““Social media changed my life,” she says.At SheThePeople.tv Citibank Power Breakfast

Honoured to be a speaker at the Shethepeople Citibank Power Breakfast yesterday with Sahana Chattopadhyay, an independent consultant who also works with TCS and Rema Subramanian, co founder at Ankur Capital speaking on women and work, second careers and barriers at the work space for women.
Thank you Shaili Chopra for inviting me, and Anjali Kirpalani for moderating it so wonderfully.

 

Power Breakfast: Shattering Workplace Assumptions

Women at Power Breakfast empower the notion of what technology is doing for women. Sahana Chattopadhyay, an independent consultant who also works with TCS says it’s a myth that men are better at using technology.

 

Power Breakfast Mumbai She The People

Women are making the most of mobile penetration and growth in digital. Rema Subramanian, co founder at Ankur Capital adds she is surprised that when it comes to mobile phones, women in rural India are early adapters too. “We have invested in two healthcare enterprises and nearly 70 pct of its patients are women. One of the companies uses video tech for disseminating healthcare solutions. But it’s surprising how many women do walk in. It’s amazing how comfortable women are talking tech.” Subramanian also talked about how women are very comfortable using tech for farming solutions as well. “The idea is to create businesses that can last for long than go from valuation to valuation while investing,” she says of her Angel fund Ankur Capital which is fetching such ideas and investing in technologies that help build rural India.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/160716403
Kiran Manral started blogging and that was her first connect with tech was driven by social media. She was a sit at home mom with her son and as an ex journalist she had ‘itchy fingers’ and the desire to get her ‘voice out there.’ Her tech writing urged her to explore the ideas of writing books and that’s what made it possible for her to reach out and have a connection with the world. “Social media changed my life,” she says.

Power Breakfast On SheThePeople.TV

We tend to ‘assign’ tasks to women and some to men. We need to be open to being lateral about job roles and not perpetuate the myths. “One of the trends that’s finally changing is that more women are trying to bridge the gap by entering tech arena,” reckons Chattopadhyay who as a leadership coach speaks to many analysts on the subject.

Another gem from the Power Breakfast was the discussion around empowered choices. Women make a lot of choices in their lives when it come to career, family, education, and it’s important to not let it impact your self-worth. “These are after all choices and not ‘sacrifices’,” says Subramanian. In the same vein, Chattopadhyay points out how flexible working hours are not “meant for women” alone. Women and men both have the choice and requirements for such flexibilities. Especially with jobs becoming location-agnostic, a lot opportunities are opening up for a flexible work environment and place.

” a fresh, funny, endearing and a well-balanced book.” All Aboard

A review of All Aboard on Inderpreet Uppal’s blog.

 

After reading the book now I know why the title has an exclamation mark and it is very apt. Rhea Khanna and  Kamal Shahani are all in and how! More than they know!

Here is a romance that will find approval with lovers of love all over. It has all the elements for a perfect romance read. The strength of Kiran’s book lies with believable characters, loveable family and a cruise that each one of us would love to be a part of. On top of that she has added a bit of a suspense and crime; what more could you ask for. The story is fast paced and kept me glued to the book from the first chapter.

Kamal, the handsome, rich, cool and totally a family guy is what dreams of all young girls are made of. I was tempted too, so tempted 😉 Rhea is the proverbial bookworm, sweet, pretty and alluring. She finds herself falling for this very dashing guy weeks’ after a broken engagement; unsure, tempted and very charmed. Kiran has penned her in the image of scores of regular women we meet so often who are totally grounded. An ideal mix for a romantic rush.

The cruise is the perfect place to let go of our worries and introspect, a no pressure environment where the two meet yet the path of true love is never easy. To find love may be simple but to cherish it is not so much and this is what the story is about. Rhea and Kamal seem perfectly suited for each other but it is not all smooth sailing for them. John, with his charm and style, almost got the better of me; the author has managed to entwine the story with lots of distractions for dear Rhea.

The secondary characters; Rina Massi, Colonel Singh, Naina and the kids Jay and Kiara are all well etched and add depth to the book. As did the second love story – bonus!! 😀 Rina Massi is an absolutely cool lady, I loved her pizzazz and style, her love of life were contagious. A perfect companion for Rhea as well.

