A panel discussion I was part of at the Pune Lit Fest.

Make your choice, it’s your life
Reporters Name | Ambika Shaligram | Wednesday, 9 September 2015 AT 09:46 PM IST
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Banker Naina Lal Kidwai, writers — Kiran Manral, Shinie Antony and Madhuri Banerjee — voiced their opinions on what women empowerment means, at a panel discussion during the recently concluded Pune International Literary Festival 2015

Women in the workplace
The book that I put together (30 Women In Power) on 30 women CEOs, was conceived because I felt that we are not celebrating our success enough.

India has a high number of women  CEOs — heads of banking institutions, IT companies and various business facets. But when I asked colleagues who they were, they didn’t know. I thought we should allow these brilliant women to share their stories. Their stories are not about despair, but who helped them reach where they are today — fathers, husbands and mentors.

Most women, profiled in the book, are married and have children. So they have done the balancing act — between work and raising a family — really well. Another scenario emerging in the workplace, is that attempts are being made to make it easier for women to return after a break. What we do in our company is that when a high performing woman employee takes a break (for motherhood or any other reason), we keep in touch with her, encourage her to come back, give her flexi hours, or ‘work from home’ options. We have also offered six months’ paternity leave for men because their presence is required at home.

I have always been a great believer in meritocracy. But, it’s not an equal world. There are less than 4 per cent women on a corporate board. So, the government’s policy in this regard is directionally right. Reservation creates an enabling atmosphere. In Panchayati Raj too, a change has been seen. Earlier, women were propped up by their husbands or fathers. But studies have proved that now the women have come into their own and won the polls without any help. We have to make a start somewhere.
-Naina Lal Kidwai
HSBC Chairman, India

Men and women can’t be stereotyped
I wasn’t treated as ‘girl child’ and I thought that it was very liberating. In the workplace, I would like to be treated as an employee instead of a female employee; I would like to be called a writer, instead of a ‘woman writer’.

I think the idea of empowerment or an image change for women has to be from grassroots to upper echelon. I remember that the Maharashtra State Board had made changes to their textbooks, from KG level. For instance, when ‘D for Doctor’ had  to be explained, they chose the illustration of a girl doctor to emphasise the point. That was a very good decision.

We also have to ensure that men too cannot be stereotyped. For example, a man wearing a skirt is at worst ridiculed as wimp, or at best labelled as a transgender. But a woman wearing pants is considered to make a power statement. Change has to embrace both men and women.
-Shinie Antony
Writer, Co-convenor of Bengaluru Literary Festival

Marry the right man

I feel that empowerment starts with the person you marry and who is going to be the father of your child. A father has to support his daughters or at least not act as an impediment in their growth. Earlier, it was fathers who made the decision that the girl would study in a language school while the boy would be enrolled in an English medium school. Now, that’s changing, at least in urban centres.

It’s also important that when the kids are growing, there should be no gender discrimination in their mind. A girl shouldn’t think that a boy is allowed to do certain things because he is a boy. Same goes for sexual rights. A boy and a girl should be empowered to discuss and tell their parents if they didn’t like some person’s touch.
-Kiran Manral
Writer, All Aboard, Once upon a crush

Take the first step
The word ‘empowered’ means that you have a responsibility towards yourself and others. Empowerment is not just being sexually liberated and doing what you want. India has many women who are empowered and privileged, but give that up after getting married. They give up their decision-making skills or making choices like retaining their separate bank a/c, not learning to file tax returns or changing a tyre.

Empowerment isn’t just about finding a job, but taking the first step in choosing your destiny and figuring out choices that will work for you. You must put your foot down if you aren’t comfortable doing certain things.
-Madhuri Banerjee
Writer of Scandalous Housewives, My Clingy Girlfriend

Karmic Kids. A sneak peek


Chapter 1

Year One

Did I really make this wailing ball of flesh?

He had been nine months in utero, and god knows, I was curious to see how he’d turned out. So when they placed him on my stomach, a little mewling ball of flesh, I recoiled. The blood, the blood. I am, to put it politely, a little squeamish about blood. It was a miracle I didn’t pass out from the sight of this little creature they said they’d pulled out of me, even though it bore little resemblance to a human right now, never mind that it gave credence to the man descended from the apes theory. And of course, there was the myopia. Mine not his.

“Where are my spectacles?” I squealed, realising that the first moments of mother child bonding were to be perennially marred by the fact that I couldn’t see him too clearly. And of course I wanted to see him clearly, I had a roster list of things to be tick marked off, five digits per limb, one nos male appendage, two eyes, two ears, one mouth and such.

