The Indian Ocean Mentoring Project is an extension of our incredibly successful mentoring program undertaken two years ago for early and emerging writers of African heritage. This second mentoring program is focused on early and emerging writers who are permanent residents or Australian citizens of Indian Ocean heritage living in WA. The Indian Ocean Rim countries are: Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In this series of interviews, we uncover the inner worlds of these budding writers, focusing on their connection to the Indian Ocean region, their motivation for writing and the authors that inspire them.
Rushil D’Cruz is a 20 year old Medical student at UWA, who dabbles in both music and Murakami. At 8, he migrated from Malaysia to Western Australia, spending a significant portion of his school years in Kalgoorlie, before moving to Perth in 2016.
As a child in Malaysia, he was often regaled with tales of mythology and superstition, particularly by his grandfather, who once acted as an exorcist for his town. Having tried his hand at script-writing and poetry, Rushil has found that his main realm of interest lies in sharing narratives about the migrant experience, narratives which diverge from the dominant Western perspective, revealing a whole other dimension of culture and life that needs to be brought to light.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 20- year- old student currently studying Medicine at UWA, with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. I emigrated from Malaysia when I was 8 and lived in Kalgoorlie for the rest of my school years, before coming to Perth in 2016. I’ve always had a deep love for music and have been playing the piano since I was 5 and the guitar from 13. Recently I’ve been around travelling to a couple of different countries (plugging my Instagram @sushi_druz) for photos), witnessing many different cultures which has inspired me to push myself in a creative direction and share stories that we don’t get to see in western media. I think it’s important to have the mindset that our stories are important and worth telling, to challenge dominant narratives that we’re fed.
And since moving to Australia in year 4, everyone has always called me Sushi.
What is your connection to the Indian Ocean region?
My whole family is Malaysian, all of us having been born there and most of my family still living there (only my immediate family migrated). My great-grandparents emigrated from India.
When did you get interested in writing or when did you realize you had a passion for writing?
Since Malaysia is such a diverse country (primarily composed of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures), I’d always been surrounded by different mythologies and superstitions told through stories. When I was young, my grandfather used to tell us stories about a period of time when he acted as an unofficial exorcist for his town (his actual job was the headmaster of a local school), and I’ve been fascinated with storytelling ever since. I’d always written and enjoyed writing through high school – scripts, short stories, poetry – but only recently have I started writing to express these fantastic stories and ideas from my childhood as well as telling stories about growing up in Australia yet not being considered ‘Australian’. The more I read other ‘migrant writers’, the more I realise that I have a voice that might connect with someone out there and let them know they aren’t alone in their emotions and that we can create a space to be proud of where we’re from.
What are you hoping to get out of this mentorship?
I really didn’t know what to expect going into this mentorship apart from maybe getting some tips and guidance on the writing process from an established author. I’ve gained so much more than that in the past few months, getting to know the writing community in Perth, learning about the process of getting published and most importantly, how to find my own voice and stay true to my stories in writing. I’ve also been exposed to so many authors I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of who tell the stories of confused cultural identity and the search for community, a subject which has always been close to my heart.
Who are some of your favourite writers/books?
I’ve recently been really enjoying Murakami (‘Norwegian Wood’ and ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’) and have been really excited to see where Julie Koh goes after reading ‘Portable Curiosities’. A large part of my teenage years was spent devouring science fiction (Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender’s Game’ series, Koshun Takami’s ‘Battle Royale’ and George Orwell’s ‘1984’ for example) and in the past year I’ve been engaging a lot with essayists like James Baldwin and Bell Hooks. I think when science fiction and horror are done well, they have the unique ability to reflect these uncomfortable truths about reality and our society and that intersection of entertainment and keen social commentary is my sweet spot.
Photo: Zal Kanga-Parabia