In an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com, author Kiran Manral talks on a range of topics including social media influence on life, the perception of women, and #Metoo; she also has some advice for aspiring writers.
“Ever since I was a child, I had a very overactive imagination. I was constantly telling stories,” says Kiran Manral when asked about the reason she decided to write novels. This should, however, come as a surprise. An English graduate from Mithibai College, her blogs—thirtysixandcounting and karmickids — were among the most talked about blogs of the time.
The social media and our over dependency has almost made us delusional. We co-exist—the real world along with the digital bubble that we have created around us, with the lines blurring now more than ever.
Manral agrees, giving an example of how her son’s Instagram has young school girls posing in a “highly sexualised” manner. There is always a pressure to appear a certain way, she says, “but there should also be an awareness that this life is not entirely real”.
As a society, most of us define women on how we look. This pressure is not just for young girls, it can be tiresome for women who are hitting forty or fifty. Manral takes this question lightly and says she has come to accept the reality of not turning heads anymore.
As a woman, says Manral, she has witnessed all of that but what is upsetting is that once you reach that age, they become invisible.
Recounting incidents, she says she would be standing in the shops or hailing the autos and the entire attention would be on young girls. She further elaborates that this practice is very indicative of the kind of society we live in and most of the times “we brush older women out of existence in public spaces”.
One of the 20 prominent women who spoke up against the former Union minister of state for external affairs, MJ Akbar, who is accused of sexual harassment, Kiran Manral gives one advice to women facing abuse—record and document everything. She says it is important to remember dates, places, and people, and also to have witnesses and a paper trail.
The battles that women fought 25 years ago and the fights women face today are more or less the same. Those days, she says, if any account of harassment came out, the first advice of the family would be to make the girl choose teaching profession.
#Metoo movement exploded in India with actor Tanushree Dutta accusing veteran actor Nana Patekar of assault. Since then, many women have come forward recounting their stories of physical and mental assault.
Describing #metoo as a watershed moment, Manral says people are finally sitting and believing women. However, there is another side to this story. With more people realising that the workplace is unsafe for women, the first thought that comes to the family is protecting the girl.
The steps that the family takes will vary from trying to change the job to even the profession. Manral says she hopes the society can provide the next generation of girls the belief that “we stand by them, no matter what happens”.
One criticism of #metoo movement was that it was started by the “rich and privileged women” and it will have no effect on the life of “regular” women. Manral disagrees: “The people accused were considered infallible and if they can be taken down, the people who are lower in the hierarchy will think twice before daring to pull a stand.”
“Feminism just means men and women are equal. A woman is not a property of a man,” says the writer, further elaborating that it does not make sense when women do not associate themselves as feminists.
“So by liberating women, we are also liberating men,” Manral says while stressing on the fact that gender inequality is harmful to both men and women. “Years of it have led to men being forced to behave in a certain way.”
Author of nine books, Kiran Manral says the biggest advice she can give to aspiring writers is to “keep writing through the writing not coming”. She says that the written word can be deleted or edited later but it is always better to have anything on the page than nothing at all.
Read, read and read is another advice she would give to any wannabe author.
When asked why most of our literature glorify troubled characters, Manral says literature shows us our darkest desires, adding that we get catharsis from reading about these characters. “We can read them and hopefully not have them in our real life!”
Kiran Manral is an author, columnist, ideas editor, former journalist and a lot more. Does it take a lot of dedication and sacrifice? Manral’s answer: she has no social life. “All of us have 24 hours and how we choose to spend it makes all the difference.”