Kiran started her journey to fame with her much-appreciated blogs, but they have changed drastically since she started blogging.
The multi-talented Kiran Manral has not only authored numerous books but is also building a community of women who can support each other. She was recently in the Capital for the Women Writers’ Fest by SheThePeople.
On a panel on romance at the festival, Manral expressed that there is no happily ever after, but all we can actually look for is a ‘happy now’. While a lot of men explore the genre of romance, she feels, “Women write about romance because it is an integral part of our lives. It is something that every girl grows up with an expectation of. It is easy, it’s nice, it’s cathartic and it takes you away from a dark place. So I think a lot of people read it. It is also fun writing it, at least I have fun writing romance.”
Talking about the challenges women writers face, she says, “The biggest challenge is to find time to write. Also as a woman, most of the time your writing is not taken as seriously as a male writer’s is. You have to carve out the time and the seriousness. Writing is still not seen as a profession. It is considered something you do on the side, maybe because it is not a well paying path.”
This also pushes her to work on women writers’ festivals in multiple cities, many times, and she says there is a difference each time. “There are a lot more people coming in and many women are getting their books published. This is a space for women to connect with other women who want to write because we are all living in our ghettos. At this festival, a lot of women writers and bloggers come seeking advice and they also connect with other publishers.”
While Indian women writers are getting a push with the growing celebration of feminist ideologies in India, Kiran says, “We just keep reinventing ourselves. There have been many bold writers over the years. There has been Ismat Chughtai and there has been Kamala Das. So women lose their voice and find it again. It is a cyclic process. I think this generation too will find their voice. Gurmeher Kaur is one of them. I have great hopes from this generation. I just hope they write from their heart and not for the market.”
Kiran started her journey to fame with her much-appreciated blogs, but they have changed drastically since she started blogging. “We used to write a lot from the heart. It wasn’t all about eyeballs and clicks. We were just building up a community of people who loved blogging. It actually became like a sisterhood. A lot of my friends were actually mom bloggers who I met at that time. But now it is a lot more focused. The younger bloggers are very clear about what they want. It is fabulous the way they have made businesses out of it. Somebody like Miss Malini has taken entertainment blogging to a new level. People have built stores out of their fashion blogs. So it has changed completely. Blogging is no longer personal. It is a profession. It is not a diary that you wrote just for fun.”
In an era that loves and thrives on digital media, she still sees a bright future for the printed word. “There has been research that says retention from what you read online is lesser than the printed word. We are reading short stuff online, our attention spans are decreasing, and so I do see an eventual backlash because we will want to consume more in depth.”
But she doesn’t look away from the power of digital media, as she writes a lot on gender equality on the digital platform as well. Pioneering this cause, Kiran feels the biggest issue that young girls in India are facing today is related to education. “There are no proper toilets, there is no proper sanitation. There are all sorts of struggles. Even travelling to school is not safe for many women and the trickle down effect is on the entire family. The greatest rate of women dropping out of jobs in the corporate world happens at the mid-level. It is because that is the stage when they get married and have children and have no support system. For so many women it is not even a choice to continue their careers. Very few marriages have that kind of leeway where the wife can pursue her career. So women are struggling at every level to be in the same place as men. We need better childcare, diversity in employment practices, more incentives and it will all go a long way.”
Quoting Virginia Woolf she says, “‘For most of history, Anonymous was a woman’. I think that sort of summerises what women have been up against. We had Sappho writing way back about lesbianism, but do we hear about her anymore? Women have been writing for a long time, it’s just that the rights have followed us much later.”
It is difficult for her to choose a favourite feminist icon, she says, “We are standing on everybody’s shoulders to get us to this point. We owe them all a lot. I get so mad when people say they are not feminists; you would be a slave if it was not for feminists — a mere property of your husband or father.”
Kiran is an inspiration to many young women. But where does she get her strength from? While Kiran feels her mother and her husband are her biggest strengths, her editor feels the same about her writing. Having written across genres, she says, “It all starts with a character and the story builds itself around that character.” About her writing process she says, “There is no process, only chaos. As Agatha Christie said, ‘The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.’ So I write when I can, in between life.”
As a message to aspiring writers, she says, “Just sit and write. We make a lot of excuses. Even if you are not confident, keep writing. Nobody is perfect. You have to revise one million times. Work on your craft, take online writing courses, read stuff in the genre that you want to write. Also be careful what you put into your mind, because if you read rubbish, you will write rubbish. Just work and the rest will follow,” she concludes.
Be careful what you put into your mind, because if you read rubbish, you will write rubbish. Just work and the rest will follow — Kiran Manral, Author