It is only through conversations and calling out the sexism and objectification that we see around us, we can perhaps make a dent in the mindsets: Author Kiran Manral
Kiran Manral is a bestselling Indian author, TEDx Speaker, and columnist. She has written books across genres in both fiction and non-fiction. Her books include The Reluctant Detective, Once Upon A Crush, All Aboard, Karmic Kids - The Story of Parenting Nobody Told You, A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up, True Love Stories, Saving Maya, 13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting, Raising Kids with Hope and Wonder in Times of a Pandemic and Climate Change, and The Kitty Party Murder. She has co-authored ‘13 Steps to Bloody Good Parenting’ with Ashwin Sanghi. Her short stories have been published in various magazines as well on literary apps.
Prior to taking up writing as her career, Kiran has worked with some of the leading news media houses and in the advertising industry.
Kiran was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards for Literary Contribution in 2017. The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) with the Ministry of Women and Children, Government of India, awarded her the International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing. Her novella 'Saving Maya' was long-listed for the 2018 Saboteur Award, while her novels 'The Face At The Window’ and ‘Missing, Presumed Dead' were both long-listed for Jio MAMI Word to Screen. ‘The Face At The Window’ was also shortlisted for the South Asian Film Festival 2019.
The ace writer was also on the planning board of the Kumaon Literary Festival, a mentor with Sheroes and, an advisor on the Board of Literature Studio, Delhi. She has co-curated Festivelle 2016 and Women Writer’s Fest Mumbai by SheThePeople.tv 2017.
Kiran is the founder of India Helps, a network of volunteers who assist disaster victims.
Apeksha Sandesh had a chance to interact with the acclaimed author Kiran Manral. Check out the excerpts!
You had a successful career in advertising and then in journalism, but later you quit them and became a full-time writer. Please tell us more about this career shift.
It was rather simple. I quit full-time work to be a mom. At this time, my husband became an entrepreneur and began an advertising agency, so I worked with him for many years, handling the creative department of the agency. When he shut the agency and moved into trading, I began freelancing again as a writer, and then worked as the India Cultural Lead for a trendspotting research agency called Gartner Iconoculture, a US-based research group. At this point, I was also writing a couple of blogs, and from those blogs came my first book. Then, I continued writing my books. I did remote work besides writing books until last year. I have been a Senior Consultant with a qualitative market research firm, a consultant ideas editor with a web portal, and a festival curator. It is only post lockdown that I have stopped work, and only write books now. I think I am now looking for a gentler pace. My son stated that 2020 was possibly the first time in years that I have been in the city for more than a couple of weeks at a time and not travelling out of town, else I was constantly travelling.
You have 12 books so far to your credit on various genres. How has been your journey so far?
It has been great fun. I get to live out lives I would never live. To meet people across the country, to have my words reach them. It has been a blessing!
What do you think is the biggest struggle of an author/writer/novelist today in India?
Undoubtedly, the need to market your books. It is something I struggle with and still can’t get the hang of and wonder if I will ever be able to do so. I grew up at a time when books went ‘viral’ organically and still feel in my heart that good writing should be able to reach readers by word of mouth. And believe it does!
Your book ‘Karmic Kids’ is based on parenting and your experience of raising your son. The ever-increasing cases of rapes and sexual assault must come to an end. However, there seems no solution. People talk about how raising a son in the right manner and instilling related values is important. How far do you think this will help? What else can be done by the mother of a male child?
I am a firm believer in having open conversations with my son and talking with him about the concepts of bodily agency, consent, and such. It is only through conversations and calling out the sexism and objectification that we see around us, we can perhaps make a dent in the mindsets. I have great hopes from the next generation of boys. I hope we are all raising them right. And the girls, they are brave, they will not stand for anything, they know they have agency.
It is believed that the romance genre is always in high demand. While you have worked on the diverse genre, what do you think about the best genre that never fails?
Honestly, I think I am too old and cynical to write or read romance anymore. It bores me to death.
‘Missing, Presumed Dead’ is said to be a must-read for everyone who knows a dear one battling mental illness. Mental health needs awareness in India, be it the one who is going through or someone who knows one facing it. In your opinion, what role can the authors in India play in contributing towards the awareness for the same?
I think normalizing conversations about these issues is the one thing authors can do, in their work. But this has to come through organically into the narrative and not be forcefully fitted into the story. By presenting difficult topics, forcing readers to examine and analyze their preconceived notions about these issues, by encouraging empathy and understanding, that is what an author can do.
What do you think are the challenges for the women of modern India?
There are so many. Right now, let us focus on the main ones. Staying safe. Bridging the gender gap and the gender pay gap at the workplace. Seeing better representation in the parliament. Seeing equitable distribution of chores at home. Building our sisterhoods.
Literature plays a huge role in the growth of the country, considering culture, youth, etc. According to you what kind of literature India needs currently?
This is a tough one. I would say any books that encourage empathy, kindness, humanism, and an understanding of our history and culture are welcome.
eBooks, apps, etc. have been in trend. Is it a pro or a con for the publishing industry?
Stairs and escalators, both get you there. The same is with all forms of reading. As long as they encourage people to read, I am delighted with them.
What is your opinion about women being represented in the media, films, and literature?
We need women to tell women’s stories. We have the Bechdel test now for films, and we have fabulous women authors, filmmakers, and screenwriters writing from the perspective of the woman. More of it. Across age groups.
Please share a few tips and tricks for aspiring authors?
I have always held that the only non-negotiable thing is reading and writing for aspiring authors. You read. And you write. That is your training ground. You must exercise the writing muscle the same as you would practice any elite sport or art form.
List down your favorite 5 must-read authors for literature lovers.
P.G. Wodehouse, Haruki Murakami, Mark Twain, Anuradha Roy, and Stephen King.
Please share some details about your upcoming book.
The title of my forthcoming book is ‘More Things in Heaven and Earth’ which is being published by Amaryllis publishing. It is a dark, disturbing story about a woman haunted by her deceased husband and is seeking escape and closure.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Is it important that we have one?
When the day gets reduced to tokenism it annoys me. If we use it to spotlight issues women face, and laud women who are genuine achievers, I am all for it!
Apeksha Sandesh congratulates Kiran Manral for her contribution and commitment towards Indian literature with her works as well as words and wishes her all the best for her future endeavours!