Naina and her kids add a bit of reality and family love to the equation. She is the perfect sister, friendly, supportive and looking out for her brother.  Sisters are like that, and she was the right person to keep the suspense going whether love will find its mark of not? I was so impressed with Naina that I would love for Kiran to write her story next. Call me a die-hard romantic but I think Naina definitely deserves a happily ever after of her own.

It was a hard to put down the book, the language effortless and smooth. The cruise with its beautiful destinations is a delight to read. I must appreciate Kiran for giving us a peek into the locations but not overpowering the narrative by making it into a travelogue. A cruise on my bucket list just shot up through the list! All Aboard is a fresh, funny, endearing and a well-balanced book. I eagerly look forward to reading more from Kiran.

Read the original here.

 

Himalayan Gothic: Haunted lives and loves in the hills

Vikas Datta
22 March 2016

Title: The Face at the Window; Author: Kiran Manral; Publisher: Amaryllis; Pages: 245; Price: Rs.250

Could there be anything common between the elderly Anglo-Indians, usually women, who taught many of us of a certain age and background, and the mountains? An imposing presence for one, but also a sense of aloofness, of mysteries concealed. Putting together such a character and setting, and adding the most haunting ghosts (those of past loves), could well result in a chilling – and plaintive – tale.

And this is what Kiran Manral offers in her fourth novel – a dark brooding story of mysterious, concealed identities, consequences of lack of familial bonding and support, of unsuitable and unsustainable loves, of the burdens of the past and its regrets, of toxic secrets, and the twilight of a life lived fully but not very happily.

Add to that the first throes of adolescent infatuation, characters with private agendas or harbouring their own secrets, a case or two of spirit possession, human remains being unearthed and a “malevolent” visitation, and Manral may have very well pioneered the “Himalayan Gothic” genre – with the majestic and silent mountains serving as an adequate substitute for the old, atmospheric mansions.

The story is told from the viewpoint of retired school teacher Mrs McNally, living alone in a small town in the Himalayan foothills at the fag end of her life, and wondering whether she should or not reveal the devastating secrets she has been carrying long about her estranged daughter Millie and grand daughter Nina to them.

Though she has been typing out an account of her life, she keeps it hidden. And then late one night she is woken – while a violent rainstorm rages – by what seems a rap on her window, but can’t see any one, even after opening it and looking outside.

But then there is another flash of lightning and then “a face stared at me from the window, pressed against the sheet of glass. A face that seemed disturbingly familiar… A face with glistening, red eyes that pierced right through me, she stood there… suspended in mid-air” since the window overlooks a sheer drop.

It is right from then, her life slowly starts spiralling out of control. Not only does this malevolent entity come into the house and tries to kill her, it possesses a young local girl living nearby, as well as (briefly) Nina, who also senses the presence.

Why does this malevolent presence seek to do harm to her, and whose skeleton is it that is uncovered near their cottage during digging to lay new water lines? On the other hand, was it a mistake to accept the young personable doctor’s offer to drive down her granddaughter to school, and is the writer, who has rented the cottage behind and driven to her one thundery night to seek refuge, what he seems to be? And what are the devastating secrets Mrs. McNally hidden all her life?

It is all these questions that are slowly unpeeled, layer by layer, in this complex tale, which is by turns, spine-chillingly spooky, and other times, heart-wrenching, but always rendered in Manral’s expressive and evocative language.

Be it the similes – “memories as thick as molasses and as bitterly sweet” – or vivid descriptions that instill a sense of apprehension – “..lightning jagged virulently, splitting the skies into an apocalyptic chiaroscuro of light and shade, of hope and despair, a mottled landscape of an alien world beyond the clouds where lives were not mortal and death was not final” or “.. there was a disturbing quiet in the house. Or as much quiet as these old houses can have, before something wakes them up again in the dead of the night… a sense of disquiet with the tree brushing its leaves against the roof, like a lover’s lingering touch, even after the goodbyes have been said ..”, the author always holds you entranced – right to the inevitable end.

This dark tale of the psyche, relationships and the need to belong is totally different from Manral’s previous four books – three novels and an account-cum-manual of child-rearing that “out-Bombecks” Erma – but no less engrossing. While she makes you laugh before, don’t miss letting her frighten you now!

(22.03.2016 – Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in )

Read the original here

“Manral chronicles her son’s milestones in an extremely irreverent and fresh manner “

Thanks @Kidsstoppress for this recommendation for Karmic Kids.

