About Kiran Manral
Kiran Manral has worked as a journalist before she quit to be full time mommy. Her blogs, www.thirtysixandcounting.wordpress.com and www.karmickids.blogspot.com, are both in Labnol’s list of India’s top blogs. She blogged at Tehelka Blogs on gender issues. She is also considered a ‘social media star’ on twitter by the TOI and IBN Live named her as among the 30 interesting Indian women to follow on twitter and among the Top 10 Indian moms to follow on twitter for 2013.
Post 26/11, she founded India Helps, a volunteer network to help disaster victims post 26/11 and has worked on long term rehabilitation of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack victims and 13/7 Mumbai bomb blast victims, amongst others.
She is part of core founding team behind CSAAM (www.csaawarenessmonth.com) and Violence Against Women Awareness Month (www.vawawareness.wordpress.com), two very well received social media awareness initiatives across twitter and the blog-o-sphere.
Her debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published by Westland in 2012.
Regular readers of this blog know that in 2012 I hosted a series on this blog called Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous. It has been undoubtedly the most popular series I’ve ever done as a blogger. While I started with a very simple and ‘noble’ intention to present diverse voices of people from diverse walks of life with diverse life-stories (struggles and successes) and diverse perspectives, I gained and learned phenomenally from every rendezvous. They key focus was that there should be a key take-away for me and you from each Rendezvous. From some of these posts we learn, some compel us to think, some make us feel a deep human emotion, some inspire us, some motivate us, some compel us to share and spread the message. I was very regular and successful with bringing out at least 1 rendezvous / month all through 2012. However, this series involved a lot of time and effort from my end, and 2013 has been an extremely busy year for me personally and professionally, so I didn’t do too many of these last year. In 2014, when I was offered an opportunity to connect and converse with an amazing woman / writer / mother, I just could not let the opportunity pass.
So the star of today’s rendezvous is the well-respected, much-loved and very-popular KIRAN MANRAL
I first “connected” with Kiran in the online world. Going down memory lane, I came to know of her through Preeti Shenoy’s blog about 1.5 years back. I visited her blog and followed Kiran on Twitter. As I got to know more of her, I really liked her thoughts, words, spirit and attitude. If I had to say a few words about Kiran’s words I’d say she is honest, keeps her writings simple and real, is realistic in her world-views and her words and yet is almost always really and realistically optimistic about the future. And that is probably why I enjoy her writings. And so I am excited and honored to bring to you this conversation with the very lovely gorgeous and stunning Kiran Manral.
Nischala: Firstly, Kiran Thank you for your time. Secondly, Congrats on the launch of your new book “Once upon a crush”. Let me confess, I really liked the name and the cover page – Something which took me back in time to my teenage years and youth! That lipstick is gorgeous :) So tell us a bit about your book, the inspiration and the main characters
Kiran : Thank you so much. I’m a new convert to red lipstick myself. The book is about a single girl in Mumbai, who has kind of drifted aimlessly through her career, hasn’t a love life to speak about, and is being pressurized by her parents to settle down with a suitable partner. She has a hopeless crush on the resident good-looker on the premises and the book is all about what happens as she realizes that she can’t keep drifting through life and career and needs to take some decisions.
Nischala : Sounds interesting and fun! I look forward to reading it. So my next question is obviously about writing :). What makes a writer? What makes a good writer? What makes a best-selling writer?
Kiran : What makes a writer, I would say an urge to write that will not be denied or suppressed. What makes a good writer, I dare not be so presumptuous to answer that, I would say writing is like a muscle, a performance art, you need to keep writing everyday and keep reading everyday and practice. What makes a best selling writer, I wish I knew. But as a reader, I would say, simple stories that everyone could connect with–writing that leaves a bit of itself behind in the reader after the last page is closed or the kindle is switched off.
Nischala : Hmm.. Moving on, There is much debate (online / off-line) and almost always one session in every literary event on the vast differences between a “literary masterpiece” and a “best-selling” book. What are your views on this? It is like the movies. The actor / actress who gives block-busters may not necessarily have the best acting talent, right? There is some secret sauce that makes them what they are. So what is that sauce?
