Amrit’s mental illness is central to the novel – her behaviour has a ripple effect on her family members and subsequent generations.The story revolves around a “problem” that is so taboo, nobody knows how to handle it and when they do attempt to “resolve” it, the results are disastrous.“It speaks to my experience and helps me understand ways of communicating that experience to a wider audience.
I don't think that traditional concepts of mental illness are always wrong, or that Western medicine is the solution to everything.
How does Singapore, the place, influence you and your work?
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 think that anyone who writes about Singapore would have to consider its complexities before telling a story about its people.
Perhaps that’s why I consider shelved in bookshops under “Indian Literature”.
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.
Your complex and tender portrayal of a bipolar personality and the stigma of mental illness is the highlight of the novel.
How important was it to you to write about an issue so often misunderstood and/or ignored in the South Asian community, especially in the diaspora given those narratives of “success”?
is the first English-language novel about Singapore’s Punjabi-Sikh diaspora.