She Writes Story Contest winner: Belinder Dhanoa

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

Belinder Dhanoa

Belinder Dhanoa

Belinder Dhanoa is a writer and an artist, with a Masters in Fine Arts in Art Criticism from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU, Baroda, and another MFA in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester, New York. She is the author of Waiting for Winter and her second novel Echoes in the Well is due to release soon. She has also written several books for children and researched and documented Contemporary Art of Baroda, which was published as a book by the same title. She is currently involved in developing and teaching post-graduate courses in creative writing at the New School for Culture and Creative Expression at Ambedkar University Delhi.

Read an extract from Belinder Dhanoa's story 'A Boston Brahmin'

  • If her fate had decreed that she be a world leader or a teacher, or even an official in the tax department, Rina believes, then she could have ended up as the Prime Minister or the Principal of a school, or even an official in the tax department. But she is the stay-at-home wife of a junior Vice-President of an investment bank who sometimes wishes that she had more control over the circumstances of her life. This is just her fate. Or so she thinks.

  • Rina shrugs off her dissatisfaction. Her surroundings are really so beautiful after all, that it is difficult to remain discontent. Sailboats on the river, puffy white clouds floating with carefree abandon across the blue sky, and all those wonderfully healthy-looking people-walking, running, even sunning themselves so purposefully.

  • She watches the scene with gratification and does not notice the grime etched into the wooden bench on which she sits or the plastic bag with leftover lunch thrown under it. She does see the dazzling ripples of the water, and she does feel the cool breeze. She sees the fresh green of new leaves pushing against the blossoms to make their presence known. And she feels all the satisfaction of knowing that she is where she wants to be. Rina is in Boston. Or technically, as she might put it, in Cambridge, sitting alone by the Charles River, and enjoying a glorious mid-spring day all by herself.

  • 'I will manage to spend the days by myself here with ease,' she thinks. 'It's so gorgeous; I could sit here all day, or at least half the day. Time will just fly. And then there's the shopping I have to do for dinner, and the cooking. I could maybe do without a maid and clean the house every other day by myself. That should keep me occupied. Then I could read a little, and watch a little TV. Who knows, I may even make a few friends and we could meet over tea or go out for a movie.'

  • A chilly southern breeze bursts her little bubble of thoughts, making her pull her cardigan tightly across her chest. She stands up and slings her handbag on her shoulder, looks quickly around to make sure she hasn't dropped anything, and then waits for the lights to change so that she can cross Memorial Drive. It is a short walk to their apartment, a modern two bedroom, two bathroom set in a large complex close to the MIT.

In her own words: Belinder Dhanoa

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

    Yes, I have always been a writer, but it took me a long time to call myself one. I believed, you see, that only those with the talents and abilities of a Marquez or a Faulkner had the right to call themselves writers. Today I don't feel the necessity to define or restrict myself within any categories, but I do believe that if you write every day and it is your primary focus, then you are a writer - a good writer or a bad one is another matter.

  • What inspired you to enter She Writes?

    I can't for the life of me remember how or when I entered the She Writes competition. I do know that I saw the call for stories a few days before I was to leave for a vacation, and I assume I must have written up and sent the story in before leaving. I am a little disturbed to find that I remember so little of how I entered the competition.

  • Why did you choose the category you did?

    I did not think of a particular category when I wrote my story, and if the phrase 'frankly my dear, I don't give a damn' had not fitted into my story seamlessly, I would not have used it, and not sent the story in. The phrase, however, allowed for so much scope in its use, and also for so much irony that it was easily worked into my story.

  • 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 write on my computer - though did not start as a writer on a computer. My first manuscripts were handwritten and then typed. My novel Waiting for Winter was typed, (on a precious Olivetti 'laptop' equivalent) and submitted, rather rashly, without a copy in my possession. Fortunately there were no problems.

    I do not have a writing routine, but do write at my desk at home. You won't see me working on my laptop in cafes or other public places.

  • Who is your favourite author?

    I have several favourite authors - among them William Faulkner, Doris Lessing, Saul Bellow, Milan Kundera - my current favourite Murakami. At different times the works of different authors have have enriched my life. While reading Dostoevsky as a young adult I never believed I would be as moved by any other writing - but I have been.

  • Which book has inspired you the most?

    If I were forced to pick out one book that has inspired me, it would be Thomas Wolfe's 'Look Homeward Angel'. That definitely stands out among the many 'books I wish I had written.' Another is 'The Grass is Singing' by Doris Lessing. I do not enjoy the process of listing - and especially not of books and authors I love and respect - and everytime I write one name, another one jumps into my head.

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

    I would tell young writers - write every day.

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