Eastern Eye Literature Award 2020

I’m delighted to be a finalist for the ‘Eastern Eye Literature Award 2020’.

You can attend the ACTAs virtual party on Friday 12 February to see who wins in arts, media and culture. More importantly, look at the entire list of finalists to see all the great work going on and things you might have missed.

Five Desi Faves podcast

Here are the five dog-eared books I mention in my podcast for DesiBooks hosted by Jenny Bhatt. My selections are very different from each other but I learnt something from all.

Episode 19 features Shubhanga Pandey talking about the importance and ethos of Himal South Asian journal, and in the next segment at 49:38 minutes you can hear my piece on ‘Five Desi Faves’.

Manual For A Decent Life

UK edition released 1 November 2020
Intelligent and Perceptive Reviews are rolling in!
Published by Linen Press in the U.K & Brighthorse Books in the U.S.
Available globally in print or e-book. Get your copy now.

‘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 writing is accomplished, the story is thrilling with a bombshell of an ending.’

https://amzn.to/3i6urk6

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.

More Reviews

The book drips with symbolism and portent… This book will live with me.
– The Book Review. Read the full review here.

Manual For A Decent Life is filled with energy and sensuality, and Jindal serves a satisfying feast for the adventurous reader.
– Gabrielle Barnby

Lyrical prose and great characters kept me hooked to the end.
Tracy Fells in The Literary Pig. 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

Maybe I have led too sheltered a life, but I have to admit I was taken aback by some of the sex scenes in the book.
– Eastern Eye

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

Links to Reviews

The Book Review Literacy Trust. Read the full review here.
Asian Review of Books
Rebekah Lattin Rawstrone
Ars Artium
Amazon
Goodreads
An Interview with The Literary Pig

Buy now:
You can order from bookstores, including Waterstones (UK) and Barnes & Noble (US), or your local indie.
You can buy direct from Linen Press
OR online from Bookshop.org
UK:
USA:

or Amazon (available globally)
UK: https://amzn.to/3i6urk6
USA: https://amzn.to/2WpHlCK
India: https://amzn.to/2UzwSDk
Canada: https://amzn.to/2UzwWD4
Australia: https://amzn.to/3aCUNaH

 

Read the opening chapter of the novel at berfrois.

Lockdown Writing Space

 

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🌸 Today we uncover Kavita A. Jindal’s writing habits and peek inside her #ARoomOfOnesOwn! 🖊 The author of Manual for a Decent Life and Whole Kahani co-founder tells us about her writing room and the other places she likes to write – both during the day, and in the middle of the night! – explaining: . “I carry a notebook and pen in the old-fashioned way everywhere I go and I write in it when anything strikes me and I can actually stop to write. I write when waiting for people. I write on the tube or the bus – although that’s sometimes scrawly and illegible, even to me. Mostly I write in the middle of the night with a pen light. Bed is the best writing and thinking space. . When I have to write something on a computer though, which means something that I have a deadline for, or something that I have to send somewhere as it’s being awaited, then I write in my little study. This is a photo of that space. I like to face a blank wall because I’m easily distracted. A blank wall is like a window for me, I go through it into the world I’m constructing and I return through it when I need to return to my real world. . When I want to turn away from words on the screen and concentrate on a point in the distance I gaze outside through the balcony door to my right. There’s light and open space and playing fields, just perfect. . My writing space is small and this photo is carefully managed. Everything at eye level is reasonably neat because I need it to be, to be able to concentrate. The floor is piled high with towers of paper and books-to-read which have been pushed out of shot. So the photo is part veracity and part fiction.” . 📖 The digital version of Kavita’s prize-winning debut novel about power, gender and politics in India in the late 90s, Manual for a Decent Life, is currently available to purchase for only £5.99 from our online shop. Look out for the paperback, which will be published in October! 💫 . #writingroom #kavitaajindal #manualforadecentlife #politicalfiction #diversebooks #diversereads #indianbooks #indianauthors #feministbooks #feministreads #womenwriters #readmorewomen #writerscommunity #bookstagram #feministpublisher #indiepublisher #indiepublishing

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Short Story: Galvanise Gloss

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.

