouraging this when we look the other way when a girl is getting harassed on the bus, when girls walking down the street are being catcalled, when movies show harassment as the norm to wooing, that the male privilege is all that matters in a relationship between the sexes, whether consensual or not. Aren’t we complicit in the crimes committed against these innocent girls, when we let these incidents pass unpunished because they’re minor incidents. We are to be damned, we the people. We have let it come to pass to this, this level where not one girl in this entire country is safe, where we wake every single day to horrors in our newspapers, some making it to the headlines, some getting tucked away in the city briefs column. Can we look at ourselves in the mirror? We have all failed our little girls. We will keep failing them.



By Kiran Manral

The air was thin up here. Thin, precious, rare. It was worth the climb all the way up to the peak.  I was breathing heavily, we hardly climbed anymore. I ripped the mask off from my face and breathed in deeply. It smelt different from the air I now knew, the synthetic version of air we breathed in under the earth. This was crisp, slicingly cold. It drilled through my nostrils and pierced my lungs. I breathed deeper.

Humanity had moved underground now, the few of us who remained after the event. Like moles, rodents, snakes, we buried deep into ground rock, through layers of the earth’s crust, through miles and miles, deep until we reached bedrock, where we recreated the earth as we knew it, before the event. We created new suns from mega lights that blazed with a fury to brighten our days,  we had moon lamps came on at our artificially induced dusk, waxing and waning through the month in their intensity. We pumped oxygen through ventilation ducts that passed through entire cities, we pumped fragrances to energise us in the mornings, fragrances to mellow us in the evenings, the air we breathed in came from factories in little cans.

Humans now lived for two to three centuries on an average, but we’d become stunted, pale. Every generation was measured and charted, their growth milestones revised, growth hormones pumped into every child as they came out of their birth pods . I was an aberration, a live birth on the surface of the earth, I knew what it meant to run in the grass, to swim in the sea, to climb trees.


We lived now in Subearthea, zones below the continents now called Subearthea 1, Subearthea 2, Subearthea 3, Subearthea 4 and Subearthea 5. I lived in Subearthea 4, densely packed with people, but I had been allocated a hundred square feet of space to live in, in deference to my age. A luxury. Most people had forgotten the surface, it existed mythic, in our memories, of how it was, sky above, sea around, land below. Now it was all one swamp of gas that cloaked everything under a dark brown blanket, unless you climbed high enough to escape it. And here I was, 400 years old today, replaced and returned until I didn’t have an original organ left in my body, standing on the top of the world, Mount Everest as it had once been known. A vertical tunnel took those who wanted to see the surface almost to the peak, where one could emerge, with a mask on, all skin surface covered and an air canister strapped on. The exit permit allowed one to go beyond the massive automated steel doors for a period of exactly one hour.

They would find me after the alarm had been sounded and I hadn’t returned. I breathed in deep, my last breath would be on the surface, I’d promised myself. The air was crisp, cold and pure poison.

(First published in Cosmopolitan India, October 2017).



Bombaywaali with Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, April 13th, Friday.



In the April 2018 edition meet a doyenne of the theatrical world –  Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal 

A producer, actor, director and social activist in the arena of combating and ending violence towards women and girls, named one of the 10 Most Powerful Women in India by L’Officiel magazine, a recipient of the prestigious Karmaveer Puraskar Award, one of Femina Magazine ‘s 50 most powerful women in India in 2007, Mahaboo Mody-Kotwal is perhaps best known for her work on The Vagina Monologues .

JOIN US, where Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal is in conversation with SheThePeople Ideas Editor, Kiran Manral. Empowered by COLORS TV.

