From the judges: “The book’s boldness, beauty and courage make it utterly seductive.”
You can watch a video of the award ceremony here (Literature category is announced in the first 15 minutes): https://actas.co.uk/live/en/page/watchawards.
India, 1996. Waheeda, a principled and spirited young woman from Uttar Pradesh sets her sights on becoming a member of Parliament. But her romance with the scion of a Delhi business dynasty threatens that dream. Manual for a Decent Life plays out against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in Indian politics in a world where nothing is what it seems and danger lurks at every turn.
“This ambitious novel is both epic and intimate as Jindal moves seamlessly between domestic family scenes, the passion of an illicit love affair and the instability of political parties vying for power at any cost. The fast-paced, plot-driven drama unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of India in the 1990s. The writing is accomplished, the story is thrilling with a bombshell of an ending.”
This stunning crisply paced novel reveals its interwoven themes and storylines in social-realistic style. Manual For a Decent Life is excitingly ambitious, exploring dilemmas around politics, gender and sex at a fascinating moment in Indian history.
– Michele Roberts, author of the Booker-Prize-shortlisted Daughters of the House
The rapid pace of the plot makes for edge-of-seat excitement.
– Saleem Peeradina, author of Heart’s Beast: New and Selected Poems
A compelling novel that is impossible to put down.
– Manju Kapur, author of Difficult Daughters
A heart-searching novel with a wide sweep. Its themes of Indian family, female identity and power struggles are of contemporary significance.
– Russell Celyn Jones, author of The Ninth Wave
A work that will live with me for a long time. … A deftly rendered collision of place, religion, class, person, culture, and politics.
– Jason A. Reading in The Book Review. Read the full review here
It would be difficult to describe this novel as a piece of truly postcolonial literature, since it refuses to contextualise its narrative or its characters as reacting to a colonial past. In this, I found the approach of the author quite daring, and I admire her courage in presenting her work to an audience that will immediately comprehend the cultural context.
– Jenny Gorrod in Dundee University Review of the Arts. Read the full review here
These stories play with lies and truth. Chameleon-like characters clutch at worlds that remain just out of reach. An old recipe, a robot, a key – these are clues to the people they once were or hope to be. Appetite and eating are often central in this collection as characters remember childhood meals, a mother’s cooking, meals with lovers and meals that turn out not as expected. Their appetite for food, as for life, is by turns bitter and sweet but never predictable.
‘Rich, incisive and at times magical, this is a collection to be savoured and cherished. A joy from start to finish.’
– Awais Khan, author of No Honour
‘An absolutely captivating collection of short stories that surprise, delight and entertain. These female authors are a force.’
— Bobs and Books
‘The best kind of short stories are those that leave you with unanswered questions. This collection of stories does that and more!’
– Asma Khan, Chef & Owner, Darjeeling Express
Praise for The Whole Kahani:
‘A thoroughly modern and lively collection which reaches out across multiple histories and distinctive worlds to capture some of the best in contemporary British Asian women’s writing today.’
– Susheila Nasta MBE, Editor in Chief of Wasafiri
Have you got your copy? Buy now!
In-person Launch on June 13th 2022 at the Nehru Centre. Hope to see you there.
Today is National Lipstick Day. Who knew there was such a thing? Another new marketing gimmick for ‘stuff’. Turns out I have the perfect short story for today. Written a couple of summers ago, when it was hot, and you could run into a department store on a whim.
What if there has been no turning point in your life for twenty-two years? You wait for something to spur you into a change. There have been fluctuations, and movement, but no critical moments. Never have you thought: My Life Starts Now. Not even when you decided to live alone after having spent ten years in different flats with a variety of flat-mates. That decision was easy; not pivotal. It was what you preferred and you are content on your own. But where is the big plot of your life?
You’ve believed in letting life unfold. Not for you frenetic stabs at this or that. Life has ribboned out, but rather distractedly. When you look up from the steering wheel of your imaginary buttercup convertible as it rolls along a green and pleasant land you don’t see any huge signs marking junctions or routes you could take instead. The highway glides over vale and hill, then loops to you don’t-know-where.
