BLF2020 | Writing Satire – Moni Mohsin with Milan Vohra

This Day 2 session between the two authors was filled with lighter moments and narratives. Moni Mohsin, one of the wittiest Pakistani writers, currently in London, joined remotely. Milan Vohra, known as India’s first Mills & Boon author, was the moderator.

Milan asked Moni if there is a lot of pressure to be funny in real life? Moni confessed that sometimes there is. She quoted a funny incidence and said that she does disappoint people some time and is taken aback too with their candour.

Milan asked about her journey from the early writings of the satirical column “The Diary of a Social Butterfly” in The Friday times to the book by the same name. Moni explained that earlier the column was her own journey. Later she wanted to write about women’s issues on a lighter note. Her inspiration came by another daily life instance when she heard two women talking. That was how the butterfly was born.

Moni then narrated a piece she had written recently regarding the second spite of COVID. This was about a woman who is stuck at home and goes on with a monologue. The way Moni narrated the entire piece was hysterical and fun to hear. Milan asked if Moni’s humour affects her real-life relationships. Moni said that it does not. She also confirmed that most people do not place themselves in her satire.

The next question was if westerners identify with the characters in Moni’s book. To this, Moni said that while the language and cadences are specific to India and Pakistan, the overall essence of the butterfly character is universal. Her publisher’s view is that living in a bubble of entitlement and privileged is the theme of the butterfly. One finds butterflies in all parts of the world where there are inequality and injustice.

Milan also raised her doubts on the difficulties of using humour in written words without phonetics. But in Moni’s writing, they are enunciated very beautifully. Moni said that her inspiration is fellow Lahoris and Indians she even now meets in London. She spoke about how her mind records everything she observes and sees around.

Milan’s next question was on how Moni knows if her readers will get it since satire is one of the toughest genres. Moni confessed that sometimes writing satire is difficult as readers don’t get it. She quoted Animal Farm as an example. She said that it was an easy journey to convert it into a book, as she already had characters, the plot, the world they operated in, so finding a story was not difficult.

Milan’s next set of questions were on whether being an outsider helped? Did it juxtapose bringing insider view of the character? Moni confirmed that in contrast, it gave a greater perspective when one is removed from a situation. It emboldens and permeates your own consciousness enabling you to write with free stance.

When asked on how does Moni balance the zoomed-in and out perspective, she confessed that she herself is the butterfly. This brought some laughter. She went on explaining that she is an outsider because she is sitting outside. But an insider because she was born and brought up in that class. The class where everyone is worried about their image and appearances.  She tries to bring all of that in the butterfly. She can access their interiorities and see them from outside.

Milan asked if it was a struggle to explain too much to westerners sometimes. Moni agreed on this aspect. She elaborated that westerners mostly want books on deeper topics about terrorism, war, etc. from our subcontinents. They do not want humour. She also said that to carry this responsibility of explaining your society is huge and difficult.

Milan then asked if satire could be non-political. Moni’s views on this were that while there is a social satire, she thought everything in life is political in nature, whether with the capital ‘P’ or not.

Milan also questioned Moni’s view on satire involving betrayal. To this Moni explained that to write satire successfully, one must expose hypocrisy or injustice or something that you know of and that comes from a place of your close experience. In that way, one betrays one’s circle. But most authors write composite characters that are not recognizable. Moni also said that most successful satires are cruel. She quoted an example of her favourite book Handful of Dust.

Milan then asked about differences in satire, sarcasm, and parody. Moni explained that sarcasm is a cheap shot. It does not require imaginative feat. Parody is a take on book or film. Milan asked about the new book The Impeccable Integrity of Ruby R. Moni said the new book was a racy mix of love and politics.

The session ended on a lighter note with Moni mimicking while answering Milan’s lighter questions.

About the Author: Neha Agrawal carries a spirit of positivism and a smile that emanates from the heart and wants to reach out to the world. She dreams to make this world an inclusive one. She works as a strategic leader heading multiple areas like inclusion & diversity, corporate social responsibility and organization culture. She is a public speaker and an influencer. She loves travelling, especially to the mountains. She writes poetry under the handle #fursatkealfaaz on Instagram, enjoys reading and having conversations. She currently writes for TheSeer.

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.

Bestsellers – The Belated Bachelor Party

The Yayati stage arena was seen jam-packed this evening at 3.30 PM as the love story juggernaut, Ravinder Singh and Milan Vohra, better known as India’s first Mills & Boon author, took the stage. The session moderated by Milan, was kickstarted with an introduction to Ravinder’s latest bestselling novel, The Belated Bachelor Party, which has sold over 3.5 million copies!


The discussion primarily revolved around how The Belated Bachelor Party stands out from his long list of run-of-the-mill love stories, culminating in heart-breaking endings. Ravinder called it “a reunion book” which he claimed is poles apart from his kind of writing. This book is more of a comic relief to his readers who complained that there are no happy endings to his books. It also brought back his three friends who had moved to 3 different corners of the globe. It was all about bringing in a change in the flavor to cater to the changing tastes of the audience.