   Date:  Friday, April 13th, 6:00 pm

Venue : SodaBottleOpenerWala, 2nd floor, North Skyzone, High Street, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai

Bombaywaali is a monthly celebration of women of Bombay who built the city intellectually, socially and culturally– a special event series organised by SheThePeople.TV. Bombaywaali is the celebration of Mumbai past, present and the future. Alive with new ideas, inspirations, design and successes, we bring you engaging conversations with women who observe and storify this city. Past episodes have featured Bachi Karkaria, Shobha De, Malishka, Tisca Chopra, Miss Malini, Sanjita Jindal, Zia Mody, Pooja Dhingra, Zarina Mehta, Sonal Holland, Richa Chadha and many more fabulous women.

Register free here:

#TheMarriedFeminist this week: Why We Need a Zero Tolerance Policy for Stalking

The year was 1992, I was doing my masters in English Literature from Mumbai University, located at Kalina campus. Every morning, I got off at Santacruz railway station, on the east side and went to the bus stop that would take me to the university. Sometimes I would meet other students, at others I wouldn’t.

The first time I noticed him was when he sat next to me on a bus that was empty. He was hefty, huge and must have been in his late twenties or early thirties. He spread himself out as I shrank into the seat, squashing myself up against the window. I got off at the university, he got off too. When I emerged from class, he was at the gate, waiting. I jumped into a waiting auto rickshaw and went home, terrified.

When I emerged from class, he was at the gate, waiting. I jumped into a waiting auto rickshaw and went home, terrified.

The next morning he was there again, standing behind me, muttering obscenities, touching me, on a crowded bus. I screamed for help. No one said a word. And he was there the next day. I changed my timings, got off at another railway station, had friends walk with me, but he was always there. I was terrified. I couldn’t tell my mother, it would worry her. I did what I think most girls end up doing in such a situation, I dropped out of my masters a few months before my exams, found a job in a small advertising agency as a copywriter and never went back to formal education again.

Whether this was a good thing or a bad one, I will never know. Thankfully, advertising bored the socks off me and condensing my words to fit into a box allocated by the design team was not what I felt chuffed about and I moved to journalism.

I read in the news today that the Delhi government plans to bring in an amendment to make stalking a non-bailable offence. On Women’s Day this year, Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor proposed a bill in the Lok Sabha to make stalking a non-bailable offence.

What is stalking? According to Section 354D of Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013, stalking is “To follow a woman and contact or attempt to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman or monitor the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication.”

Read the rest here

The Married Feminist last week: On wife bashing jokes and why they make me burst a blood vessel

Of the long list of the many things that irk me, coming up for podium finish would definitely be the slew of Whatsapp jokes that belittle a ‘wife’. What irks me even more is that these jokes are often blithely forwarded by women themselves, completely tone deaf to how misogynist and sexist these jokes actually are.

A casual Google search for Whatsapp wife jokes is an indication of how popular these are, throwing up about 34,40,000 search results of all variants. Jokes in English, Hindi, other Indian languages, image jokes, ‘veg’ jokes, ‘non veg’ jokes, all available to pick and choose from. Copy paste, hit send, at the touch of a finger casual sexism gets bombarded, disseminated and reinforced. India is the world’s biggest market for Whatsapp, and all of them, it would seem, rabid consumers of sexist jokes, good morning messages and of course, tweets from the Whatsapp factory of manufactured information.

wife-bashing jokes

Do I cringe as I read these jokes? Yes. Do I call the senders of these jokes out, yes I do, and have been removed from a few Whatsapp groups for my ‘lack of sense of humour’. I’m not complaining. I get all bristly in porcupine manner, and call it out. And more so when it is a woman forwarding one of these. Perhaps I lack a sense of humour because I completely fail to see the humour in these. At the best, they’re reductive. At worse, they’re vicious. They reduce women to mistrustful, sexless, avaricious harridans. And also, we’re in 2018, and these marriage jokes often not very flattering to the wife, are based on the stereotype of a heterosexual marriage.

What do these jokes promote? The Utopian ideal that a man would have a much better life without a wife around to constantly nag him and spend ‘his’ money, in a hedonistic display of consumerism. The man is presumed to be the sole provider in these Whatsapp forwards, that many women earn an independent income these days is conveniently neglected.

Read the rest here

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