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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

What Rupi Kaur heard while growing up: ‘Can’t you just fit in? Eww, you are so Indian!’

Indo-Canadian author Rupi Kaur talks about growing up as an immigrant, expressing her mind through poetry, the pressure of always delivering a bestseller, and her fear of performing in public.

books Updated: Feb 17, 2018 17:44 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
Indian-origin Canadian poet Rupi Kaur talks about her micro-poetry.
Indian-origin Canadian poet Rupi Kaur talks about her micro-poetry.(Waseem Gashroo/HT)

A mix of erstwhile empire and Indian aesthetics — Sujan Singh Park — is one of those places where ‘New Delhi’ was born. And so when Indo-Canadian poet Rupi Kaur invited us for a tête-à-tête, it served as the perfect backdrop.

“At home, your parents say, ‘What are you doing? Picking up all the ‘bad’ traits. And then you go out into the world, and they’re like, ‘Eww, you’re so Indian, can’t you just fit in?’ The only place I could be myself was in my artwork. It’s my lifeline. I funnelled a lot of pain into my writing and embracing my differences,” says the best-selling author.

Recently, Kaur was in India on a seven-city tour, where her first stop was a literary festival in Jaipur. She says,“It was as if I had waited my whole life for this moment. It was my only show, where I wasn’t nervous. The crowd was energetic.”

Poet Rupi Kaur performed spoken word poetry in Delhi recently.
Poet Rupi Kaur performed spoken word poetry in Delhi recently.

Her latest book, The Sun and Her Flowers, redefines the male celestial body, by giving it a female identity. Ask her how she came up with the title and she says, “I’ve observed the idea of love and longing in sunflowers. They follow the sun wherever it goes. I think, women are very powerful. Like the sun, the world comes from us. So why make it a male entity? I’m like the sun and these flowers are experiences that I go through in life.”

The pressure to deliver a bestseller to her readers, each time she writes, is enormous, feels Kaur. “You’re confused and lost. With Milk and Honey (2014), it just happened. But, now I had to write something which will also be a bestseller, sell a million copies, and do all the things Milk and Honey did. I’m not a trained author; it took me a couple of years to find that strength,” says Kaur. However, the author feels that the fame is rewarding. “When I meet people and they say that my poetry has helped them, it’s worth it. I’d do every thing, a hundred times over, for this. I feel blessed to live a life where I can talk about my art to the world,” says Kaur, who is an Instagram sensation.

But was poetry always her calling? “I always knew that I would be expressing myself through art, but didn’t think that it would be poetry,” says the 25-year old. Kaur has often admitted her fear of performing in public. Then, how did she manage to overcome it? “Practice. I’ve been performing for nine years now. However, I still get nervous. But I’m determined to keep performing,” she says. Her first book was self-published, before being picked up by a publisher. With tools like Instagram and Twitter, budding artists are getting more visibility, feels the author. “Social media is changing the world,” says Kaur. But in the war between e-books and paperbacks, she chooses paperbacks. And why so? “There’s nothing like holding a book. I think it has more to do with the sensory feeling,” says Kaur.

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