BLF2020 | Tracking the New Girl – Andaleeb Wajid and Milan Vohra with Krishna Manavalli

The Day-2 evening session had a discussion on girls as primary characters in books and what it takes from writers to create such stories. The panel had Andaleeb Wajid and Milan Vohra in conversation with Krishna Manavalli. The session reflected the journey of women’s evolution in all the fields. Women aren’t just confined to stay between four walls; they are capable and succeed in every work they take up. Though we are in the 21st century, the discrimination between a man and a woman continues. The session included narratives around these ideas.

The session started with Krishna quoting Behind every successful man is a woman. The evolution of the female hero in Indian writing being the main talking point for this discussion, Krishna said that from the times of Draupadi to Kamala Das from the earlier generation, we had fierce and bold women. Also, she pointed out the differences between the lives of women then and now.

Andaleeb Wajid is the author of 26 published novels and she writes across different genres such as romance, young adult, and horror. Milan Vohra is best known as India’s first Mills & Boon author. Her first book ‘The Love Asana’ was an international bestseller. These two women have inspired many other women out there to break the norms and superstitious beliefs through their empowering writing.

The two authors were asked to talk about the evolution of women in their books and share their experiences on the writer’s life they have chosen. Milan Vohra said we evolve as much as the women we write about. She stepped into writing accidentally and one of her works made her win a competition, that was how she started writing characters that reflected the reality. Writing is a form of expression to me and what I wrote was felt by my characters and my feelings were conveyed to the world through books, said Andaleeb Wajid. The common point in both these authors’ writing was women evolving story by story.

Krishna asked the two authors on whom do they look up to as the model to build inspiring female characters in their books? According to Milan, she does not write with a model in mind, she writes the story that she believes in and which is relatable. Andaleeb builds empowering female protagonists by looking into society and the normal way of women’s lifestyle. The session was then followed by the narrations from the works of respective authors. After the narration, the authors gave a quick brief on the plot they read.

When asked about setting a male hero or a billionaire in a story to engage the plot, Milan said she always sets the protagonists equally as both men and women are an important part of society and one can’t do without another. On the other hand, Andaleeb said there is nothing to do with the hero and she preferably opts for a relatable protagonist. Also, the status doesn’t attract the plot, said Andaleeb. The authors also shared their opinions on other characters from other books.

About the Author: Bhuvanashree Manjunath is a freelance writer and a poet, currently pursuing Civil Engineering in Bengaluru. Being an avid reader and book lover, she enjoys working as a Book Reviewer. Apart from literature, her fields of interest include painting, photography, music and teaching. She finds solace in writing poems and blogs. She currently writes for TheSeer.

BLF2020 | Grandparents’ Bag of Stories – Sudha Murty with Andaleeb Wajid

“I don’t write to please somebody. I write because I enjoy it” says Sudha Murty, an engineer, social worker, and one of the most prominent writers of India.

The first session of the Bangalore Literature Festival 2020 witnessed an interesting conversation between Sudha Murty and Andaleeb Wajid. Andaleeb Wajid is a Bangalore-based writer whose famous works include The Tamanna Trilogy, The Crunch Factor, My Brother’s Wedding, and More Than Just Biryani.

The session circled around Sudha Murty’s latest book, Grandparents’ bag of stories. Andaleeb started the discussion by asking about the inspiration behind writing this book. Sudha Murty said, when the covid lockdown began in March, she was wondering what she would have done during this pandemic if she was a kid. Because she grew up in a village, she thought of her grandparents and how they would have told her a lot of stories. “I remembered I wrote a book ‘Grandma’s Bag of Stories’, and thought why don’t I write a sequel to it!” she recollected.

She pointed out that it took just 2-3 weeks to finish the book. While expressing her love towards the book, she compared its stories with pearls in a necklace and grandparents to the thread that holds the pearls together. She also added that she cherishes writing for children and young adults and recalled the sweetest comments she received from children.

When Andaleeb asked Sudha about her favourite choice between writing fiction and writing non-fiction, Sudha replied “When I was young, I used to enjoy fiction. Now, I don’t. For children, it has to be fiction. But for young adults, I prefer non-fiction as I always feel that life is stranger than fiction. In fiction, you imagine certain things, and it is directly proportional to the capacity of your imagination. When it comes to non-fiction, there are so many things that you cannot even imagine. There are no limits. Also, one can learn a lot from non-fiction and real life.”

Sudha threw some light on the kind of books she read in her childhood. She said she did not have much choice as there was no electricity or television in her village. Reading was the only entertainment in those times. She said she was more into epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, further acknowledging that it helped her in writing mythology in later years.

Speaking about current generation kids, Sudha said, making their reading sessions more interactive is the best advice she could give to make them enjoy literature.

