For Sheroes: Why I Think Every Woman Should Be Financially Independent

I earned my first rupee when I was still in school. In the primary section. It came from having no pocket money and a whopping collection of books. I created a home library, where I carefully catalogued the books and lent it out to other kids for the princely sums of 10 paise per comic book, 25 paise for a proper paperback/hardbound book, for a week. And yes, I’d factored in late return fines as well. The model worked pretty well, and my natural parsimoniousness and burgeoning entrepreneurship made the library a hit in a one horse suburb public bank staff quarters where parents thought buying their kids books was an indulgence best done without.

This was start up entrepreneurship before start-ups became the hot stuff they are today, and the money I earned from running the library kept me on Phantom cigarettes, Pepsicolas (not the carbonated stuff you get these days but flavoured ice-water packed in transparent plastic tubes) and gold coin chocolates. I had then tasted, if you please, at age seven, the pleasures of earning my own money and not being answerable to anyone as to how I chose to spend it.

My entrepreneurial bug was on permanent itch since. I became the de facto agent for IYF, a penpal matching outfit based in a Scandinavian country, this in the pre internet era, where I collected the application fees plus commission from school mates to do the documentation and the thankless job of visiting the post office, standing in queue and posting it.

A little later, by Grade 9 and 10, I began scouting round export surplus streets, picking up clothes at discounts on the already cheap rate by begging and pleading and would sell them to friends in school and the building at a decent mark up.  In college, I was giving tuitions to smaller kids and earning my pocket money. I began working when I was 19. I’d always earned my keep.

And then I had my baby. By this time, I’d been a journalist, quit to start my own content supply firm, closed that when the first dot com bubble exploded rather nastily, started an advertising boutique firm with the hubby, where I handled the creative side of the business, and continue freelance writing and editing industry specific magazines.

When the baby came along, work-life-balance went for a toss in the initial years. I did have wonderful support at home with my mother-in-law to watch the baby, but getting back to full-time work was impossible because it was tiring for an ageing person to take care of a hyperactive baby who insisted on scooting all over the place all the time.  I did continue work, writing the occasional freelance article but those were few and far between, and the payments delayed for months, and when they came, puny enough to be laughable.  For those years, I was completely dependent financially on the spouse.

For someone who was used to earning her own money all her life, these years were a trifle tough. As the child grew, and freed up more time for me as he went into nursery and then big school, I upped my working hours. Working freelance, but there was an income, humble as it was, and it was mine. It made me a happier person to have around when I had money in the account that was mine to spend with zero guilt. But having said this, I acknowledge that I had the luxury of choice. Something that most women in similar situations don’t.

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The Face At The Window keeps you glued till the end! Brilliant read-Sheroes on The Face At The Window

@KiranManral writes yet another amazing story!The Face At The Window keeps you glued till the end! Brilliant read bit.ly/28Q8pk9

 

Book Review: The Face At The Window, Will Give You Goosebumps, And A Few Flashbacks Too

Date :24-Jun-2016

Raba Raza

I saw ‘The Face In The Window’  on my colleague’s desk and the book’s cover lured me instantly. Is that face in the window, looking back at me? Now, I am a brave reader, and the fact that my colleague is not is what has led to this review.

Mrs McNally, is a retired schoolteacher and lives alone, in a cottage on a remote hill station. She loves living here, spending her time writing and chatting up with the people around. Her daughter, a social worker lives abroad, but she has a granddaughter who lives and studies at a boarding school nearby, and she visits her often.

However, such bliss can be a myth, and Mrs McNally knows that best. Life has been long, and has left her burdened with memories of failed relationships. She wants to unload that burden, but can’t, afraid that her past will affect the present for her daughter and granddaughter. But then, memories are like ghosts, and they turn up when least expected.

‘The Face At The Window’ brings out a similarity between the ghosts of both the past and present. The story builds slowly, noting details of events and characters, and then takes off to focus on the  subject. The author has been attentive to introducing and establishing each character: Mrs McNally who was abandoned at childhood, led a full life but now wants to live alone and peacefully. You will also meet her granddaughter Nina, the  teenager, who has a crush on a doctor double her age and is not clued in to the reality of life. Then there is Sumit, who is on a sabbatical to write a book.

The characters and story seem very real and made me stick to the book till the last page. I got a bit emotional reading about the life of a woman, whose name was also a lie. She has never seen a relationship blossom in her life and is not even attached to her own daughter. Such detachments and emotional turmoils happen in real life too, but not everyone admits to it.

You try to find happiness in the little things, but do run the risk of getting trapped by ghosts of the past. The Face In The Window’  is a gentle story, about  the lack of identity and the eternal search to find yourself. It will give you goosebumps at certain points,  but you will continue to read till the end. And perhaps, let out a sigh, when you reach there. This one is a must read!

