By Chris Teh
Coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day and closure of ‘A Million Stars to End Violence’ project, the March session of Sharpened Word hosted an evening on Saturday, March 14 at Perak Women for Women (PWW) Society with freelance writers Saras Manickam and Michelle Ayon Navajas.
With ‘A Million Stars, A Million Hopes to Women’s Empowerment’ as the theme, the session started with Saras reading excerpts from her 2019 Commonwealth Short Story prize-winning piece ‘My Mother Pattu’.
The story depicts the complex, yet startlingly familiar relationship of a mother and daughter struggling to find meaning in a world where the expectations placed on women from an early age can often be too much.
“Stories, even fictional ones, come from experiences of people’s lives in the real world,” the Perak-born lady mentioned. “They could be anyone that you’ve heard before or people you know, such as your neighbours, friends and relatives.
“To write anything, it has to come from your heart,” Saras added. “The danger is that modern-day individuals tend to sugarcoat everything they say, even in their writings.”
Faced with constant challenges, Saras recounted, “Despite winning the Commonwealth prize, I still experience many rejections. But that doesn’t stop me from writing because it’s my lifelong passion.
Michelle has a similar sentiment, who revealed that her lifelong wish was to make a difference as both a writer and a storyteller since her younger days.
“My wish came true when I met the ladies from PWW,” she reminisced. “I was given the opportunity to publish ‘After-Rain Skies: A Million Stars.”
‘After-Rain Skies: A Million Stars’ is a compilation book of true, at times bittersweet stories from women who survived domestic violence and abuse, not mentioning heartfelt and thoughtful poetry inspired by them.
“Women who suffered violence or abuse lose their self-worth over time,” Michelle noted.
“Like me, women could be wives, daughters and mothers or even mothers-in-law, some even all at once,” she explained. “We may be respected at work, but it might not be the same case in their household.”
“Luckily, my husband respects my daughters and I at home,” Michelle jested.
“In my opinion, the most powerful form of art is writing,” she insisted. “It would help us rediscover ourselves.”
Both Saras and Michelle expressed, “As women, we could be anything we want to be and we should aim to be the best version of ourselves, both in the working world and personal lives.”
For more information regarding Sharpened Word events, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sharpenedword.kinta.