“Kiran Manral has published her first nonfiction book and we couldn’t be more excited! The author of a hugely successful blog, this book has grown out of those blogposts and we are sure the humour has carried through. Manral chronicles her son’s milestones in an extremely irreverent and fresh manner that not only touches a chord with millions of parents but will instantly make you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Why you should read it
If her blog is anything to go by, this book will be a fantastic read simply because of the humour quotient. Go on moms, you know you need a good laugh!”

Read the original here

Of dratted project week and other surprises

Like most nasty surprises go, this too was sprung upon me with no warning and absolutely no time for me to gather my thoughts about me in a composed manner . “Here’s the projeck guidelines sheet,” said the offspring and hefted a stapled bunch of sheets my way, much in the careless manner people go round lobbing grenades at unwary hapless onlookers in crowded places. But this was home. And I was alone, hapless, the sole target for this grenade bomb of instructions.  I grabbed it with the trepidation of one handling live ammunition with the pin taken off and went through it with trembling hands and blinking eyes.

The list seemed never ending, pictures and information to be collated, charts and scrap books to be procured, border tapes, glue sticks and the assorted shebang that goes into the creation of these dreaded things. As someone who left her art and craft skills in the hallway of her high school when she gave her last exam for Class ten, project week for me is always a battle between the nerves and me, and very often the nerves win. It seemed doable though, in the way, Mt Everest seems doable when you google “How to climb a mountain.”

This had to be tackled on a war footing, and this involved immense making of lists and putting down deadlines against each project. I am nothing if not an inveterate list maker, and so it began, an excel sheet opened on the computer and details keyed in. Topic of the project, format to be submitted in, material to be gathered, presentation ideas to be generated, shots of vodka to be consumed…you get the gist. Seriously though, making out an excel sheet, and sticking it to my soft board at office and the offspring’s soft board at home enables us to completely blind spot it and consciously ignore it, until 10 pm on the eve of project week. When I die, they will have on my grave, here’s the one thing she didn’t put on her to-do list.

But then, as all good intentions go, this too, this determination to be organised and in charge went to the land of nod until one Sunday night, 10 pm Just as I had secured all the locks and latches of the home to ensure no burglar could make their way in, and was sleep walking my way into the bedroom, having done and dusted my tasks for the day, the offspring tottered out of his room, staring at me with the silent death stare which inevitably meant that I had failed reprehensibly in my duties as a mom and he was going to carry this moment into therapy when he grew up, and need 20 sessions of to talk through his issues with neglect and abandonment. “Mamma,” he says, in tone so sepulchral, I wondered whether the little girl from The Exorcist had been visiting.  “Tomorrow is ProjekWeek.”

I sank to my knees. What fresh hell is this, I asked myself. Had I not just sat through ten pages of English Language homework and an entire chapter of Physics Homework done with as much reluctance as Basanti doing the fancy footwork on glass shards, with me playing the gun brandishing Gabbar?  Yes I had had advance warning, but true to tradition, I’d filed it under the “We have enough time” box and the enough time had snuck up and bit me on the butt when I least expected it to.

By the end of the term, most moms, like me, have run out of steam and enthu when it comes to project week. The offspring was deposited at the computer, never mind the sleep forming cobwebs on his lashes and made to do quick googling of all he needed, in terms of priority. O Henry’s Life and Times. Check. Add to it a pretty picture of the author as an infant in a be-ribboned frock and we had enough chortling hyuck hyucks from the offspring to ensure that all sleep was dispensed with for everyone in the house. Information about the author and one interesting fact. “He was jailed fer robbing a bank.” Ermm, no child, that’s called embezzlement, and does not include the use of a gun and a getaway car.  All the info related to O Henry—pictures, life facts, etc, were neatly printed out and labelled, an errant chart paper fished out of the depths of the drawer that held all material required for art and craft work, and some quick application of border tape and sticking of the pictures later, we had a skeletal chart that could ensure I wasn’t reported for dereliction of duty.  History was equally fun, Shah Jahan’s monuments, and we had to trawl through reams of information available online about each of his constructions and zeroing in on the perfect shots of the Taj Mahal, was a pleasure in itself. It also did not help the ever extending bed time by my waxing eloquent on the beauty of the monument in its actuality to an offspring who could not comprehend why the Mughal emperor spent so much money and time “fer a died person.”  But a wonderful shot of Shah Jahan’s magnum opus was selected, information extricated off the world wide web, pictures selected and printed out, and the scrap book primed and readied to received the lot.