Kiran : Who are we to judge was is good writing, whether a best selling book is or is not literary, and such. I think that anything that connects with an audience, is a valid piece of art, whether with words or with film. Each person brings a different expectation in the audience, one cannot please everyone, at the best as a creator one can hope to put as much creative honesty in what one creates and hope that someone in the audience will connect with it.
Nischala : Moving on, do you think childhood upbringing / environment / experiences / dreams influence the writing process of any author?
Kiran : Everything. We are cannibals of our experiences. I think an author draws upon not just his or her own life but also the stories they hear, they read about, the narratives that come down to them from their families. Also, we are constantly trying to resolve our childhoods in our writings. Now that I have written a few manuscripts, I can see the pattern in the characters I create, and no matter how I camouflage it subconsciously, the childhood always peeps out.
Nischala : What is your inspiration for writing?
Kiran : My inspiration for writing is reading. When I read, I am driven to write.
Nischala : As a writer, what do you see as the main differences between publishing a book and a blog?
Kiran : A blog to me is something you write for yourself, and not for an audience. A book is intended to reach out to an audience. But I do understand there are bloggers who are focused towards writing for an audience, so they might differ here. A blog can be revised, a book can be revised only at a next reprint, revision stage. I like to think books, being paper and print are more real and tangible gratification for a writer than blogs could ever be. But then I am an old fashioned person, I still can’t read books online.
Nischala : So I don’t really know you personally, but I do know of you based on all that I have seen and read of you in the public domain. And my next question is something I’ve wondered for a long time. How do you manage your time? As a school-gate / hands-on mom, writer, author, someone who takes up social causes that you believe in and last but not least, you look gorgeous and are a “style diva” / “yummy mummy” – in my view :). What are your mantras to make the magic work!
Kiran : Ha ha ha. The style diva and yummy mummy is selective posting of only good photographs. Don’t get taken in by those. How do I manage my time. Honestly, I am the world’s worst home keeper. Luckily I have my mother-in-law who lives with us who completely handles the home so that frees up a lot of time for me to concentrate on other things. I also don’t work full time, I work around my son’s school and swimming schedule. I have always believed that if you want to do something you will make time for it.
Nischala : You are lucky! I always think that if you have a supportive mother-in-law or live close to your mom that is really a blessing for any mother! One should have done good karma for this :) So my next question is about the readers. Many times I ponder on the world of writing / reading and books. In the context of India, there are so many Indian books being published every year, and so many new authors in the spotlight every other day. Also with the number of distractions available (like Social media and the fact that attention spans are few seconds / minutes long), so who do you think is reading?
Kiran : Hmm. I think everyone is reading. The young students are reading. The older people are reading. I think this is a wonderful time in Indian publishing where Indian voices have gained a substantial presence and people are looking for stories they can identify with.
Nischala : Writing a book, Publishing a book, Marketing a book : What should a first time author prioritize and why?
Kiran : All of them, and in that order of course.
Nischala : For the benefit on my readers, can you share a little about #CSAAM (Child Sex Abuse Awareness Month) Initiative. How did it all start? What has been the response? And the real-life impact?
Kiran : In 2011, I and few bloggers, including Monika Manchanda were returning from the Lavasa Women’s Drive and got talking about incidents of CSA (Child Sex Abuse) we had heard of, and as parents of boys we both realized that there was a prevailing myth that this did not happen in ‘our kind of society’ and that boys were not at risk.
We decided to build awareness about the issue via social networking websites. The first CSA Awareness Month happened in April 2011 with an entire team of volunteers from across the world working together to create and disseminate awareness about CSA and its prevalence across the blogosphere, on twitter, on Facebook. In the initial years, it was rather difficult building conversations around CSA. Things have changed since. There is much more awareness, a willingness to speak out, to discuss it, to educate oneself about it. Parents, educators, counsellors, therapists, people who are responsible for children, survivors, have all been part of the CSA Awareness Month, either through blogs, twitter chats or through other inputs. We only hope this will grow over the forthcoming years.
Nischala : What are the other social causes you support?
Kiran : I have India Helps which a group of volunteers who work with disaster victims and Violence Against Women Awareness Month that happens every October.