“Where are my spectacles?” I squealed again. The anaesthetist looked at the gynaec who looked at the nurse who then looked at the ward boy who grunted and looked around in a fair amount of confusion before it dawned on the cabal that the spectacles in question had been handed across to the mater for safekeeping, and the mater was outside the operation theatre, and a minion was despatched to retrieve the spectacles from her, and my mater in keeping with her penchant for keeping everything safely, had deposited the spectacles in the shelf back in the hospital room we were in, which was at a considerable distance away from the operating theatre. Consequently, my first view of the offspring was that of a red blur that looked somewhat like a newborn kitten or puppy, although the primary impression, in retrospect, was that of a monkey.  Maternal love did not well immediately in the maternal breast, I must confess.

They whisked him off to be cleaned up, weighed and tested and announced proudly to me that he’d got an AGPAR of nine and my competitive streak automatically reared its ugly head and asked what the top score in this test was, and damn it, if he couldn’t ace his AGPAR now what hopes did we have at the JEE some years down the line.

I should have kept those spectacles handy. Perhaps for the next offspring, I told myself.

Finally, I was wheeled out of the operation theatre, the needlework completed, attached to a drip, smiling from a combination of relief that this was finally done with and I could get back to walking around without a baseball in my stomach and wobbling uncertainly every time I approached a long, curving flight of stairs.

I then drifted into a chemically induced sleep, and when I emerged blinking into the cold fluorescent light of evening, the offspring was brought in to see me. Swaddled in regulation hospital swaddle cloth and an ugly frilly cap on his head.  No no no, I thought to myself, my kid cannot wear ugly frilly cap, not when the troops are marching in to view him and pass judgement on who he looks like, talking of which, whom did he look like, me or the spouse. I stared at the little mewling ball of flesh kept gently next to me, the side of me that wasn’t attached by intravenous needle to drip.  Just then, he scrunched up his face or the crumpled, wizened red squashed thing that was his face then and opened his eyes to look at me. Grey eyes. I froze. I imagined the spouse dashing off paternity suits and shaking an irate fist at me. Such lovely grey eyes and thick curling lashes. The newly minted maternal heart, it completely melted into mush, the oxytocin I know now, that had kicked in, and how. I would fight tigers barehanded, climb down cliffs, throw myself in the path of a speeding, and even do calculus again if I needed to, for this child.

The child in question gave me a scathing, startled look and began bawling at the top of his voice. And what a voice it was. I was sure people from three adjoining suburbs would despatch representatives to check the source of this nuisance and were writing out petitions in triplicate to the authorities to do something about it.

“Feed him,” said my mother, who had been hitherto fawning over him with beaming grandparental pride, throwing him at me.


“Feed him,” repeated the hospital ayah who was standing around with no actual purpose except to look most amused at my complete incompetence in the situation.  It was a line I would hear the most often in the next 365 days. It was also the moment that I realised that I would never look at my breasts in the same way ever again.

Whenever the offspring so much as emitted one bawl, he would be thrown back at me with the command, “Feed him.”

I had never ever held a newborn in my life and all the dolls they make you practise with in the pre-natal classes don’t come with amplifiers for voice boxes, making your hands go all jittery, and likely to drop the swaddled ball of flesh onto the floor, and all the horror stories they tell you about babies who’ve been dropped on the head flash in Font Size 200 in the mind’s eye.

A nurse was sent for and the doctor on duty as well, because well, you might as well have an appreciative audience while you try to figure out which part of you should curl up and die when you have to reveal in a public situation a breast that is suddenly gigantic with what the mater casually informs you is “the milk coming in,” which you assumed would be nice and pleasant and the cause of much maternal and offspring bonding and nothing like what it really is, which is two massive boulders on your chest which you assume you will need a couple of wheelbarrows under, if you plan on moving out of the hospital bed ever and navigating the earth again.

All those years you spent, errm, stuffing your foundation garments with socks and such like, are nothing on this. But alas, there is nothing, nothing remotely sexy about suddenly finding your chest morphed into a natural heritage rock formation site, and I’m not even getting into the reason my kind doctor offered me a tube of lanolin based ointment with stern instructions to apply it on my nipples at regular intervals. Suffice to know it involved cracks and bleeding and not in the manner made popular by the books which dealt with red rooms of pain.

It was scary, this being the source of nutrition for another human.  Another, very demanding human, who raised hell if he wasn’t provided with his feed on the dot, every couple of hours, ensuring that the entire suburb knew that he was being deprived of his victuals by his cruel mother.

