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
It is a fascinating love story set in the political turmoil of that time, an account of how people adapt themselves to these shifts of power and values, as it raises important questions about the independence of women and the choices that they make in that society.
– Jennifer Wong
An authentic book that needed to be written… This world we see; restrictive and conservative, then glamorous and modern, makes the book unique.
– Mona Dash
I was particularly fond of, and impressed by, the wider set of characters each playing their parts in the overarching narrative. Waheeda’s friends and family feel very real. We are forced to contemplate the extent to which we are all prepared to risk not only our careers and social standing, but our family and friends simply to fulfil desire.
– Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone
Manual For A Decent Life is filled with energy and sensuality, and Jindal serves a satisfying feast for the adventurous reader.
– Gabrielle Barnby in Ars Artium
Lyrical prose and great characters kept me hooked to the end.
– Tracy Fells in The Literary Pig. Read the full review here
A riveting book. The kind you’d read in one sitting, if only you didn’t want to pause and reflect over the depth of the situations hidden behind the almost simple prose. The kind of book you want to re-read, immediately after turning the last page.
– Reader Review
A masterly account of one woman’s lone battle – (albeit aided and abetted patronizingly) to get elected. Woven into it are hauntingly lovely descriptions of the finer and grimmer versions of day to day life.
– Reader Review
Brilliant, edifying, terrifying.
– Reader Review
I had trouble putting this book down once I began. The writing is masterful.
– Reader Review
The main joys are the realistic characters, flawed and likeable, who populate the book.
– Reader Review
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.
// My interests remain eclectic and wide-ranging and I don’t expect to be restricted by theme or genre in my writing. //
The Whole Kahani of Kavita A. Jindal on not being a muse
22 Sep, 2021, 12:29 pm
When it comes to writing, there are poets you love for their choice of words and a muse at their creativity and self.
Kavita A. Jindal is very incisive about what goes on a paper. Even the lyrical nature of the prose in her outing as a novelist is captivating with its eloquence. Having kept pace with her writing, I have noticed a poet constantly scoring over her fresh crossbars. What impresses me about her life and struggle is the realism found in her optimism, aptly captured in this minuscule poem.
For the business leaders, it offers the picture of a froth of expectations and perception over any corporate lunch, where everyone dreams and expects everything knowing that small talks are the preparations for a hard bargain later on.
Kavita A. Jindal is an award-winning poet, novelist and essayist. Her novel ‘Manual For A Decent Life’ won the Brighthorse Prize and the ‘Eastern Eye’ Award for Literature. Her poetry collections are ‘Patina’, ‘Raincheck Renewed’ and ‘Raincheck Accepted’. Selected poems have been translated into several European languages. She is the co-founder of The Whole Kahani writers’ collective.
Poet’s helping hand:
Historically, women were less visible than men as ‘creators’; they were also less able to be creators, although generally, the ‘muse’ was female. As was the supportive structure. I was commissioned to write a poem on the subject, and this tripped off my tongue. The speaker insists she can perform all the arts. She wants to retain the credit for her original ideas. I read it once a year as a rousing reminder that we are all capable of doing everything we wish to do, health, time management and sleep permitting, of course.
Your earlier ‘Raincheck’ collections have a less noise of day-to-day narratives and images, while your last pamphlet, ‘Patina’, is relaxed about familiar contexts. A range of content is also eclectic. They are more narrative-rich to fit the prevailing trend. What brought this change to your approach? Where next from here?
‘Raincheck Renewed’ was more meditative because I wrote it in snippets and snatched quiet moments in the midst of child-rearing, freelance editing, and busy timetables. I was also writing just to write and not to publish, although obviously later the poems came together into a second collection. By the time I collated a selection of poems for ‘Patina’, I had been back in London for some years, and in a new writing phase, and I was publishing regularly.
You’re right that the trend is for a narrative; editors seem to like poems that have recognisable subjects and explain themselves subtly within the poem. But perhaps more importantly, I felt able to speak out more and voice my opinions, even if unpopular, as I had begun to think, ‘If not now, then when?’
My interests remain eclectic and wide-ranging, and I don’t expect to be restricted by theme or genre in my writing. I still do like to write abstract poems and shorter reflective pieces. Future poems will continue with freedom of thought and expression in varying styles and I aim to practise greater devotion to precision in craft, whatever the content or form.
Tell us more about your recent award-winning novel and how it is different.
I had a delightful chat about Manual For A Decent Life with the presenter and author Tendayi Olga. Although she threw in a couple of tricky questions. We also talked about the work of The Whole Kahani collective which I co-founded. View the recording on the Book HQ channel on YouTube.
Way back in 2009 I published a short story that was set in the near ‘Future’. 2021. We are in that Future now. One thing I can confidently say is that I did not predict any of the events of 2021. But I do stand by the original concept of my story, and I think the contracts I describe may become widespread. In the Future. This time I’m not setting a date.
#TourismThrowback. My poem Algarve Cliffs has just been published in the journal Creative Flight.
I wrote it many years ago during a walk on some cliffs in the Algarve, just as the title says.
When I say ‘wrote’ I mean it formed in my head as the walk progressed and I put it down on paper later.
High where the earth has been roasting
red dust covers my shoes, fills the crevices
between the curved top of my plimsolls
and my ankles in their white socks.
It’s a guided walk and what I absorb
are the warnings given at each step,
the leader’s constant exhortations:
Don’t broil too long in the sun
lest you pucker up dehydrated
don’t walk too close to the edge
lest you meet your fate
in the rocks that are lodged in wait
under the sparkling water
This precipice is prone to crumbling;
admire the jaggedness, stay on the path
walk single file, especially right at the top
don’t slide don’t slip, don’t venture
to the brink, lest you collapse
with the escarpment into the brine.
In the past just a glimpse of the sea could please my heart.
What if the guide sees my secret in my eyes?
Don’t dance under the noon sun.
You could shatter the earth
which in this spot is fragile.
Your dancing could scare the sea.
And here’s the link to the issue of Creative Flight Volume 2, Issue 1, April 2021.