The SheThePeople Women Writers’ Fest, Delhi, March 10th

Completely overwhelmed by the wonderful day that was yesterday, so I must begin with the gratitude. To Shaili Chopra, for being the absolute rockstar she is and the complete, unswerving faith and trust she reposes in me for the #WomenWritersFest, for making sure everything falls into place and runs like clockwork, for being the warm, generous soul she is, thank you.
To the fabulous team at Shethepeople who held it all together yesterday, Hemant Chandiramani Devika Chitnis Purvi Gupta Charvi KathuriaRoshni Baronia, you guys were incredible, take a bow for that relentless effort from early morning to evening.
To Saumya Kulshreshtha, can I ever thank you enough for the superlative energy you brought to the day, and the wonderful spontaneity and wit you infused every session with. I owe you so much. You’re a host par excellence, and I thank you for doing this for us.
Thank you to Amaryllis and Classic Invites for the giveaways, and Instituto Cervantes for hosting us. To Oxford Bookstores for being our bookstore partners.
To Kiranjeet Chaturvedi, what a workshop. I was amazed to see the crowd that gathered just for it and stayed glued for the entire hour. Thank you so much, for this, and the sabjis.
Our wonderful panelists, Bhaavna AroraShuchi Singh KalraVaishali MathurAdite BanerjieAnja KovacsKarnika KohliAneela Zeb BabarSunetra ChoudhuryGurMehar KaurKota NeelimaArpita Das, Aarti David, Aditi Maheshwari GoyalShantanu DuttaguptaNamita Bhandare Rashmi MenonNatasha BadhwarShelja Sen, Amee Misra, Nazia ErumAditi Mathur KumarMariellen WardMridula DwivediDevapriya RoySonu BhasinNamita BhandareAnisha MotwaniUppma VirdiGauri Sawant – Indian Transgender Activist, Amrita Swaarup, Avani Parekh, Aditee Biswas, Sonal KalraSreemoyee Piu Kundu.
Thank for taking time out from your weekend and being part of this festival, bringing your insights and expertise to the discussions. To our moderators, Kanchana BanerjeeRituparna ChatterjeeSwati RaiAekta KapoorJaya Bhattacharji RoseSonal Kalra, you were all superlative in steering the discussions to valuable insights and nuances that gave the audience food for thought. Pics and videos coming soon.
To everyone who came to the festival, Dipali TanejaVikas Vijayovich DattaKavita DevganPiyusha VirPurba Ray and so many more, am sure some names are slipping me, so grateful you spent your day with us.
As one of our panelists said, it was a day of warmth, of conversations, of sisterhood, of bonding, and some incredible discussions. It was a day of woman power, empathy and laughter. It was a day was truly special. Can’t wait for next year already.

Here are some pictures.

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In The Sunday Guardian yesterday

In The Sunday Guardian yesterday, thanks Latha Srinivasan for this lovely interview. And what a coincidence it comes out a day after I spoke about the myth of the Happily ever after, versus the reality of the Happily Right Now which we should be grabbing.

“I’ve always wondered why we tend to stop at the “happily ever after” in romance novels. The point at which one ends a story is always the point at which one has a romance or a tragedy in one’s hands. Romance and love are part and parcel of the entire package that includes heartbreak, disillusionment, infidelity and divorce that is a real issue that we see all around us. What most romances tend to do is to promote the concept that the one “big” love story in one’s life is perhaps the only love story worth talking about. But love happens over and over again, we humans by nature are not monogamous. There is heartbreak, divorce, and then perhaps love again. I felt that we need to read stories where they say, its okay, heartbreak and divorce are devastating but there is always the glimmer of the possibility of love again on the horizon.”

Read the interview here: 

 

Awarded the Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing

Was honoured to receive this on Women’s Day, in Delhi

The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing, supported by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India.

Among the other worthy recepients of the award this year were Karuna Nundy, Dr Prerna Kohli, Aishwarya Dhanush, Tulsi Kumar, Khushali Kumar, Rekha Vohra, Shahnaz Husain, acid attack survivor Laxmi, Radha Kapoor Shivani Malik and more.

Thank you Leher Sethi.

Some pictures

 

 

For the Deccan Chronicle: In homes, women across the world are quietly staging their own little rebellions.

It was an innocuous news snippet tucked away in the newspapers that grabbed my attention. “Bride calls off marriage because groom’s party creates a ruckus when drunk.” This wasn’t a girl from one of the metropolises daring to call off her wedding but a girl from Lucknow, a city in Uttar Pradesh and one that quite retains its patriarchal nature. This news snippet is significant. It is a harbinger of the quiet fact that women have had quite enough and are refusing to take anymore. No matter what. You can see signs everywhere. The young girl who records the man masturbating next to her in a public transport bus and posts it on social media. The woman who calls out consistent and endemic misogyny at a pub in Pune. Women who speak out against sexual harassment on social media, and name names. Women who refuse to get married when asked to list out the dishes they know to cook. Female anchors who don’t take being called Baby by patronising panellists lying down and demand an apology. Women are standing up tall, linking arms, and taking on the insidious little and big ways in which the patriarchy has been shooting them down and shutting them up all these years.

Did it all begin with #MeToo? Or did #MeToo signal a time that had arrived when enough was enough? What was #MeToo? A call by actress Alyssa Milano for women to post about their experiences of sexual harassment and violence on Twitter. She tweeted, “If all the women who have bee n sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The call saw an outpouring of posts, which crossed millions, across both Twitter and Facebook, flooding timelines, making it shockingly obvious that we had all been staring at the elephant in the room and no one had so far been willing to take it by the tusks. The hashtag triggered conversations about workplace sexual harassment, assault, sexism, and gender violence on social media across ages, demographies and continents.

