Hey hey hey!
I’m writing this from LA (whoop whoop!) and this is going up first day of school, so it has to be done ASAP!
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview SGD Singh, the author of Exiled to Freedom, a story about the Partition of Punjab, a girl who goes through it, and a girl long after who learns about her history.
This is my stop during the blog tour for Exiled to Freedom by SGD Singh. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 12 till 25 August. See the tour schedule here.
Seventeen year old Joti lives a peaceful life on her ancestral farm in Punjab, far from political turmoil, foreign wars, and the struggle for independence. Until the summer of 1947, when her country is suddenly partitioned to create two sovereign nations—Pakistan and India.
Punjab erupts into a shattered land of nightmares, torn apart by death and destruction. Before the violence subsides, millions of people will have lost their lives and Joti will find herself amongst the countless refugees fighting to survive one of the greatest tragedies of the modern era.
In the summer of 2018, seventeen year old Priya travels from her home in New York City to her great grandmother’s farm in Punjab. Searching for meaning in her materialistic and shallow existence, she becomes determined to uncover the mysteries of the past and heal her family’s wounds, left too long unattended.
Priya soon finds herself on an adventure of discovery, learning what it is to love and what it means to know true peace.
You can find Exiled to Freedom on Goodreads
You can buy Exiled to Freedom here on Amazon
About the Author:
SiriGuruDev Singh lives in New Mexico and Punjab, India with her husband, two daughters, and various extended relatives and animals. She is the author of the YA urban fantasy trilogy The Infernal Guard and Exiled To Freedom, a YA historical fiction novel about India’s bloody Partition of 1947.
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Exiled to Freedom. There will be 5 winners who all win a signed copy of Exiled to Freedom. Open International.
For a chance to win, enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!
Here’s my interview! I was honored to have the chance to talk to an Indian author writing about her history and culture 🙂
- Thank you so much for being here today! What inspired you to write Exiled to Freedom?
Thank you so much for having me! Being a Sikh and growing up in India, I’d heard about Partition from a young age of course, but it wasn’t until my husband’s family’s stories that the history began to really come to life for me.
What especially inspired me to write Exiled to Freedom was my friend Parnita’s grandmother’s experiences, which she would tell me over our lazy afternoons in quiet Northern New Mexico. It was her mother who had been only one day old and almost left behind when her family had to flee Pakistan, her first memories being of hunger and hardship in a refugee camp. Immediately I said, “Someone needs to tell this story!” And since none of them wanted to write it, I began working on it with their blessing.
- How is Joti’s life inspired by your own experiences?
I have no conceivable way to compare my life to Joti’s. None at all. All the years of feeling homesick in boarding school—from the age of 6 to 15—can’t even begin to compare to what thousands of people like Joti were made to suffer through—and are still going through around the world to this day.
- For 2nd generation Indian children like myself, what advice would you give us if we want to be true to our culture while adapting to the circumstances?
If culture is the customs, the art, the social institutions, and achievements of a nation, then all we have to do to be true to our culture is hold onto those things. Adapting to the times happened automatically, but language. Language is the number one thing I feel that really captures the essence of a culture, and it’s important to keep it alive and thriving, use it and practice it, teach it to our children—so that they can then pass that culture on through music, through art, through poetry and scripture, through food, through clothing. Each of the diverse Indian cultures is so rich and vibrant, so deep and soul-nurturing, it really is a gift to immerse oneself in it, not a challenge at all.
- How was writing a novel changed your perspective on life, real-world problems, and history?
I think writing has deepened my love of people more than anything else. The human race is absolutely fascinating to me. Every person I see sparks my curiosity, every person has a story I want to know!
- Do you think that the Partition affected really young children as it did adults and younger teens?
Absolutely. They may have no memory of the events, but they each have missing family, people—parents, siblings, cousins—they will never know because of Partition. Like Parnita’s mother, they have early and lasting memories of starvation and hardship living with absolutely nothing. They suffer from health problems as a result of early malnutrition. They also seem to have a greater endurance and appreciation for hard work and pride and satisfaction of what they’ve achieved in their lives than the rest of us.