Title: THE FACE AT THE WINDOW

Author: KIRAN MANRAL

Available on Amazon

“Easy reading with lots of humour thrown in.” Reader review for Once Upon A Crush

So, when you’re busy focusing your attention on the newborn, and the toddler, who is already potty trained and out of solids suddenly demands her share of attention again.

An unexpected and delightful reader review for Once Upon A Crush on Amazon yesterday.

A book lover’s delight, 15 June 2016
By Nimi
This review is from: Once Upon A Crush (Kindle Edition)
The cover design of ‘Once Upon a Crush’ with slightly smudged heart and red-coloured lipstick, sets the mood for the fun, light-hearted pleasure that this book is.

Rayna De is the main protagonist of ‘Once Upon a Crush’. She’s independent, about to turn 30 and has not love life. Her parents are after her to get married.
She has a crush on Deven Ahuja – Rayna compares him to Edward Cullen and Mr Darcy. Oh, and he has cheekbones comparable to Benedict Cumberbatch.

The stage is thus set for the emotions and the insecurities of being attracted, of getting to know someone. The hesitation of not asking a question frankly, and then looking for answers in gestures and random statements.
And especially our minds making mountains out of every molehill of gesture, statement and even silence.
The choice of not marrying, yet the insecurities of being alone.

I was hooked when I read Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings mentioned in the same sentence. Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Fifty Shades of Grey, Phantom, When Harry Met Sally, Twilight Saga, and many more make this book a reader’s delight. Even the Queen of sarcasm and outspokenness, Aunty Acid finds a place.

The way the author plays with words is fascinating.
The book is great for easy reading with lots of humour thrown in.

There is not a moment of boredom reading this book. The story may not throw up any great surprises, but the words are strikingly expressive.

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‘Kiran Manral has written a cracker of a story in her delightful style ” #AllAboard

 

4.0 out of 5 stars Desi Damsel, Desi Dude aur Mediterranean mein Mohabbat, 10 June 2016
This review is from: All Aboard! (Paperback)
Who said desi writers can’t write romance? Or that they can’t write it well?

Kiran Manral has written a cracker of a story in her delightful style and it’s full of everything a desi girl could want — a vulnerable, heartbroken heroine, a too-good-to-be-true hero, a vamp, an aunt that everyone wishes s/he had in his/her family and an exotic Mediterranean cruise replete with dazzling locations. You tell me — what’s not to love?

And even though you know that Rhea and Kamal are destined to be together, you can’t help but push them together with the power of your thoughts. Anything to bring a couple together!

I actually see this being made into a film one day…ooh, dil dhadak raha hain!

“It’s a bear hug of solidarity from other mothers.” #KarmicKids

5.0 out of 5 stars Motherhood: The Tribe, 10 June 2016
This review is from: Karmic Kids: The Story of Parenting Nobody Told You (Paperback)
So here’s the deal about motherhood — it doesn’t come with a handbook or manual. Those of us in ‘The Tribe’, we know that. But what makes this crazy roller-coaster ride more bearable is the fact that you’re not in it alone. Of course the Elders of the Tribe are more than ready with reams of advice and barrels of instructions, and while their wisdom is something which we’re grateful for, I often find the journey less daunting when I turn to my peers. And Kiran Manral’s “Karmic Kids” falls into that category. It’s gratifying to know that I’m not alone in facing the latest surprise that my boys throw at me. This book, peppered with not just Kiran’s stories about her and her delightful boy, but stories shared by her friends as well, is a must read for any woman who is a new entrant to or is contemplating a lifelong membership to The Tribe. And for those of us already eyeball deep in it, it’s a bear hug of solidarity from other mothers.

A sharp, eerie and utterly unforgettable read. #TheFaceAtTheWindow

4.0 out of 5 stars A sharp, eerie and utterly unforgettable read., 10 June 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Face at the Window (Paperback)
Supernatural and/or chilling reads are not usually my thing, and yet I found this book extremely compelling. The writing is powerful and nuanced. The main character, Mrs McNally, is etched with such detail, finesse and craft, one almost expects her to walk out of the page and start talking to you. As a matter of fact, she does talk to you rather intimately, in the first person. The ensemble of characters around her are equally real and so completely flesh and blood, the reader has no choice but to become a front-row resident of the vividly described hill town The protagonist’s backstory and her world are so rich in detail, I found myself wondering if this is fiction at all. But it is. And it’s fiction in its best tradition…it sucks you in and makes you flip pages because you want to, have to, find out what happens next. Go for it if you’re looking for a sharp, eerie and unforgettable read.

In the Scroll, The Face At The Window

How India’s women writers are storming the ‘male’ bastion of action thrillers

Conventional wisdom had it that only men could write adrenaline-pumping books.

What’s it about a James Patterson, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, Ashwin Sanghi or Mukul Deva that has intense appeal among readers of crime and thriller fiction? Browsing at bookstores I have often wondered why women writers have failed to make a lasting impact on the genre. Is it that the testosterone-driven guns-guts-and-glory plotlines hold little appeal to women readers and writers?