Read the rest here

A short story accepted for the The Best Asian Speculative Fiction Anthology by Kitaab, and why I’m chuffed.

I had written a few spooky stories which I’d sent out a long while ago. It all rubberballed right back to me, with kind words of rejection from some of the leading publishing houses in India. A noted literary magazine in India first mailed back saying they loved this one I’d sent them on being requested to send them a story and would be carrying it and then went all ghostly silence on me. It made me wonder, was it really that terrible a story? But the story haunted me, compelled me to keep thinking about where I could send it.
When I saw the call for submissions for the proposed anthology, The Best Asian Speculative Fiction by Singapore based Kitaab.org, I sent this story out on a whim and a prayer.
Yesterday morning I received a lovely email from the editor of the anthology, Rajat Chaudhari, informing me that he would like to include this story in the anthology, and I quote from the mail, “Your language is powerful and evocative and the horror leaves one shaken….”
Rajat Chaudhari, for those who might not be familiar with his work, is the author of three works of fiction – Hotel Calcutta, Amber Dusk and a collection of stories in Bengali titled Calculus. He has been a Charles Wallace Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Chichester, United Kingdom, a Hawthornden Castle Fellow, Scotland, a Korean Arts Council-InKo Fellow resident at Toji Cultural Centre, South Korea and a Sangam House India resident writer. This year, he was a judge for the short story segment of Asian English Olympics organised by BINUS university, Indonesia.
Kitaab.org was founded in 2005 by journalist and writer Zafar Anjum in Singapore as a space to celebrate and critique Asian writing in English. Headquartered in Singapore, Kitaab provides a writing and publishing platform to emerging and seasoned writers from the region to express themselves creatively.
The reason for this long post? You might have setbacks, but believe in your work and your writing. Keep sending it out into the universe. If you’ve written from the heart, the world will make space for it on its bookshelves.
The anthology should be out next year.

Mumbai Women Writers’ Fest in The Hindu

A two-day festival celebrates female authors

Women Writers’ Fest, the travelling literature jamboree that debuted last year, with editions in Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Pune, aside from Mumbai, returned to the city this weekend. While the first day took place at the Bandra bookstore, Title Waves, today’s sessions will be taking place in Kala Ghoda. The festival is being organised by SheThePeople TV, the feminist video storytelling platform.

Why a feminist literature festival? Kiran Manral, author, columnist and speaker, ideas editor of SheThePeople and co-curator, with founder Shaili Chopra, of the festival says, “For most of history, Virginia Woolf said, Anonymous was a woman.” It wasn’t that long ago, she reminds us, that women weren’t allowed to have an education, so, “The fact that we’re writing now, and have a voice, is something we should take full advantage of.” The festival, then, is about giving women writers a space to discuss issues not given prominence at other festivals, but which are central to and inform their work.

Read the rest here

Bombaywaali with Sonal Holland, Master of Wine

I must confess, anchoring Bombaywaali has been a most inspiring journey for me. With every speaker, there is something to learn, takeaways that jolt your brain and make you think and enthuse you to keep following your dream. This month’s Bombaywaali by Shethepeople.tv had me chatting with the only Master of Wine we have in India, one of only 369 people in the world, Sonal Holland. Sonal’s is an unconventional journey. She began in the corporate world, and shifted to making wine her life mission on an impulse. And that she’s reached so very far in this journey is not just commendable but an inspiration to every single woman who has ever toyed with the idea of reinventing herself mid-career. And more than everything else, she’s warm, she’s real and she’s got a fierce work ethic.

Some brilliant takeaways I got from the conversation:

Build your tribe. Ask for help. And take all the help you can get.

An idea is only yours when you act on it. Until then it is floating around in the universe for anyone to grab it.

Make your work your life’s mission.

After every great failure is great success, but only if you have the courage to keep going on.

Mommy guilt is real and terrible, but you need to deal with it and get on.

For more about this wonderful conversation read this: https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/bombaywaali-always-sonal-holland/

 

And here are some pictures from the event.

Story & Style: A Review of ‘The Face at the Window’

On ReadWriteInspire by Archana Sarat

Kiran Manral weaves a web of intrigue, conjures up an atmosphere of dread and brings to life characters who will haunt us long after we read the last page.

After reading 100+ books every year for the last few years, I have realized that what I look for in every novel that I read is a good story. Don’t get me wrong—I love language; it is what I breathe, caress, memorize, underline and write down in my journal, but it all vaporizes in the absence of a good story. Opinions differ, and I know many readers who can sacrifice the pleasure of a good story just to be enchanted in the arms of beautiful prose. That’s not me! However, if you give me a book that has a unique plot narrated by a master storyteller in the most delightful language, you turn me into a fan of the author. That’s exactly what I found in ‘The Face at the Window’—a grasping tale told in stunning prose.

‘Memories are the kind of elusiveness that shift, change form, and remodel themselves by the second.’

‘Smiley face icons cannot hope to replace words thought out carefully in order to put a smile on the other person’s face, the sharpness or the laxity of the handwriting telling stories about the frame of mind of the writer, the smudges on the sheets of paper telling their own stories, blotches where tears might have fallen, hastily scratched out words where another would have been more appropriate, stories that the writer of the letter might not have intended to communicate.’
Read the rest of the review here.