An ex-journalist who gave up a corporate job to relish the joys of motherhood, Author, Blogger & Media consultant Kiran Manral carries several titles with élan. Kiran is also part of the core team at Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month (CSAAM) and Violence Against Women Awareness Month (VAWAM), two very well received social media awareness initiatives across twitter & the blogosphere.
Post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Kiran founded India Helps – a volunteer network that has worked on longterm rehabilitation of the terror attack victims & 13/7 Mumbai bomb blast victims.
In an exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, Kiran talks about how she manages to do so much while making sure her fiesty tween, Krish, gets all the attention he deserves.
I can relate the protaganist from your latest book, Once Upon A Crush,to a lot of young women I meet. Is the character inspired from a real person?
Actually, Rayna is a composite of several single women in the city, some I know personally, some I observed either on social media or in public places like cafes and restaurants and some I interacted with in a professional capacity. She’s bits and pieces of many people put together into one person.
Mom, Social Activist, Writer, Author – what gives you the turbo power to get out of bed every morning?
Ha ha ha. Coffee. Seriously though, the fear of missing out of one day of work. And the fact that I really love what I do and I am lucky enough to be able to do what I love every single day.
How did the idea of CSAAM and VAWAM come about?
Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month and Violence Against Women Awareness Month both began in 2011. CSAAM started first, post a discussion with fellow blogger Monika Manchanda about how there was child sexual abuse all around us but we were encouraging the culture of silence around it by not speaking about it.
As parents, we felt we had a responsibility to take the taboo associated with discussing CSA in public away, to make parents aware of the dangers of CSA around them. We called for volunteers and team members and started CSA April. Similarly, we began VAW OCtober the same year to speak about the violence women in India face in their everyday lives, from street sexual harassment to dowry deaths, honour killings and female foeticide.
And who are the people, in addition to you, that are fueling these?
VAW and CSA months are the effort of an entire team of professionals, homemakers, bloggers, twitter folks who give generously of their time and effort to sustain these. I am just one person among a team that spans over 20 people working in tandem to see to every aspect of the campaign, the blogs, the twitter feed, the facebook, the offline.
How have you seen the approach of people change towards the causes change over the years?
The first year we faced a lot of resistance, people saying that this is not part of Indian society, that we we propagating child porn and such, but when we put forward statistics and survivor stories, the realisation that this was more common than we dared to admit to ourselves came through. People are no longer shying away from discussing CSA, from discussing their stories, and from this comes the realisation that they need to be informed and aware to watch over their children.
You blog about mommy-hood extensively, and are connected with causes viz CSA and violence against women. Yet, your books are nowhere on these lines.
I write the books I have fun writing and I hope people enjoy reading. It’s that simple.
Mothers today wish to do everything for their children by themselves. Has that been your success mantra too?
Oh no. I let the boy grow like a weed. An interesting anecdote, at a recent swimming event I saw mothers helping their grown, adolescent sons towel down and change, while I merely handed dry towel to my ten year old. Moms were actually spoonfeeding their kids and fanning them to keep the heat away. I see moms picking up kids after school and taking their school bags for the short walk from the school gate to the car. I see parents doing school projects for their kids, and some even doing the homework.
I worry about where does this end. I think unless we allow them to do things for themselves on their own, we are guilty of keeping them infantilised. My mantra in fact is that when he doesn’t need me around for anything, that is when I know I’ve done my job as a parent well.
How has the boy reacted to the two new siblings – your two books? Are you ever faced with difficult questions on time spent on them, as against your first-born?
Actually, no. Because I only work on my writing while he is at school. Except now of course, when the school vacations are on. And the boy knows that a Mamma who is writing is happier than a Mamma who is not writing and is cranky because she can’t, so he actually tells me, go to office, work.
What prompted the shift away from the corporate space?
Becoming a mom. Honestly.
Some tips for individuals looking at making that shift?
Freelancing is not something everyone can do, and you need to seriously analyse whether you want to, at anytime in future, want to get back into the workforce. Analyse your strengths and weaknesses objectively. Know if you can work on your own, or whether you need the structure of an organisation backing you.
What do we see coming from the KM stable next?
More books. Of course!
Clearly a force to reckon with, Kiran emphasizes the importance of having your priorities right before you embark on a journey which you believe will fulfill your personal and professional aspirations. There is no harm in wanting to do less with your days than take up multiple overwhelming responsibilities. “Do what you love, and as much as you like,” she adds as a parting thought.
We couldn’t agree more! Learn more about the life and times of Kiran Manral here.