When she was asked about the closest book to her, Sudha mentioned that “House of cards” could be the closest one as she spent 15 years thinking about it and was not easily convinced with the output. “I write until I convince myself with my work” she added.

The session ended with Sudha Murty announcing her upcoming work which is going to be the second book of The Gopi Diaries Series. She plans to release it in January 2021.

About the Author: Sai Pradeep is an aspiring writer from Visakhapatnam who recently published his first collection of poetry, All the lights within us. He is working as a content writer in Bangalore. He currently writes for TheSeer.

Hindustani Mussalman

The evening session driven by Abdullah Khan, a Mumbai based novelist, screenwriter, literary critic, and banker was one of the most engaging events of the day two of Bangalore Literature Festival. His discovery of George Orwell sharing origin to his birthplace Bihar, drew him to literature. With Abdullah on stage was Andaleeb Wajid, a Bangalore-based writer who has written on diverse topics like food, relationships, and weddings in a Muslim context. The other esteemed guests were Hussain Haidry, an Indian poet, writer and lyricist and Hem Borker, an assistant professor at the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive policy, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. 


The discourse began with the contextualization of the current widespread practice of stereotyping on the basis of various grounds like religion, region, caste etc. The debate was intense around the identity aspect and its corollary with respect to our country. Abdullah brought in references from Nelson Mandela’s vision to proceed the argument which mainly dealt with the explanation of who actually is an Indian Muslim in the contemporary India. 


The power structure of Muslims facing the stereotypical bias from the country as a whole for being a minority was discussed. Andaleeb expressed her struggles over wearing veil (burkha) and exploring her right to choose the way she wishes to dress and make her personal choice. Hema brought in historical instances which paved a new school of thought about a secular country where everyone has equal rights to practice their own choice of religion. 


The debate was carried forward by Hussain’s vision of Indian Muslim not just being a mere set of two words, instead a culmination of numerous identities. He narrated his poem “Hindustani Mussalman” to the audience which received a stellar response. He then put forward a series of questions after narrating his poem which was received with pin drop silence. The narration included controversial parts of the poem about Babri Masjid. He also spoke about being a Muslim and rejoicing the sacred bath in holy river Ganga.


The panelist then referred to the aspect of multi-identity in every Muslim. They cleared their stance that they are as Indian as any other citizen of the country. Abdullah drew the mistaken stereotype of most Indians assuming and associating Muslims to mere one section of the society. He gave his life experiences whereby he had to tell people that he has many layered identities besides being an Indian. He gave the example of Genghis Khan who is assumed to a Muslim because of his surname though he was a follower of Tengrism. 

The panelists shared their life experiences and dwelled on the aspect of secularity in the country, overarching the central idea of Muslims as a community in India facing prejudice. The session ended on a very insightful discussion answering audience questions related to current events like the Babri Masjid verdict.




About the Author: Abhinav Kumar is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST ( Deemed To Be University), Bengaluru who believes in “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world”. He is interested in sports journalism and travelogue writing. He currently writes for TheSeer.

Small Town, Big Dreams

Small town, is not just a matter of small town but big dreamers who come out of that with flying colours. Andaleeb Wajid, a Bengaluru based writer who has authored several books on different topics like food, relationship etc. has herself made a confession that she never lived in a town. She couldn’t imagine on being a part of town as she grew up in the city of bengaluru.


The discussion began with Abdullah Khan who has written ‘Patna Blues’. A man has grown up in a small village from northern part of Bihar where there was no electricity and other basic facilities. On his first visit to the capital city ‘Patna’, after seeing the river Ganges, has a question in his mind which he asks his father, as to whether ‘this is an ocean?’. Table fan was a luxury during his times. His feelings towards his own town and usual aspirations of middle class town people led him to pen this book.


Tanuj Solanki, who has lived in Muzaffarnagar, felt that the soul of a country actually lived in various social media like whatsapp and facebook. He agreed that small towns do play a big role as he had lived in Muzaffarnagar for 17 years. He mentioned the communal riots and tensions that big districts or cities have which are unusual in towns even today.


Parimal Bhattacharya, another speaker told the gathering that he hadn’t actually grown up in a town but moved to Darjeeling in his twenties as a teacher. But only after 15 years of returning from that place he wrote the book ‘No Path in Darjeeling Is Straight: Memories of a Hill Town’. He also said that Darjeeling is very different from other towns or villages where different communities live peacefully together.


Gillian Wright, a translator and writer said that there was something that broke us apart from towns to cities, but there was some continuity also in terms of culture, poetry etc. She feels and says big voices come from small places. 


Small towns may be a nostalgia for people who are obsessed with cities and its pollution. 



About the Author: Rohini Mahadevan is political science graduate and works as a content writer. She likes reading books, drawing, painting, and writing short creative pieces. She currently writes for TheSeer.