| Singapore | 13 Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |
Singapore-born Balli Kaur Jaswal, who authored the novel Inheritance released in 2013, is now working on writing a novel titled Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows.
“I’ve finished a draft and I’m in the middle stages of editing it. The novel is about a group of Punjabi widows in London who start an erotic storytelling club,” she says in a recent interview with Scroll.
“I’m also finishing up some edits on a young adult novel I wrote in college titled Sugarbread, which is also centred around a Punjabi family in Singapore, but narrated from the point of view of a young girl named Pin who is trying to find out a secret about her mother. I’d love to have this novel first published in Singapore,” she adds in the same interview.
Balli, who has been living in Australia with her partner, is now leaving for Istanbul where she will join the teaching staff at an international school, according to the article.
Inheritance, released by Australian-based Sleepers Publishing in February 2013, is badged as the first English-language novel about Singapore’s Punjabi-Sikh diaspora.
It is described as a nation’s coming-of-age story, seen through the sharp lens of a traditional Punjabi family as it gradually unravels.
Singapore-born Balli was raised in Japan, Russia and the Philippines, and studied creative writing in the United States. Now, she is leaving Australia for Istanbul where she will join the teaching staff at an international school.
“As an individual, I identify very much as a Singaporean/Sikh. My aim was to write a story about a traditional Singaporean family grappling with their rapidly modernising landscape,” she says about the book.
“In it, a Sikh family wrestles with the unexplained loss of its matriarch, the dismissal from the army of the eldest son under suspicion of homosexuality, and the misdiagnosis of its lone daughter “to devastating consequences” against the backdrop of a newly independent country’s search for identity,” she tells in an interview published in Scroll.
Set in Singapore between the 1970’s and 1990’s, Inheritance follows the familial fissures that develop after teenaged Amrit, who suffers from a bipolar personality, disappears in the middle of the night. Although her absence is brief, she returns as a different person, according to a note on Balli’s website.
“To be honest, I didn’t come across many Singaporean South Asian English-language novels when I was writing Inheritance. Meira Chand’s A Different Sky features an Indian immigrant character during a turbulent time in Singapore’s history. Roopa Farooki’s novel, Half-Life centres around the love story of a Singaporean-Indian couple. Jolene Tan’s recent novel, A Certain Exposure tackled racism quite deftly by portraying a relationship between a Chinese boy and an Indian girl. One of my favourites, though, is Preeta Samarasan’s Evening Is The Whole Day. It’s set in Malaysia, not Singapore, but it’s about an Indian family and it is just breathtaking,” she says.’
Talking about migration and dislocation, Balli says the common immigrant narrative is that people leave everything behind to come to a new land, and although they face incredible hardship at first, they end up succeeding.
“It’s the story everyone likes to hear and so it’s the story everyone starts to believe. In the Indian diaspora in particular, stories of families overcoming the odds and achieving success in their adopted countries form a benchmark by which everyone else is measured.
“I was really interested in the idea of a family falling short of the expected narrative. What if all of that hard work didn’t quite pay off? What if children disappoint their parents? I think these unexpected narratives occur much more often than the linear immigrant success stories,” she says.
Balli add that that anyone who writes about Singapore would have to consider its complexities before telling a story about its people.
For the full interview, entitled ‘Writing fiction about Sikhs in Singapore: if you don’t know her, you should’, go here.
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