The recently-concluded celebrates South Asian identity and nurtures that bond in a culturally diverse Britain. One of the highlight sessions in the literature fest spotlighted the illustrious career of British Indian writer Nikesh Shukla – spanning publishing and editing to screenwriting and storytelling.
His newest publication, a kind of love letter to his daughters is entitled ‘Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home’ and explores racism and patriarchy by drawing examples from his own fatherhood. “It’s like an ode to the soft brown dad, which we don’t see enough of, which is me,” explains Shukla. The deconstructs parenting and pours out his grief and loss in this prose.
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Reflecting back on where it all began, Shukla recalls: “All I wanted in 2009 was to write a novel. I didn’t think about if it was going to be published or if I would be getting to do it again.”
By imprinting his views of the world into his pieces, the writer’s thematic range is a concoction of identity, and immigration. Whether it was ‘The One Who Wrote Destiny’ in which the protagonist Rakesh is striving to understand himself and his origins or ‘The Boxer’, which deals with the mental health implication of racial brutality through Sunny’s character.
Shukla also gave a brief insight into his forthcoming work, a comedy which will largely speak about finding oneself and teenage troubles with self-confidence. He admits that comedy has been a constant element infused in his works because he always tries to tickle the funny bone through his works, even on the big screen of any adaptations.
While working with youngsters, Shukla has passionately traversed the problems of mental health and housing issues faced by Britain’s youth in his curation of stories for ‘Rife’ magazine. “There weren’t books being written with teenagers from Bristol in mind,” he explains.
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His take on : “When you are marginalised in an industry, you look out for each other.”
The creative arts industry, multicultural as it may seem from the outside, is indeed a battlefield for an insider who belongs to the group of “ of colour”. The inequality that exists leads to a rat race among the few selected ones to get to the top.
“I want to make sure people make space for loads of us,” reassures the humble author, who only ever set out to write one novel and over the past decade has an impressive body of work to his name.
Being the co-founder of ‘The Good Literary Agency’, Shukla has been focussed on breaking down barriers by giving new writers a platform to publish underrepresented stories. Through his newsletter, he guides newcomers to delicately polish their craft by revisiting every crux of story writing with them.