The Juggernaut Short Story Contest saw an overwhelming number of entries, and we were floored by the brilliant stories we received. The judges finally chose Shuma Raha’s The Girl on the Road, a scathing take on the hypocrisies of the upper middle class, while also a commentary on gender violence in India.
Shuma was associate editor at The Telegraph and senior writer at The Times of India before she quit full-time journalism last year, and now works as an independent journalist and columnist, while writing fiction in her free time. We spoke to her in a quick tête-à-tête:
What inspired you to write The Girl on the Road? How long did it take you to write it?
The story was triggered in my head after I heard someone mention that men driving solo on the highways around Gurgaon have been accosted by girls who pretend to be in distress. But obviously, my story is not only about that. It is about upper middle class Indians, their foibles and hypocrisies. There is also a suggestion that in some ways we are all participants in and responsible for the ‘rape culture’ that plagues Indian society.
Why did you choose to enter the Juggernaut Short Story Contest? Was there anything in particular that excited you?
I have been writing short stories for some time. I chanced upon a tweet announcing the Juggernaut Short Story Contest. And sent in an entry. The possibility of a win excited me.
Which authors do you turn to for inspiration?
There are tonnes of authors I like to read. As far as short stories are concerned, my favourites are Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, Anton Chekov, F Scott Fitzgerald, William Trevor, Raymond Carver and so on.
Would you recommend such contests to emerging writers? Do you think they help writers in any way?
Yes, indeed, I would. A win in a contest like this can be a huge confidence boost for an emerging writer.
Three tips for anyone who wants to write short stories:
I am too new a writer of fiction to give tips to anyone. But here’s a tip from William Trevor, one of the finest writers of short fiction:
A short story ‘should be an explosion of truth. Its strength lies in what it leaves out just as much as what it puts in, if not more.’