Photo and interview by ISABELLE DOCTO
What does it mean to be hyphenated?
It’s a privilege because it opens me up to more opportunities. I know a lot of my compatriots think of it as being a block. I think it’s a present. In my writings where I talk about the Indian culture, my readers just love it. I don’t think I could be as powerful of a writer as I am today, so this has been quite a journey for me and it’s because of my heritage, a legacy which my ancestors have passed on to me.
In no way do I want to change any of it and I appreciate all of the traditions, the culture, the cuisine, the attire, even the accents.
Were you born here or did you immigrate here?
That’s a very interesting story actually. I was born in Canada, but I was only two-and-half years of age when my parents decided to move back to India. I became an English teacher in France when I was in my twenties, but after that I came back to Canada just like an immigrant would have. I didn’t remember anything that Canada was, so to me it was all new. So when my book came out in 2013, they were saying ‘Oh, she’s an Indo-Canadian author’ and I said, ‘Oh, wow, what a title,’ because now they’re telling me that this is what my writing is and they’re helping me in that way to promote my culture.
Normally when people immigrate, they don’t go from Canada to India…
My mother was very attached to her culture and her traditions, so she wanted to raise my sister and I in our native culture. She said that we would lose our roots if we were raised here [Canada]. By taking us back and giving us those roots they gave us the necessary ingredients that any person of that ancestry should have. So, now I’m proud to say I’m Canadian, but I’m also proud to be . So the hyphen to me is a blessing.”