Finally, one night, when all was quiet and nothing moved, not even the mouse, I stared down, in the flickering light of the television set to mute as I watched stick thin figures on fashion television, resolving to get there soon, at a little ball of flesh gulping greedily from my chest.  I created him. He is mine, I thought, never mind what Kahlil Gibran had to say on the issue, and I couldn’t have been more proud.  The grey eyes, by the way, have morphed into a lovely deep brown, like his father’s and the boy is now, a reduction Xerox of the spouse, and has inherited from the Y chromosomal donor the temper sitting on the nose, as they say in the colloquial. The plans for DNA testing have been well dropped.

Order your copy here

Some days ago, I went for a television game show shoot…

….it was my second experience of being on the set of a television game show, the first being as audience (family of participant-my sister in law Chanda Bisht, who had qualified for KBC). This time too, I was supporting role. I was Suitcase No 3 in Deal Ya No Deal in support of Sabbah Haji’s Haji Public School in Breswana, Doda, and it was a most fun experience. I first met Sabbah on twitter, as one tends to meet a lot of wonderful people these days. She was a rarity. Quicksilver wit, strong opinions, someone who chose, voluntarily, to give up the charms of city living to set up a school for children in a region so out of bounds that to reach there is a long hike or trek up on a horse.

Here’s a bit about the episode. It airs tomorrow at 8 pm on & Channel. Watch it. And you can donate to Haji Public School here: http://www.hajipublicschool.org/donations.html

Actor Amir Bashir, Twitter India Head Raheel Khursheed and renowned author Kiran Manral support Sabbah Haji of Kashmir’s Haji Pu

Actor Amir Bashir, Twitter India Head Raheel Khursheed and renowned author Kiran Manral support Sabbah Haji of Kashmir’s Haji PuSabbah Haji has been called the ‘rural rockstar’ and known for her untiring work for the school kids of her hometown Breswana in Kashmir. So it was a special moment when she came on &TV’s family game show Deal or No Deal. What makes her so special is the fact that she is the founder of Haji Public School in Kashmir, Breswana, which she also runs and is currently educating 200 children. Sabbah contributes 1/3rd of the school fees for those students who cannot afford to pay. The young woman participated in DoND to win the money and use it to improve the infrastructure of her school.

Among the 25 contestants that constituted her family on the show were Kashmiri folk actor and director Amir Bashir and Raheel Khursheed- Twitter India Head, and renowned author of The Reluctant Detective and Once upon a Crush – Kiran Manral. The episode had a series of fun and teary moments. While Sabbah, her sister Nida, Amir Bashir and Sabbah’s volunteer danced like Anil Kapoor to ‘My name is Lakhan’, Sabbah broke down into tears when she heard the banker offer. Other than the gameplay, host Ronit Roy made an appeal to the viewers to help the cause of Haji Public School.

All Aboard in The Hindu Metroplus yesterday

Cruising through the pages

By Shruti Menon

On board Kiran at the launch of her book. Photo by Author

There is still a couple of minutes left for the book launch, but author Kiran Manral is a total livewire, surrounded by people, who either read her book and loved it or are waiting for a signed copy post the launch. She launched her fourth book at Atta Galatta last week — a holiday romance titled All Aboard.

Talking about the book before the launch, Kiran says: “This is the story of a young woman who is ditched at her wedding mandap, and she goes on a honeymoon on her own after this, which happens to be this cruise. It’s a typical holiday romance, it’s a fun and easy read. Yes, it is different from what I normally write, which is humour. This is primarily a romance with mere specks of humour, but I enjoyed writing it. It’s about love and second chances, and a feel good tale in general.”

At the launch Kiran is asked about her preparation for this novel. She jokes, “Oh, I’ve never been on a cruise before. So I went on virtual tours of just about every cruise liner. Trip Advisor saved my life. And I’ve never been in that situation either!”

The writing experience was a good one then? “It’s the best thing about being a writer, according to me,” declares Kiran. “You get to live your life vicariously through your characters, and their journeys. It doesn’t even have to be practical; it’s a shift in reality. And there will be parts of you or parts of people you know in them.”

When someone in the audience asked if the hero was based on her husband, Kiran good humouredly retorted, “I wish!”

The author is then asked what the best way to get over a heartbreak is. “Go on a cruise! Read my book!” she laughs adding, “In all seriousness, I’d advise people to work through it before getting into a relationship on the rebound. Let yourself heal physically and emotionally.”