And finally, when all the information, printouts, pictures etc, had been printed out, cut out and made ready for pasting, I sat back, looked at the clock and breathed deeply. The offspring got busy with his headings, and decorations of the covers and being artistically challenged, he had created alien life forms instead of borders and given credence to the beauty in the disorder as the wise poet had once said. I was compelled to take it upon myself to extricate my redundant artistic skills and try prod him into an organised cosmos from the tumultuous chaos his decorations had rendered the projects into.

It hadn’t taken too long, thanks to the internet and the printer, and a determined offspring. What had taken the longest though was the procrastination to get things started and that in fact was a lesson we both needed to learn. Well begun is half done, etc, and it doesn’t bear to waste time in procrastination given that we have the biggest ally of it all, the internet and technology right at our finger tips to get things done as instantly as possible.

 

“…beautifully written story…” The Face At The Window in the DNA After Hours yesterday

‘Closure is always elusive’

With her latest book, The Face at the Window, author Kiran Manral finds that there are some questions that haunt us forever, some even to the grave and beyond

Deepali Singh

Right from the moment you start reading The Face at the Window, author Kiran Manral’s latest book, you get drawn into Mrs McNally’s world. A world, where there are secrets waiting to be told and shadows lurking at every corner. Manral, a former journalist, who has written four books prior to this beautifully written story, urges the reader to delve further into the protagonist’s world, which threatens to fall apart as she grapples with ghosts from the past and present. An excerpt from a conversation with the author:

Where did the inspiration for The Face at the Window come from?

This is a question I keep asking myself too, because Mrs McNally is no one I know at all, or have had a remote acquaintance with. I have always been fascinated by the mountains, and a trip to Uttarakhand a few years ago, took me to Te Aroha at Dhanachuli for a couple of days. Staying there in that splendid isolation, surrounded by the dazzling beauty of nature made me wonder how people lived their lives so isolated. For someone who is born and brought up in the rough and tumult of a city, the very thought was inconceivable.

The scene from the window of my room, had me spot cottages in the distance, smoke curling out from their chimneys, and this visual stayed in my head. It found its way eventually into chapter one of the book. I wondered if there would be someone who would deliberately seek out such isolation, and Mrs McNally popped into my head, fully formed, with a story of her own she insisted I tell.

 

The book is written from Mrs McNally’s point of view. Why did you feel the need to write in first person?

I didn’t think about it consciously, but I needed to live and be Mrs McNally in order to write her as truly as I could, and writing in the first person dropped me right into her skin, to experience her feelings, her physicality, the issues an onlooker might not realise. Writing in the first person compelled me to be Mrs McNally, and that I think that made her come alive.

 

The characters in the story are all nicely fleshed-out. Have you sought inspiration from people you know?

Bits and pieces and composites of various people one knows or one hears about always get distilled into characters one writes about, that is always a given. So, not one person has been directly transferred into a character in the book, but I’ve borrowed liberally from people I know as well as people I don’t and patched them all together to create the characters in the book.

 

Mrs McNally’s ageing has been written in the most sensitive manner, with minute details that draw out her character. Do you put that down to observation? How important is it for a writer to observe life around him/her?

For me, the most important thing as a writer is that a reader should be able to read a character and imagine that person as flesh and blood. No detail is too minute if it adds to the personality, even if it means something as trivial as a flat hairband to keep the character’s fine hair down in a nasty wind. My job as someone who is creating a character is to build up as much as I can of the person, and leave in a little for the reader to flesh out, to personalise so that the character becomes that much more intimate to them.

And yes, observing everything around one is a given, it is only through observation-curious, relentless, unslaking observation, that one goes beyond the surface and arrives at the substratum of what truly makes a character.

Read the complete original interview here

A writer’s life. Written for Shethepeople.tv

Confronting our demons: A writer’s life by Kiran Manral

By Kiran Manral

Ever since I published my first book, one constant in my inbox has been the constant barrage of emails from young aspiring writers on how to be an author. My constant unchanging response to this is the polite, and the very honest, “I truly have no idea.”

Being an author is something that I am yet to wrap my head around.  I have, to my name, five books that show up under my name on e-commerce sites but I would rather call myself a writer than an author. That would be my primary job definition. The author bit of it is something that happened along the way of finding myself as a writer. I’m still on that journey, I have to still find myself.