The real bus you’re sitting in this afternoon wheezes on as you take in the cityscape from the top deck. The bus is hibiscus red, the roads and pavements are grey but it is summer and this year it is hot, people are a riot of colour. Those ditsy floral dresses, those linen shirts, those wide pastel culottes, those man-sandals. The bus inches along the jammed road. They will pedestrianise this thoroughfare one day, the city mayor’s office has a plan, because see how the street is rammed with shoppers. You gaze down at the glitzy store windows. It’s then the slogan catches your eye. THIS LIPSTICK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
Who allowed that? The Advertising Standards Authority let that pass? Can a lipstick change your life? Heck, can it change anything?? Can it change your summer a teeny-weeny bit??? You lean forward, press the button so the ‘Bus stopping’ sign lights up with a ting. You run into the department store and prowl the cosmetics counters until you find the brand emblazoned under the slogan. Brand L. The heat is making you crazy, 30 degrees in London, yes, it’s making you pathetic, and making the pavements sigh, but never mind. You stand by the counter and say to the girl with triple-mascaraed lashes: ‘I want to change my life.’
She’s ready to serve but slightly startled. ‘The new lipstick?’ she asks. She’s smart. She pulls out a tray of sample colours. ‘Which shade would you like to try?’
‘All three of these will change my life?’ You sound like you’re gasping for air, but actually your shoulders are shaking. You’ve begun to laugh in a way that is unseemly. You control yourself and eye up the round smudges of colour. Your finger hovers over a vivid pink. Let me guess, you think, Watermelon Squeeze? Candy Too Sweet? Profound Rose? You have form here, you know about these things.
Witty & Wry with a Steely Heart*
Patina, launched in New York at the Matwaala festival in April 2019 has received tremendous reviews, excerpted below.
Jindal’s capacity for hard beauty and pride in her own unsentimentality…along with an irreverent playfulness made me want to see her take this tone to its limits, to interrogate her own premises berfrois
Both trenchant & calming…this is it! Asian Review of Books
Elegant forceful lyrics Ink Sweat and Tears
Beautifully contemplative The Lake
Powerful The High Window
Poignancy and grace laced in a rare simplicity Confluence
With magical simplicity, Jindal connects easily with readers The Book Review
* from the review by Colin Pink in The Lake.
With Salman Rushdie at the NYU launch.
// how many paise for each brown glass bottle, how much for each tin can //
I’m delighted that my poem Kabariwala features in “100 Great Indian Poems”, now available to order. This anthology is unique for its selected translations of Indian poetry in 27 languages spanning 3000 years of literature.
Kabariwala is one of the few poems written originally in English.
The book is edited by Abhay K and published by Bloomsbury India.
Kabariwala and a few other poems from the book can be read at Asia Literary Review here.
You can read an extremely well-researched and well-written review of the book at DesiBlitz. The article includes an interview with me about the story behind this poem: https://www.desiblitz.com/content/100-great-indian-poems-poetic-feat-feast.
One of the ‘firsts’ for me this year was the commercial installation of my short poem Optimism.
It has had the most amazing reactions. That’s made me look at the poem in a new light and read it to boost myself after disappointments. Considering I’d ignored this poem since it was first published in Raincheck Renewed in 2004, this installation has provided a new beginning in many ways.
An example of the response I’ve had:
A few days after the installation a neighbour knocked on my door. ‘Your poem!’ she exclaimed.
‘What?’ I wasn’t sure what she meant.
It transpired she’s been to the hairdresser to have her highlights done. ‘There I was, sitting at the shampoo basin, when I look up at the wall in front of me. Your poem! There. I read it – it was wonderful’.
Yes, my poem had ambushed her.
This was the brilliant idea of the owner of the hair salon, Thomas Gaughan, who selected this poem as artwork for his wall. Thomas said he’d wanted something inspirational. He’s really pleased with the effect and says that his clients love it. “Great words from Kavita that lift you up when you need it most.’
I’m proud too, because as my first commercial poem installation, it’s sited where you least expect it. Where the words come to you when you’re not in a ‘reading’ frame of mind. The context is surprising, just the way I like things to be!
I’m really glad that so many people are having their spirits lifted at the shampoo basin.
Kavita is pictured with Thomas Gaughan in his London salon.