Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 22


JKB: Yeah, you know, I think I believe it actually really did come when I was 11 because I’ve been taking care of my parents as long as I can remember, traveling. I think the reason I became a student of literature and why I started writing was because of my parents. The immigrant experience has really inspired me because I have felt it first hand. I’ve felt discrimination first hand. I see how they treat us and I see how I feel like we are different.

Chitra talked in the interview I did about how we have this "great need to transform America and how we are transformed by America." I believe that I had to grow up really early which is probably when I started writing more. But, I never wrote about my culture. I just wrote about how I felt at those times, you know just little teenaged things that you feel. I used to keep a lot of diaries. Then, I remember, I would burn them 'cause I didn’t like my writing. I burnt them because I felt that the arts, in Indian culture were never really celebrated, and then I totally found out that’s not true.

In India there’s all the arts, movies, books, literature. My people live and breathe poetry, and I didn’t even know it. Like a year ago I didn’t know it. That’s who we are; even the Sikh religious text; that’s all poetry. So for me, I burnt a lot of [my stuff] because I thought that I would get made fun of, or siblings were like "you’re so weird." You know, they would always call me a hippy. I remember my cousins came over, and they read my diary, and they laughed at it. I was just so secretive of my writing.

And I remember taking Kiara Koenig’s [Creative Writing] class when I read Chitra Divakaruni. I was like, whoa, this is about those Hindu myths that I love with my dad. We used to watch these when I was little. We’d watch them so much, and I think for me I was like, wow, I really enjoy this because this is about my people in a sense. Even though I’m Sikh… Sikhism is a take off from Hinduism because Guru Nanak, our first God, was Hindu. So yeah, I think for me [the turning point] was when I took Kiara Koenig’s class and she introduced me to this writer and I was just like, wow, there are really Indian writers.

The thing is, [Chitra's] so good. I was reading her writing, and I just didn’t