OK Kiran, Now let us move on! I’m now going to take the liberty of doing a rapid-fire with some fun questions (Much like the Koffee with Karan section :)
Nischala : If you had a time machine, would you go back to the past or into the future. Why?
Kiran : To the past definitely. It was a gentler era.
Nischala : Your happiest moment as a writer and Why?
Kiran : When complete strangers write in telling me they’ve enjoyed reading my book.
Nischala : Your proudest moment as a writer and Why?
Kiran : Cliched, but signing book copies. Always dreamed of doing that and still can’t believe I’m signing copies of my books.
Nischala : Your favorite Indian author and Why?
Kiran : Tough one. I get to choose only one. Then Ruskin Bond. His stories are simple, timeless, universal.
Nischala : 3 books to read before you die – I mean for anyone
Kiran : Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Nischala : 3 people whose biography you would like to write?
Kiran : Tough one. Mary Kom, but it is already written. Naina Lal Kidwai. Amrita Shergil.
Nischala : Who would you like your autobiography written by?
Kiran : Me?
Nischala : If you had to choose 1 boy / man to write about who would it be – Your dad, Your spouse of Your son. Why?
Kiran : My father. I knew him too little, for too few years. I’d like to know more about him by researching his life.
Nischala : Your favorite food
Kiran : My mom’s cooking. Anything she cooks. Considering I’m a hopeless cook.
Nischala : Lastly, how did you become a “reformed nutella addict” – We share the addiction :)
Kiran : Ha ha ha. I just got tired of going through doors sideways and having every mirror shave off my hips at the sides.
Nischala: That’s it for now Kiran. This was fun. Best wishes for your new book, and I hope it does really well. Till we connect next, Take Care , Be good and indulge in Nutella once in a way :)
Kiran : The pleasure was all mine
About the Book (I First Had a Crusk)
This is a rom-com chicklit and here is a brief synopsis about the book:
Rayna De, stuck in a dead end job with a boss from hell, zero love life and the big 3-O looming large on the immediate horizon, has started to panic a bit. No, make that panic a lot. Enter new object of lust in the office, Deven Ahuja, and Rayna is overpowered by inappropriate visions of Cupid aiming his arrows straight into her heart, with turtle doves doing their billing and cooing act in the backdrop.
Alas, Deven is completely out of Rayna’s league despite the contradictory messages he seems to be sending out, and is, as decreed by page three supplements of the city newspapers, the man in the life of the gorgeous, light eyed model turned actress Sharbari Raina.
As Rayna battles with her unseemly, going nowhere crush, shaky employment status and dithers about signing up for domesticity with the vetted by her parents, Sid Bose, of the multi zero pay package, the two and a half bedroom house in a suburban gated complex and the very cultured, respectable family, she discovers that life has its own plans….
The book can be pre ordered here:
The twitter hashtag is #OnceUponACrush
Let’s start with questions | Are you 30+? When did you last learn something new?
Some of you may respond with all your wisdom by saying “everyday” as there is learning in every experience, and every day is a new beginning. Indeed that’s true. You can learn from people, observations, interactions, reading, mistakes, emotions, thoughts, actions, events, conversations, social media (FaceBook, Twitter, et al.), books, food, movies and life itself. It all depends on your thirst for learning, your ability to assimilate and absorb the lessons from everyday experiences and internalize these learning’s.
Some of you may respond with silence.
Let me now modify the question | Are you 30+? When did you last learn something new ‘formally’?
The vast majority would respond with a silence. This was my response too last year. Looking back at my own life, after I completed my management education at IIMB way back in 2006, I’ve not really formally learned anything new!
Here’s the thing | For many of us who are 30+, you are somewhat settled into things and an everyday way of life. Life pretty much revolves around work / career and family / friends. There’s really no time for anything else – especially if you are a woman or a working woman or a working mother!
Being a working mother myself, I was no different. However, the silence bothered me for a long time and I decided to take action. So here’s what I did. One, I enrolled for a paid professional technical certification exam. This meant intensive reading, learning something new and a tough examination to crack. Thankfully, I cleared and that enhanced my knowledge and resumeJ. That done, I registered for a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Social Media Analytics. Being online and self-paced with only an end date to meet, this was again a great learning experience for me. The good part was that it also had an online assessment and I was awarded a certificate at the end of the course. Lastly, I took up a structured course on “Creativity”. And I loved it!
