Centre for Stories

Indian Ocean Mentoring Project – An Interview with Priya Kahlon

"I think I always looked towards writing as a reprieve from the structure and rigidity of modern life and as a way to make sense of the world."

January 13, 2019

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.

Priya Kahlon is a lawyer and poet with Punjabi heritage. Her parents migrated to Australia in the 80s, and although she was born and raised in Australia, her Indian culture has always remained a significant part of her life.

Priya enjoys lyrical prose and believes that writing is a way to break free from the shackles of modern day life. Poetry in particular for her, is a way to transcend the boundaries that constrain other forms of writing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Priya Kahlon and I am a poet part of the mentoring program. I love the ability of language to take you on a journey and evoke emotions within you that you didn’t even know you had.

What is your connection to the Indian Ocean region?

My parents and extended family grew up in the state of Punjab in the north of India before immigrating to Australia in the 80s. I was born and brought up in Australia but the food, culture and language of India has always featured in my life.

When did you realize you had a passion for writing?

I think I always looked towards writing as a reprieve from the structure and rigidity of modern life and as a way to make sense of the world. I am surrounded by words and writing in my day job as a lawyer, but the language is more process driven and formulaic. Poetry offers a form of expression that is without constraints and a freedom to explore language with no boundaries.

What are you hoping to get out of this mentorship?

My mentor Robert Wood has already broadened my perspective by opening me up to a world of poets and poetry that I never knew existed, for which I am so grateful. I am enjoying immersing myself in this community, and the opportunity to dedicate myself to the craft and to explore the type of writer I would like to be.

Who are some of your favourite writers/books?

I tend to gravitate towards writing that is lyrical, evocative, and vivid with some of my favourite books being The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. In terms of poets, I feel like I am only just scratching the surface of the world of poetry and the richness that the community has to offer.

Photo: Zal Kanga-Parabia

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