She Writes Story Contest winner: Shreya Manjunath

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

Shreya Manjunath

Shreya Manjunath

Shreya Manjunath has a PGDM from IIM Bangalore and a BE in Computer Science from PESIT. She has been working as a management consultant. Shreya also writes socio-political satirical articles for a leading satirical website.

Read an extract from Shreya Manjunath's story 'Winds of Indifference'

  • 'Honour be damned,' muttered Ketki under her breath. But Sarasvati Prasad was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. The eavesdropping winds carried his daughter's tales to any honourable villager who cared to listen, a pool that excluded nobody. Breezy gossip offered a welcome respite from the village still life. Gossip was liberation from the mundane. Libel was a lifestyle.

  • Sarasvati Prasad grimaced as his firstborn argued with him incessantly. 'Papa, please let me go to the city,' Ketki demanded. She then appealed to their shared dream, 'Is it not your wish that I become a witch doctor?' He still hesitated. 'For Saraswati's sake,' Ketki pleaded, knowing fully well that she was playing her trump card. Sarasvati Prasad had always felt deeply obligated to his namesake, ever since books offered him refuge from school bullies.

  • Even as a child, Sarasvati Prasad had been effeminate, which made him a target for a many a thorough-bred, burly lads from the badlands of rural UP. Sarasvati had turned his solace into profession by becoming a village headmaster of some repute.

  • Post marriage, Sarasvati, still irked by his insecurities, felt that fatherhood would make up for his supposed inadequacies, and therefore proceeded to spawn four kids in quick succession. His false machismo may well have contributed his wife's untimely death. The guilt-ridden schoolmaster embraced his effeminacy ever since, vowing to mother his wife's young children after her demise. Sarasvati nursed his young children with the best education he could offer.

  • As soon as Ketki deemed it fit to demand to go to the city for higher education, the tussle for her future began. 'What will the relatives say if I send you to the city? What of our family's honour?' Sarasvati was at a loss for words once again, the first time being when he first held the feisty firstborn in his hands. Ketki had been promised to the goddess of the written word even before she was born. Sarasvati finally obliged and so did the goddess. Ketki aced her medical entrance tests.

  • Ketki doesn't remember leaving her village. She was evacuated to the city, undercover and in haste. The panchayat in her village, the so-called 'honour upholders', were hardly the patron saints of women's education. Ignoring the whispering winds back in the village, Ketki breezed through her doctorate exams and graduated with honours, though the panchayat believed this dishonoured the village.

In her own words: Shreya Manjunath

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

    I have done some freelance copywriting work in the past. After I completed my MBA from IIM B, I started writing satirical articles for a leading socio-political satirical website. Moving life experiences, spare time and the need to find my voice all made me start writing regularly.

  • What inspired you to enter She Writes?

    I was delighted to be provided a platform to share the life experiences of Indian women, celebrating their struggles and successes. I was inspired to write for the competition with a view to expanding our society's liberal space and sensitizing the Indian public to the problems that ail our society.

  • Why did you chose the category you did?

    The hostel where I stay is teeming with stories of women from small towns and villages who moved to the city. They all found the experience of moving to the city liberating and empowering. I drew from their struggles. Outrage over the diktats of regressive panchayats and honour crimes also made me choose the category of "Women in the city".

  • 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?

    Ideas seem to have a life of their own and come to me when they do. I keep a mental tab of these ideas till I can get my hands on a laptop and then make little notes of these ideas. Finally I get down to weaving together these ideas and spinning a tale.

  • Who is your favourite author?

    Salman Rusdie is my favourite author. His genre of magic realism connects you to the world while transcending it. The combination of a real connection and the chance of escape make for a great read. Ever the engineer, I also love Issac Assimov's short sci-fi stories that have the appeal of both science and psychology.

  • Which book has inspired you the most?

    Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy moved me with its account of the conundrum of choosing a spouse- a loaded, weighty decision that largely determines how your entire personal life is going to pan out. The choice set against the background of a complex, multi-ethnic India made for a stirring read.

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

    Exposure, be it through life experiences or reading enriches your imagination. Be engaged the world and with people, there are stories waiting to be found!

meet the winners