The interactive session was followed by the book signing, and Kiran is busy again. Well, for those in favour of the romance genre, this book may be worth the read!

Read the original here

My post for Sheroes on Choices we make

Choices We Make

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Throughout one’s professional career, the one thing that will probably determine the path one’s career takes more than the education and the professional qualifications one has or the hard work one puts in, is something a little less obvious. Namely, the choices one makes.

On the face of it, making choices might seem easy. Some choices might seem like no choices, with the obvious choice staring one in the face. The others might need careful deliberation and weighing of pros and cons and the third category altogether might require asking a third person to step in and help one take a decision based on subjective factors which might be impaired by emotive factors which prevent us from taking an informed decision. At the end of it all, decision taking is something that most people struggle with and there is always that niggling sense of self doubt as to whether one has done the right thing at all, or whether one could have chosen differently for a better outcome.

Most of life is binary. From our binary symmetrical selves as human beings to our binary brains, and therefore, choice making is also another facet that we often weigh the prosaic and the practical against the emotive and the heartfelt. The latter often, is not what works in the professional set up. So how do you take a choice that keeps your emotional factors in place, while simultaneously being practical enough to make a decision that will be in your best interests?

Here are some methods that might be helpful:

Make a pros and cons list. As with most things, writing down pros and cons on a sheet of paper in two separate column might help you come to a decision depending on what is the heavier side of the sheet at the end of it all.

Ask yourself why ten times over. If you can give yourself enough, convincing answers as to why you should take the decision you plan to take it will probably be in your best interests to take it.

Ask someone whose judgement you trust and place all the factors before them honestly. Tell them to think about it and give you an honest answer after considering all the points.

Speak to people you trust within your organisation or in your field of work and get their opinion. Sometimes someone can bring in an insight you would have normally not even thought of.

Think back to a time in your life when you had to make a similar choice and correlate the situation and your experience from the choice you eventually made at that point.

Deliberate about the ethics of the choice you have to make, sometimes just whether something is right or wrong is your choice made for you.

If you still can’t choose, make two chits, write yes and no on them. Toss them into a bowl and shake them around and pick one out. The one you’re hoping for in that split second before you open the chit you have picked out is the choice your mind has made for you.

And finally, listen to your heart. While making choices with your brain is all too good, sometimes the best decisions can come from simply deciding to go with your gut instinct. Listening to what your heart tells you about what you want to do can sway your decision in ways you cannot begin to imagine. There is a lot to be said for going with what your brain decides, but there is a lot more to be said for following your heart.

Read the original here

Reader review of All Aboard by Namita on Amazon India

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Fun to read…finished in first half of my lazy sunday , it was a light hearted love story. A good indian novel on romance , Kiran Manral has done a good job of developing the characters and weaved the story well , I think I want to read a few more of her books before making any clear recommendation on the author. However – this particular book is fine ..worth the time and money .

Want a personalised signed copy of All Aboard? Here’s a giveaway contest.

Want a personalised signed copy of All Aboard? Simple.
All you have to do is to like my author page here: https://www.facebook.com/kiranmanralauthorpage

and answer the following question in the comments section below the post on the Facebook author page.

Of the many characters in my books, which one did you love the most and why?

The ten most interesting answers will receive a personalised signed copy of All Aboard. (India addresses only please). The contest ends October 12th, Monday.  My decision will be final and binding, etc.

#AllAboard review on Anuradha Shankar’s blog A Wandering Mind

Kiran’s narrative is as easy as ever, the language excellent, without being highbrow. I have been reading Kiran’s blogs for years now, and her books have the same sense of innate humor, which make them such a good read.

When I met Kiran recently over a lunch she hosted, everyone had the same question – had she actually been on a cruise before she wrote the book? It was a reasonable question, and, it is only when you read the book, that you realize just how impressive her research has been, that she has written about the cruise in such amazing detail, without ever being on one! I haven’t been on one either, but her descriptions of the rooms, of the cruise experience, of the sites they stop at, are so realistic and well written, I found myself wondering if I could ever write about a place so well, without actually going there!

Overall, All Aboard is the kind of book I pick up when I am between books, and want a good, but easy read, to help me relax.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to her next book – Karmic Kids – the story of parenting nobody told you! – which is based on her blog… the one I have been reading for years, even before I met her!

– See more at: http://anushankarn.blogspot.in/2015/10/book-review-all-aboard-by-kiran-manral.html#sthash.LC2IOUDO.dpuf