Galvanise Gloss

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.

Read more…

‘This?’ The sales assistant doubtfully dabs the rosy stickiness on your lips. ‘Oh,’ her voice rises in surprise, ‘This bright colour does suit you.’ Who is she convincing?
‘I’ll take it. It will change my life. Lipstick can do that.’
She looks at you sharply; are you mocking the brand or cosmetics in general? You ask: ‘What’s the name of this colour?’
She hands you a shiny packaged tube. You peer at it. Judicious Use. You give up, your shoulders heave and rock.
‘Are you alright, darling?’ A light touch on your hand. She’s not sure if you’re crying or laughing. At this point you’re not sure either.
‘What kind of name is that?’ You give a little hiccup. ‘That’s a stupid name for a lipstick.’
She holds out her hand for the offending item.
‘Two years back I created names for lipsticks,’ you tell her as you return it. ‘It took hours, no, days, for one season’s line. For brand Y.’
‘That’s such a good brand,’ she responds.
‘Pink Bluff, Poppy Chase, Catalina Nudie, now those are names for lipsticks.  The brand founder loved the list I came up with.’
‘Do you want to try another shade?’
‘No!’
She retreats behind the counter but you can’t stop telling her.
‘And then I did the next season. Jaisalmer Bride, Sahara Sky, Balinese Sunset. But I never felt like buying any of those lipsticks, you know. I just stuck to my usual.’
‘Are you buying this? Is there anything else you’d like?’
‘Daring Rosie, Bolder Goldie, Cheekier Mauve. I must’ve named forty lipsticks and glosses.’
She takes this as acquiescence that I’m a hooked consumer. ‘That’ll be sixteen pounds, please. Do you have a store card?’
‘Plum Perfection, Flawless Coral, Immaculate Sex.’
‘Very nice indeed. Tap your credit card here please.’
‘Then the founder-lady wanted something new. She liked to travel she said. So I came up with places with Y. To flatter her and her eponymous brand. Yakeshi, Yangon, Yamuna.’
‘Do you need directions to anywhere else in the store? There’s tea and cake in the café.’
What does she think? You’re not an old lady who needs tea! You’re only forty. Alright, plus two. ‘York, Yaroslavl, Yazd.’
‘The exit is that way,’ she points. She hands you a cute little silver bag with your cute little lipstick in it.

When you go out the next Saturday, just for a wander in your zone, you wear your perky ‘Use Judiciously’. Who named this? How did they get away with it? Droll but if  it’s part of a This Lipstick Will Change Your Life campaign this name doesn’t cut it. You wonder if you should’ve bought another shade, one with a better name! ‘Slay Dragons.’ Did somebody do that already?

You ask for your turmeric latte at the local café and you grin pinkly, ‘Hi Naomi, am I stuck in a rut?’
‘Hi.’ The young woman at the till is drooping in the heat, but her smile stays cheery.  ‘I don’t know you well enough to know.’ Oh my. A considered answer.
‘Same order every time,’ you point to your drink and your almond croissant.
‘You’re not the only one.’

It’s too hot in the café. This never happens, but it’s happening this July. You sit out on the bench under a tree, sipping, nibbling, perhaps nipping at life. Life is using you judiciously. It’s not wearing you out or treating you bad. In your case it’s just trundling along, not doing much. Leaving life to unfold may not have been the right move. But you trusted in life. And prayers. And now look.

An elderly couple seat themselves on the bench on the opposite side of the road. The lady’s skirt flares, her varicose veins are out to catch the summer air. His short-brimmed straw hat barely keeps the sun off the red tip of his nose. They munch into their sandwiches. You smile across at them, you feel indulgent. You might want a sweet man by your side were you ever to turn into a scented old lady, but you don’t want to be them. Not him, not her. You want to be you. Changing your life, or not, one judicious lipstick at a time.

 

First published in Confluence journal, February 2020