Well, not really. As a reader – and a woman – I have enjoyed the antics of Perry Mason, Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher. My bookshelves have always boasted a wide variety of authors who specialise in the genre, including the Grande Dame of crime fiction, Agatha Christie. And as a writer, I have always wanted to write heart-pumping, edge of the seat action, and finally got a chance to do it with my romantic-thriller No Safe Zone.

So, much like a Hercule Poirot, I set off to investigate the mystery of why only a handful of women authors – primary among them being Christie, Daphne Du Maurier, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Sue Grafton – have scaled the heights of popular crime fiction and endured. To my pleasant surprise, the tide seems to be turning.

The spectacular success of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has established that contemporary women writers can plot diabolical twists as effectively as any of their male counterparts. What’s more, as the genre has expanded from the Christie-esque living-room murder mysteries to include psychological thrillers, romantic-suspense, paranormal suspense, spy thrillers and more, women are increasingly bringing in their unique take.

As critic Laura Miller recently observed in Salon, “Their (women authors’) prose ranges from the matter-of-fact to the intoxicating, and the battlefields they depict are not the sleazy nightclubs, back alleys, diners and shabby offices of the archetypal PI novel, but a far more intimate and treacherous terrain: family, marriage, friendship.”

Thrillers, but three-dimensional

While plot is the real “hero” of crime fiction, there is no doubt that women writers are introducing three-dimensional characters and making thrillers more nuanced reads. As Kiran Manral, author of The Face at the Window, a paranormal thriller, says, “The female gaze is relentless, unflinching and does not take excuses. It is also empathetic, and delves more into the inner conflict that makes up as much of the drama as the external. It might be grittier, but it is more interior a journey for the reader. Women also experience violence – or perhaps the constant implied threat of violence – differently and more intensely than men, I think, and that emerges in the writing.”

Adds Usha Narayanan, author of The Madras Mangler, “The perception that women cannot write thrillers probably springs from the assumption that these books call for more violent scenes and characters than, say, a rom-com. But violence is very much a part of our lives today and our writing. Perhaps what women can add to the genre is a greater insight into the emotions and the motivations that underlie actions.”

What about pulse-pounding action scenes? How well do women writers tackle those? Argues Mukul Deva, the best-selling author of several military-ops thrillers like Lashkar and Salim Must Die, “Whether written by male or female, the guns, guts and glory type of thrillers are most gritty and realistic when they come from a writer who has had some exposure to this – say in the armed forces, the police, or some law enforcement, security, intelligence background. These tend to be more male than female.”

Aarti V Raman, who has written two thrillers – White Knight and Kingdom Come – disagrees. “It’s not as if women thriller writers do not put in the same amount of research or figure out the exact terminology that is used in military ops or a similar space. The difference, if there is any, is probably in the way the plots are twisted in the narrative and the amount of detail that sometimes is given to technicalities (yes, I am talking about Dan Brown in Deception Point).”

Pushing the borders

Interestingly, it’s women writers who’re leading the way into unexplored territory. As Raman points out, “In India, where college romances and histo-mytho sagas rule the bookshelves, people are attempting new styles of writing. They are subverting culture and taking on taboos inherent in society.”

It’s not surprising then to find women writers experimenting with genres or sub-genres. Those who write love stories are writing about guns and car chases, and vice-versa. A key reason for this “freedom”, avers Raman, is that “worries such as ‘what will my publisher think about this?’ or ‘will my agent approve?’ have been replaced with Amazon Kindle Publishing and other services. If your publisher or agent doesn’t like what you’re writing, you can always take it to the market yourself.”

Even so, concerns about how readers will react to a thriller written by a woman cannot be totally wished away. Call it marketplace reality. Admits Narayanan, “Initially, I was not too sure how Indian audiences would receive a thriller written by a female, and even considered using a male pseudonym. However, the book was released under my name and readers overwhelmed me with their discernment and praise.”

In fact, unlike their male counterparts, women writers are not afraid of giving their loyal readers a bit of a scare. Says Manral, “The Face at the Window has quite shaken my readers – my previous books have been happy, funny, romantic reads. After the initial moment of disbelief that I could have written this dark, grim, terrifying book, they’ve enjoyed reading it; so that’s a relief.”

As women delve deeper into the fictional arena of crime, murder and all things gory offering readers a wider choice of stories, it is inevitable that the gender of the writer will cease to matter. Says Deva, “Any writer can do any genre effectively, should they wish to. Just to test this out, one of these days, I plan to do a romantic, mystery novel.”

In fact, the real takeaway from a thriller for readers may not even be the action. Says Manral, “Crime and thrillers are in some way our modern day equivalent of fairy tales. We are looking for a peak of some sort of fear catharsis in the reading of these and the assurance that things will be set right by the end of it all.”

Adite Banerjie is an author and screenwriter. Her newest release is No Safe Zone, a romantic-thriller published by Harper Collins India.

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