She Writes Story Contest winner: Aprameya Manthena

Aprameya Manthena is one of twelve winners of the MSN-Random House She Writes a Story Contest', as chosen by our judges. Her story 'Revelation' features in the 'She Writes: A collection of Short Stories' published by Random House India and available at all leading bookstores.

Aprameya Manthena

Aprameya Manthena

Aprameya Manthena is a graduate of English Literature from Sri Venkateswara College, with a post graduate degree from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. Aprameya enjoys writing, is trained in Carnatic music, loves travelling, and is outdoorsy to a fault. She volunteers in her spare time and shares in the passions and interests of her friends. She also takes a keen interest in cinema, art, and theatre and dabbles in painting. Her quest for higher learning continues as she hopes to undertake research work in the near future.


Read an extract from Aprameya Manthena's story 'Revelation'

  • She was peering blankly into her cup of coffee, idly twisting her spoon around, doing what she should have avoided, cooling the drink to the point of it becoming bland, tasteless. She stared into its depths, willing a glimpse into her future, hoping the muddy mass could portend what her swirling feelings hinted at.


    Always aware of her accent and afraid of looking a fool, she had learnt a simple technique: to look people in the eye. The cruel gaze of the city and its inhabitants was masked by an affected nonchalance, a penetrating glimpse into origins and picked-up habits, not fooled by the odd twang of labouring pronunciation. She walked up to the counter and looking straight, ordered her meal, with the sauces she wanted, the bread she liked, and the dressing she preferred, not an easy task if you haven't done it before. She looked to be doing it with ease, while her stomach clenched and hands sweated in feverish anticipation of a slip in her performance.


    Her ears suddenly picked up familiar sounds. The tittering of female voices, a profusion of clicking sounds and the implied confidence; it was intended for effect which it invariably created. She smiled to herself at the quality of performance, an unfailing attempt at tackling everyday life, with everyday rivals and everyday inanities. She turned to confirm her guess and was stopped by a tap on the opposite shoulder.


    'Alone again?' he smiled, shaking his head in mild amusement.


    She smiled in response, took his hand, and guided him to the seat opposite her derelict coffee. Looking across at him, she asked him about the meeting she had missed due to an illness. He rattled off the details and entertained her with an account of a colleague's faux pas of having mixed up the statistics tables and hurried to correct them during his presentation. Laughing, she took a sip of her coffee, grimaced, and pushed it away.


    Turning around to look at the counter, she spotted her colleagues with their handbags perched on their arms like heavy birds, a languid air enveloping their gaze and pursing their lips while they took a quick look around. Spotting her, they waved enthusiastically, in their 'social-butterfly' way, she thought and shuddered to accept the air kissing and hugging. She threw a quick glance at him and was immediately aware that the air was not packed tight around him. Wistfully, she smiled back in return and invited them to her table. Not in any mood to discuss office intrigues and foiled by circumstance, she let herself be dragged to an afternoon of boredom.

In her own words: Aprameya Manthena

  • Have you always been a writer?  What made you start writing?

    No, I have never been prolific or too involved with any concept of my being a writer. I wrote sporadically through school and college and never took myself too seriously in this role. I don't believe I have begun writing even now. This is a start and hopefully it will take me through becoming a better writer with time.


    What inspired you to enter She Writes?

    My father had sent me the link to the competition and I was in the middle of entrance examinations for MA & M. Phil and had hurriedly sent off a short piece in as much time as I could manage.


    Why did you choose the category that you did?

    The topic "Woman in the City" appealed to my range of experience as a single woman living in the metropolitan capital of the country and I felt I had a lot to communicate. Plus, I could draw on experiences that I had had in creating a story that weaved various motifs together.


    Do you have a writing routine - e.g. do you have favourite places to write/favourite times of day/do you write longhand or on a computer?

    I prefer writing with pen and paper. I love looking at my handwriting unfold on paper and for me the concept of creating a story is tied in with its appearance in my hand. I enjoy making changes, scribbling and editing and looking at the piece of paper signifying the effort I have put in. I follow no schedule, write when I please and mostly not at all. I prefer solitude and I can write wherever that is possible. Because of constant work to be done on the computer, I have gotten used to writing on a computer as well. I am not finicky about these things at all though, and can adapt when required.


    Who is your favourite author?

    Far too many and taking names would really do no justice to the countless others I cannot remember but whose story writing techniques would have doubtless influenced me at some point or the other.


    Which book has inspired you the most?

    I remember reading The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas when I was 13 followed by Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and the power of their written expression shook me. I had decided that literature was where I could see any use and purpose for my own inclinations. From then on, through 5 years of studying the finest literature from various parts of the world, my opinions and worldviews have been significantly moulded by a whole range of writers that I could not possibly mention in a single space.


    Which key piece of advice would you give to any other budding writer?

    Concentrate on details, on bringing out your sense of subjective description, how an event can change wonderfully if captured accurately in your eyes. That is what I try hard to convey. Apart from which, being involved in the world around you and picking up nuances of conversation and specificities of behavior can be an added benefit.


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