books, essays, writing

The Second Half of the Forth


Questions, conversations. Comments, stories. Readings. All of this, digested, processed, reviewed.

This short eBook is a collection of what came, from there.

Reflections on a year of ‘thrashing,’ to come back to a quiet moment and find out where it was that one began, as far as what one had said at the beginning in youth, what is that, again?, and where one wants to take it, in the Second Half.

‘Life Part 2, is what this is about. I mean, not really. It’s more of getting into the mindset of starting that new thing. I think I’m just at the intermission right now. Sorting it out. Ha, as if that’s a thing you can do really easily. It’s fun, though, talking to people about this topic. It’s interesting and cool, and occasionally quite unimpressive. That, I think, is what this is. Life isn’t so extraordinary now, it’s just what it is. And next? I want to be careful about getting too caught up in goal-setting and forget to do some actual enjoying, for Life Part 2. But that’s just me.

‘A sharing. Unfiltered. In an era where the authentic and unedited isn’t as easy to find, so much, here I am.’ -Dipika Kohli

books, vignettes

An anniversary: 37 years after the death of Air India Flight 182

June 23. It’s this day in 1985. That we lost the people who were on board Flight 182 of Air India. A plane called Kanishka.

My best friend was on that plane, along with her brother and her mother. It was the weirdest and most surreal feeling, ever, to see that story reported on national news. But we didn’t talk about it, out loud. We never did, at home. Emotional topics were not to be brought up, and ‘bad things’ cast aside, and ‘past is past’ invalidating anything close to an actual feeling. This is how childhood grief can solidify and stifle someone. I worked out some of that with people, years later. Another girl who, like me, was watching in horror as it all unfolded, us talking many years later, like the little kids still grappling with it that we, emotionally, still really were.



Many years later, I went to see the Air India Memorial in person and joined the service on this day that was held there, in Ahakista, with the kids playing their instruments and locals laying out foodstuffs on white tablecloths in the outdoor setting so we could all mark the moment together.  What a story. I wound up living in Ireland not far from there. I wound up seeing the black-and-white, three-d reality of the memorial. It was the closest I had had, til then, of closure. Because we ‘don’t get emotional,’ at home. Because of that. Closedness to the heart. At age 10 I stuffed away this pain. At the memorial, I could open that box and see what was in it. And there I found a part of myself that had been set aside for so, so long. The part that was still crying.


Writing Kanishka

I wrote the story Kanishka after visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar and talking to Salim Jiwa, the author of the book The Death of Air India Flight 182. I also did a writing residency at a place in northern India, in Preetnagar, with some very excellent people including Poonam Singh. Who understood the nature of my e-query, to their first-iteration version of the residency program back then. I sent a note through the form, in which I asked if I could come and stay and write and listen to their angle on the things that had happened, which affected them, too. ‘Operation Blue Star…’ Unhesitatingly I was invited.  Then, Kanishka was published as a serial in Ms. Singh’s magazine, in 2015. As I learned at that time, it was to be the first-ever English-language series. That felt good, for this Punjabi-American, to hear.


Of childhood grief

It’s in my story, what I heard. It’s not a historical piece or a journalistic one, but it’s the story I could tell. As honestly and true and deeply as I could. The loss of my best friend, at age 10. In a terrorist attack on her airplane.


End of the Rainbow (2020)

My first book, The Elopement, was about running off to Ireland to get married. Kind of. I didn’t mean to run off, and I didn’t mean to get married. Lots of things happen in the course of, well, youth. Next year marks the 20-year anniversary of the events in that book’s main story, and I wanted to write a follow-up one. Its working title is End of the Rainbow.  


Order End of the Rainbow


The Dive (2012)

To Q. and V.: I know it’s not easy working on this, at the point of time where you are, at the moment. It’s been a little while since I wrote or talked about The Dive, published back in 2012. What I was saying was… what happens is that we keep going somehow.,. I was reading S. Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot the other day in Penang. Terribly depressing writer, if you want to know my opinion. I used to think this was ‘great art’ but now I just think it’s ‘sad art.’ I don’t think it’s a problem writing about sad things, but my gosh, it drones for hundreds of pages, this like academics’ roundups of SB’s so-called great stories, and it made me want to just go to sleep for a long time. I left it in Penang, even though it was beautifully typeset and I had wanted to study it so I could lay out some new texts of mine in a similar way. But no. Too sad. Where are the artful stories that celebrate the good stuff? We need more of those, given… well. [deleted]

Art and Sort-of Art

There is Art, or whatever, and there is of course Sometimes art-like, and I have a twenty-yearlong debate going with my best friend about this concept of ‘bad art has a place in the world, though’ and me yelling that it does NOT, but okay you have to make a lot of bad stuff to get to the good stuff, I see that but you don’t have to share it, do you? Or maybe you do. Maybe this blog is an example of that... *hiccup* Hm. Okay fine. That’s fine. Maybe, maybe. Learning and changing and growing and ‘putting yourself out there’ jazz. Fair enough. Sure it’s subjective but there are frames made by those who design the frames so let’s decide for ourselves what we want to read, can we, maybe? Thank you.  Okay, I know, all of the above is mostly random side information but the thing is, twelve years later I am finding that you, those of you I just met, I mean, and I have had a shared past experience. Sometimes that’s enough to help us work through and process where we are. In the moment, at the moment. It’s not easy. Books helped me cope and I wonder if mine might be something you would like to read.


We just have to go on. That’s what Godot’s about, in a way. ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’ Right? So let’s try that. Meantime, though, for comfort, it’s also nice to hear about how things went for other people who walked in the same tracks that we did. That got me through my hard time, and I hope that my words, recording my feelings here, might help you get through yours…  all this to say… Q. and V.: Thanks for the honesty, the sharing, and the conversations. Here’s more about the book I wrote for M., and where you can get it.