Seerat Gill, author of One Amazing Sikh at a Time, speaks to Nikita Shahi about how her book helps you embrace your differences, embrace yourself, whatever sets you apart, and also learn about different kinds of people around you.
Tell us something about yourself?
I am an engineer by profession and I have a doctorate in higher education policy and management from Thapar University. Along with academia, I used to regularly contribute articles for national dailies. One Amazing Sikh at a Time is my first book. It’s an illustrated book and I would say it’s perfect for all age groups. It’s as much for children as it’s for parents and grandparents.
What prompted you to write this book?
This endeavor began because my daughter (then 6-years-old) found herself at a crossroad wherein she felt that “blending in” was easier than embracing her uniqueness. All of us must have stood at such a crossroad at least once in our lives. Every bedtime story with my daughter became a treasure hunt to find out about the lives of amazing, beautiful, talented achievers, who looked a bit like our own mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents.
This book is just a collection of our bedtime stories. One thing I have found was that there is a dearth of diverse and inclusive literature for children in the market. I decided that maybe there are other children like mine who would want to know more about their heritage and what makes them different, especially in a country like India, which is so diverse.
What is your book about?
It is a compilation of 51 stories of wonderful men and women from around the world. They are all amazing in their own ways and belong to a mighty minority called the Sikhs.
This book seeks to recount the lives of these amazing Sikhs who have braved discrimination, otherness, and hostility throughout the ages only to emerge victorious.
So, the idea was just to reacquaint our new generation, the generation alpha with their heritage so that they know what sets them apart, what makes them different, and also to understand others without judgment. So, in a country which is so diverse, what we did was pick up one strand of ethnicity and diversity and started learning about it.
How long did it take you to write it?
It has taken more than a year because I was also in the middle of my PHD and work and everything. I also wanted this book to be accompanied by some very nice illustrations to attract children. So, it was a long process from finding the right illustrator to building all parts of it.
What lessons can people draw from your book?
My humble hope through this book is to embrace your differences, to embrace yourself, whatever sets you apart, and also learn about different kinds of people around you. I also feel that in today’s time, there is a dearth of real heroes. At least once in a lifetime all of us will stand at a crossroads and we will have to take the right path and for that, we need real heroes and our children too would need to emulate them.
As a researcher of higher education and policy, I can tell you that no matter what interventions we bring in, the foundation years at school have a big impact. So, storytelling and reading in early childhood have far-reaching effects, as compared to interventions at a later stage. Let’s not undermine the magic in stories — they can open a window in a brick wall! Especially inspirational stories like these are needed, there’s a dearth of real heroes in the bleak times of today’s world.