Ravinder assured to have incorporated his direct or indirect experiences in his book and that’s a recurrent theme in his writings. He basically familiarized the audience to his book by narrating a short blurb from it which revolves around four friends living in 4 different places and how they held onto the bond of friendship even after living apart from one another for years at a stretch. It all starts with a conference call amongst the four of them that triggered the entire idea of a bachelor party that they never had before getting married. And he chose to add the ‘belated’ part to it because he is of the belief that “belated can fix so many things”.


Further, the story behind the narrative style of the book was unraveled to the audience. Ravinder asserted that the idea of making ‘friendship’ his mouthpiece in his book occurred to him from his reading of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak where ‘death’ narrates the story. There also exists the elbow-space to be self-critical when written in third person is what Ravinder believes. His talk on his book was further seasoned by his light-hearted humor and ended with a few cliff-hangers for those who haven’t read his book as yet.


On being questioned by Milan about his concept of “wealth, women, and wine can make everything happen”, he goes back to connect it to “jar, jameen aur joru” (wealth, land and wife), about what weaken the knees.


Ravinder concluded his session by voicing out his firm will to leverage the power of books to talk about the things that matter to him. While signing off, he created fine ripples of applause and cheer amongst the audience by announcing the existence of a bunch of men who are sensitive and can talk about issues without women being involved in whatever way possible.




About the Author: Upasana Mahanta is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST (Deemed To Be University) – Bengaluru, who firmly believes that there is nothing more exhilarating and liberating as poetry. She finds solace in writing poems and travel blogs and has amongst her laurels a 1st Prize in the English category of the All India Poetess Conference, Meghalaya Chapter’s Seventh Poetry Competition cum North East Poetry Festival. She currently writes for TheSeer.


Jill of all Trades

How many of us are Jill of all trades? The session saw a very refreshing and joyous discussion among the rock stars of female fiction- Milan Vohra, Minnie Vaid and Piya Bahadur, hosted by Sudha Menon.


Each of these women, including the host herself, has written about women in various fields, bringing to light different female characters and how they break stereotypes. The session began with the authors reading out selected sections from their novels. 


Minnie Vaid spoke about her book, ‘Those Magnificent Women and their Flying Machines: ISRO’s Mission to Mars’. Her book uncovers the contribution of the team of female scientists in ISRO’s missions. Interacting with the female scientists was very empowering for Minnie. She recalled how she was baffled at the lack of any pictures of these women. The work of women in scientific fields is highly unrecognised. In a candid moment, she commented about how she, herself, held stereotypes about women scientists, and through her research and the time she spent with them, she came to realise that they work much harder than they are given credit for. 


Piya Bahadur recounted her biking journey with three other women, and what made her decide to go on such an adventure. Piya and her female entourage showed to the world that women, too, can embark upon great adventures when they biked seventeen thousand kilometres, across seven nations. “We owe it to ourselves to do what we want to do. When you realise that there is nothing holding you back, you can achieve anything.” These inspiring words left the audience in awe.


The only fiction writer on the block, Milan Vohra, spoke about how she felt while researching for her character, Ragini, in her novel ‘Our Song’. Music is one of the key elements in her book. Milan spoke about how she had to get a deeper understanding about music and how it affects the emotions of people. Do people react differently to different music, depending upon their mood? Milan tried to find out, as she developed her character.


While researching for her book, Minnie was fascinated, as well as intimidated, as she interviewed the women scientists of ISRO. ‘Nerves of steel’- that’s what drives these women. Out of the twenty-one women she met from the team, all of them were immensely proud of working for the nation. They were incredibly hardworking and determined, even after the failure of the launch of the Mars mission.


Super excited about her biking adventure, Piya remarked about how it was not always easy to continue every day. Before they started to drive each day, they left their houses by simply thinking, “yeh toh ho hi jaayega!” (“this is bound to happen”). Before stepping out, it was important to think that they will succeed. Things like deciding on where to eat became a tough task, as they could not always count on the highway food. It was a group of four women, so there had to be ego clashes! 

“What’s the best thing a woman can cultivate”, asked Sudha.


For Minnie, it was endurance. Women have a powerful capacity to endure anything. Piya agreed and added in that persistence was also something that women could acquire. With persistence, there’s no room for failure. Milan viewed that self-belief was a quality all women should have. Sudha, too, added in, as she believed that one must be a constant learner, a student throughout our lives. 


It was a fun and lively session. It was inspiring to be among such passionate and successful women, as they conveyed to the audience the potential of women – how they truly are the Jills of All Trades.




About the Author: Passionate about saving the environment, and driven by politics and philosophy, Anusha Basu writes about the musings she perceives everyday. She is currently pursuing her English Hons degree at Christ University, Bangalore. She currently writes for TheSeer.