By Tori Levy
I had no idea who Minal Hajratwala was before I was assigned one of her short stories in a creative writing class. I had read her short essay, A Guide On Gender In India a few days prior to her visit at Miami Unversity on Febuarary 13. It was a raw, honest, and satirical truth on the gender issues in India.
When I first sat down I noticed her slick, chic, black hair that had a touch of a blue tint. She was calm and carried confidence as she walked up to the podium before adjusting the mic. Her voice was soft but also soothing to listen to. She began with her poem, “The Shallows.”
“Sometimes you float. Sometimes you think and sink,” she read.
Once she finished, she took a breath and looked around the room before she talked about the meaning behind the poem.
“Sometimes we think we’re drowning, but all we need to do is stand.”
I didn’t know if she was talking about her experiences as a woman or the suppressive nature she has faced from the world around her, but I leaned in closer to hear more.
After a few more of her poems, she began to talk about her book, Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents. Hajratwala had spent seven years traveling the world, interviewing more than 75 members of her family. Her family journey begins from five villages to five continents. But her personal story begins in America.
Born in San Francisco and later raised in Michigan, Hajratwala was incredibly lonely growing up. She was in a constant state of rage in her youth.
“It was destructive for myself and others around me,” she said.
She struggled with migration in all forms; as an Indian in a predominately white suburb and coming out as a lesbian.
Her book was inspired by her family’s past struggles as well as her own. I picked up a copy of Hajratwala’s story after her visit. She incorporates research, an intimate narrative, as well as a poetic sensibility that transforms into a powerful and moving read.