My mother-in-law and so many people of her generation never complain—never no matter what—and they absolutely abhor wasting anything. It gives her actual physical pain to see the way we Americans will throw food away, or let things go rotten in the fridge, or toss belongings aside once we’ve grown tired of them.
- How did Partition affect you, Ms. Singh?
I was born in 1976 in Orlando, Florida, so I can’t pretend that Partition affected me in comparison with anyone who lived through it. That being said, as a Sikh, I wish it were an easy thing to visit our historical places that are now in Pakistan. A part of me does wish, perhaps selfishly, that they were still a part of Punjab in India, and I can only imagine—just a tiny fraction of the pain—that someone who used to live there feels every day.
- Thank you for being with us today! Any last words of advice?
It really means a lot to me that you took the time to read Exiled to Freedom. I appreciate it crores upon crores! Keep being your wonderful self!
You can read an excerpt here:
“His own father was killed in one of the riots before the border was announced,” he continued as if I had not spoken. “He could have hidden after that. He could have forgotten his commitment to our family. He knew we lost everything, that our home was on the wrong side of the new border.”
Papa released me then, and I crossed my arms, turning away from him to face the trees again.
“But he chose to help those in need instead. He singlehandedly took charge of his entire neighborhood, and, risking death from many who were driven mad with vengeance, he saved the lives of every soul who sought shelter there.”
I realized I was trembling as Papa wrapped me into his safe embrace.
“And he chose to look for you as soon as the violence ended.”
Papa raised my face and wiped my tears away with his rough hands.
“I will not be disappointed if you decide not to marry him, Joti. That is the truth. But I believe you should at least speak to him. Just for a few minutes. Decide for yourself what you think is best.”
I nodded. It was unheard of to speak to your fiancé in those days, of course, but it seemed that nothing from the past would remain the same.
My father led me back through the camp and to the river’s edge. The sun hung low in the sky by then, and the camp held a peaceful stillness.
My two uncles joined us halfway down the winding path, leading the four strangers I had seen earlier.
Papa motioned me to go alone farther along the rocky ground.
After an agonizingly long moment, I saw from the corner of my vision that one of the strangers had broken away from the others. He hesitated before approaching me. I turned my eyes away before my gaze reached his face, feeling an inexplicable panic well up in me at the thought of what I would see. If he was old and ugly, would I reject him based on that? And how would I live with the shame of that for the rest of my life?
And if he was beautiful and young, what would I do then?
It was unthinkable that I could still care for such meaningless nonsense, and yet there was no denying that my mind thought these things even as my soul scrambled, fighting like a bird trapped in a cage.
The six men watched us like sentinels, just out of earshot as the sound of the rushing river filled my ears. I felt a surge of pride at how intimidating my father and his two brothers looked, even in their rags and in spite of how thin they had grown in the last two years.
The man I had been arranged to marry once upon a time—a lifetime ago—spoke to me then, but I didn’t hear what he said. I only registered that his voice, at least, was far from hideous.
He took a step closer and raised his voice.
“Your father says you have lived in this place for almost two years.”
“And?” I felt suddenly angry, which was better than terrified, at least.
“And…and I am sorry for your family’s suffering. It must have been—”
“The people in this camp care about each other,” I snapped, my own voice harsher than I meant it to be. “They help each other. They share. They never steal.”
“Of course. I only meant that—”
“My father says you saved Muslims.” I hoped he would hear the disgust in my voice and leave. Just turn around and walk away, before I could even gather the courage to look at his face.
“I…” He sounded confused. “I did what was right. What anyone would have done.”
“Anyone?” I rounded on him, looking at him before I knew what I was doing. He was anything but hideous and old, and I blinked in surprise, nearly forgetting my anger for an instant in the face of his beauty. “Do you know how many doors were closed in our faces? Do you know how many turned their backs on our pain? On our deaths?”
“And how many of us turned our backs here?” he said.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you want to read this book, don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway or buy it on Amazon!
Have a wonderful day~