The whole practice of “formal learning” has been a wonderful personal experience over the past few months [apart from the fact that it also inspired this post :)]
So what did I learn from all these experiences?
You learn because you really want to learn – Up until you are 30, you mostly learn because you have to learn and because you don’t really have a choice. But for most of us after 30, formal learning actually becomes a matter of true personal choice. So you can learn what you love and what you really want to learn. And there is immense joy and great personal satisfaction in learning a subject you are deeply passionate about.
One of my closest friends wanted to learn a musical instrument formally for years but it just never happened. Now in her mid-30’s, she is well settled in her career and life and decided to take this up. So she enrolled into one of the best music institutes in the world to pursue her quest for this learning. At this phase of life, you can afford to fund your own learning and you may be able to afford the best-in-class teachers and best-in-class institutes. Looking back at my own life, I can definitely say that learning from the masters in any field is truly unique and an unparalleled experience. And if you can afford it, then it is worth your time and money!
There are so many things to learn – Whenever I speak to my peers and friends well in their 30+’s about formal learning, many of them ask me “But what to learn?” followed by “How to learn and Where is the time?”. I had these questions too. But as I discovered over the past few months there are just so many things you can learn “formally” based on your personal interest, even after you turn 30.
Let me list down things you can learn (apart from the things you need to learn for your career / work) – Cooking, Driving, Painting, Photography, Doing make-up, Puppet-Making, Pottery, Baking, Dancing, A musical instrument, A sport, Yoga, Aerobics, Calligraphy, Sketching, Caricature, Writing, Programming, Stoy-Telling, Marketing, Social Media, Public Speaking, Communication, Personal Grooming, Management, Magic, New Languages, Designing, Technology . You name it, and you can learn it – both offline / online. For e.g.: 10 years back who would have thought that the common Indian could learn dance from Madhuri Dixit. Today, you can from her online dance school Dance With Madhuri.
Another childhood friend of mine has always loved art and paintings but never got around to take this up seriously. Now that she is well into her 40’s, has teenage boys who are independent and is the Vice President of an international bank, she dedicates her week-ends to her art-work. She has a home tutor who teaches and guides her in her learning process. When I recently saw some of her paintings I was blown over! Each one of them was a true masterpiece.
There is value in formal learning – The best part of “formal learning” is you actually learn within a stipulated time-frame. So your knowledge base expands and your comprehension of old and new things is significantly increased. Of course, you can informally learn lot of things, and I don’t discount it at all. But for many of us in this phase of life, the challenge is that we start with great gusto and are just not able to keep up with the informal / self-learning for an extended period of time even if we are deeply passionate about the subject. So if you learn formally you are more focused and do make/ take out the time .The icing on the cake is that if you are awarded a certificate of course completion that is definitely a feather in your cap.
Now I know that value is personal and subjective, and to each his / her own. But there is something else that I do know for sure – Formal learning can add value to your resume, to others perception of you and most importantly, to your own perception of yourself. All three matter and do make a difference in the long run.
Learning provides opportunities for building new friendships and networking – In your 30’s, I can’t decide which is harder – making friends or keeping friends. Both have their issues and challenges, and many of us let-go of friendships and after a point we wonder who our friends really are!
One of the best things about formal learning in your 30’s is that you get to meet and interact with new people who have an interest in a common subject. So you can build new friendships and networks due to a common passion.
Last but not least, you feel good when you learn something new. Like the runner’s high, there is a “learner’s high” – I speak from personal experience here. You just feel happy, energetic, positive and really really good when you learn something new. After my first innings of my learning high last year, I have made a formal list of things I want to learn in the future, and I am pleasantly surprised to find the list size is increasing by the day! Honestly, I am fine if I learn one thing at a time or even one thing a year. But what I know for sure is this – I do want to be a lifelong learner.
And if this post inspired even one reader to learn something new, then that would be the best return gift in writing this!
Happy Learning. Learn, Laugh, Love – It is one life to live!
Originally published here