 It is also, as T S Eliot said, about “And for a hundred visions and revisions.”  Or as Papa Hemingway put it less politely, the first draft of anything is shit. 

How does one become an author, they ask me. I have no honest formula that I can share. All I know and all I can say that it would begin by loving to write. And loving to read.

What is it about being an author? Is it the glamorous, lit-festing, posing for the cameras, waving to the admiring throngs image most people think an author’s life comprises? Far from it.  Of course, some authors with devoted fan followings might have this as part of their life, but for the most part, authors lead singularly anonymous lives, except from when they are extracted periodically from the formaldehyde of routine and put on parade for the lit fest jamboree.

In fact, I think I would go back as far as to state unequivocally that I am a reader who also writes. Because there have been years, nay, decades of unstinting, reading before the first book escaped from my desktop into the permanency of print and paper.

authors lead singularly anonymous lives, except from when they are extracted periodically from the formaldehyde of routine and put on parade for the lit fest jamboree

But then I would rather be a writer. And here’s what being a writer entails. And it isn’t always pretty.

To begin with, it requires unflinching courage. When you write you need to dig deep down into yourself, mine yourself for your truest emotions and transpose them to your characters in order to make them real and believable. This requires a fair amount of not just confronting your own demons, but also dancing with them. This can be a scary process, also demons when unleashed are rather reluctant to go back into the box.

There’s a quote from Gustave Flaubert that perhaps exemplifies this the best. “Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.”  For a writer, this is the bare boned truth. The truth about the writing life is that it is primarily about discipline, immense amounts of self discipline in order to sit oneself down, day after day, digging time out from the work that needs to be done in order for bread and butter to be earned, to write what one must. And those are again, operative words. “To write what one must.” Because there is no gun to one’s head to get writing, except the one we keep resting on the writing desks ourselves, with the safety catch off, because we must write. The only compulsion to write is in our heads. Why else would we put ourselves out there, open to scathing criticism unless we had to.

Read the original here

“We need to form strong networks of women,” An interview with me in Indusparent

1.What are the three values that you got from your parents as a child that has made you the person you are today?

From my mother I got the discipline to get up, dress up and show up, no matter what the mood, the situation, the health issues. She’s a feisty thing, my mother, and if I could be half as feisty as she is, I would be happy with myself. She also taught me to always be honest, no matter how unpleasant. From my father, I learnt to be kind. I think these three values define me today.

2.Who was the biggest influence in your life to help your grow to be a successful woman?

I don’t know if I can quite call myself a successful woman, miles to go before being remotely worthy of that label. But my biggest influence, clichéd as it may sound is definitely my mother.

3.Where do you take inspiration from when writing about the characters of your book? Are they based on real life characters?

Different for different books, some are based in bits and parts on people I know, some come as fully-formed creatures in my head and need no further inspiration from real life. So I would think, it works both ways for me as a writer.

4.How do you maintain work-life balance and find time to spend with your family?

I only work when I am at my office, and once I am home I do nothing but domestic stuff and spend time with my son. I think it is important to shut oneself off from work once one reaches home, and to draw up very clear demarcations of what one is prepared to do or not. I don’t take work related calls post 6pm, I don’t work on weekends, I completely refuse to travel unless essential. All this helps to carve out time that gets eaten up from family time.

5.What are the three things that motherhood has taught you?

Definitely that I could put myself in the path of a speeding car without a moment’s hesitation if needed to save my son. Also that I can survive on zero sleep through a year of hourly feeds. And that I am infinitely more patient than I ever thought I could be.

6.You have donned so many hats? What keeps you going?

The fear of not doing enough.

7.What do you think about the state of women in India and what we must do for the betterment of women in India?

I think it begins with ourselves and extends to the women around us. We need to speak up for ourselves, for the women we come in contact with, change attitudes, call out everyday unthinking sexism, speak up when something is not acceptable at home or in the professional space.

And most importantly, we need to form strong networks of women, whether in the professional space or the personal space, we need to be, in our limited capacity each other’s safety nets. And this gradually spreads out across a community, a neighbourhood, a city, a country.

8. Any women’s day message that you’d like to give to our readers?

Women hold up half the sky, as Chairman Mao said. So don’t ever hesitate to stake your claim to the space you occupy. Be glorious, be confident, and reach out for whatever you want to be.”

Read the original here

 

 

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