She Writes Story Contest winner: Sheela Jaywant

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

Sheela Jaywant

Sheela Jaywant

Sheela Jaywant has worked in a multi-specialty tertiary care hospital for many years and for half a decade in a five-star hotel. And in earlier avatars, as a librarian, teacher and UNICEF volunteer. As an author of three books, Quilted: Stories of middle-class India, Melting Moments, and The Liftman and Other Stories, as well as a columnist and translator, she found that creative writing couldn't pay the bills. So she wrote three books of short fiction and did two translations alongside her day job. Later, many of her stories found their way into anthologies. When people ask her where she gets her ideas from, she says: 'you'.

Read an extract from Sheela Jaywant's story 'YokeMates'

  • Between Margao and Canacona, Vijay couldn't find a petrol pump easily, but every other kilometre, a bhaiyya from either UP or Bihar manned a sugarcane-juice stall. 'These so-called "outsiders" fulfill so many needs,' he thought. 'They till the farms, help with the harvests and build roads and homes, like the Goans did in the Gulf.'

  • Vijay had crossed over to Panaji at seven in the morning, by ferry, from Betim in North Goa. Taking the bridge across the Mandovi would have been another three kilometres. The ferry was free, even for cars. By nine he had passed bustling, chaotic Madgaon, a town that was still robust, but not as graceful as Panjim any longer. Of course, it still prided itself as the state's commercial capital. The merciless April sun seemed to have melted the tar road. The haze, the blinding glare through the windshield, and the guess that he might make a loss that day made the drive torturous. After the Karmal ghats he headed further south towards Chauri. The windows were still down, but there wasn't any breeze.

  • 'The cashew crop from the jungles should be good,' he thought hopefully, for the cashew tree loved heat and humidity.

  • Through the eucalyptus trunks, he could see the occasional jungle-cashew tree dotted with yellow and orange fruit, like fluorescent, colourful ornaments from Dubai which the Catholics hereabouts put up on folding plastic trees during Natal, the season that stretched from the second week of December until after the New Year was brought in. Like wipers on a monsoon day, his eyes darted from side to side. For kilometres together, he could see only eucalyptus. Of course, there was the occasional mango tree, laden with fruit just waiting to ripen, kept warm and secure until May under the shade of the leaves. It was difficult to get someone to pluck mangoes or coconuts. Whether skilled or unskilled, a labourer took four hundred rupees per day, for five hours of work. No one worked the full eight hours.

In her own words: Sheela Jaywant

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

    My first 'work' was a verse I'd written for the Illustrated Weekly of India, perhaps in the fourth standard. Have always been good at languages and writing short stories and essays.

  • What inspired you to enter She Writes?

    Saw the request on the Net, and thought, why not send my story.

  • Why did you chose the category you did?

    It fitted 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 prefer mornings, or late at night. At the computer. And I'm comfortable in my own corner.

  • Who is your favourite author?

    Vikram Seth, Hanif, and some Marathi authors, too.

  • Which book has inspired you the most?

    Can't say, each plays a role.

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

    Be prepared for hard work, daily work, and hardly any payment. Preferably, have a day job to subsidize this love/passion.

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