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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

A tragedy in Mira Singh’s life leaves her devastated and mourning. No one in her family knows how to confront the tragedy that befalls them. They place the blame on each other, and even on God. Mira’s parents do not understand the struggles of their children.

The family immigrated from India in 1984 and faced discrimination because of their religious background and practices. Mira’s brother faced the worst discrimination. Traumatized, he becomes estranged from his family.

Within this web of family tragedy and grief, forbidden love blooms in the hearts of the women in the story. It triggers a bitter-sweet romance and a heart-wrenching tale of love lost. The clash between old world sanctity and the new Western world’s temptations reveals the true test of character and strength in the family members.

Each of them struggles not only to communicate with each other, but to understand each other’s perspectives, or to relate to their different relationships with American culture and society. An exploration of assimilation and banishment, of the cost of difference and the value of family weave this powerful story together into a breathtaking novel of quiet beauty.

Krishma Tuli Arora’s From Ash To Ashes is a beautiful coming-of-age story. It follows Mira and her immigrant family as they grapple with the differences between their traditional Sikh faith and the changing culture of the world around them.

The Kirkus Review writes that “Chapters move forward and backward in time, slowly revealing the central mystery in a tantalizing way… [From Ash to Ashes] encourages readers to wrestle with questions of parental abuse, individual dreams, personal sacrifice, and religious faith as Mira and her siblings navigate a multitude of challenges. A complex depiction of a family in turmoil.”

Arora began writing From Ash to Ashes seventeen years ago, after the death of her first child. His loss inspired her book, and she has dedicated it to his memory. Like her protagonist Mira, Arora immigrated to the United States from India when she was five. She grew up on Long Island and then attended New York University. Arora is a poet, writer, and public speaker and the author of “Free Spirit,” a monthly column in her hometown magazine, Brookville Living. She is currently writing a nonfiction book, a collection of essays on womanhood and motherhood as seen through the eyes of a woman of color.

Krishma Tuli Arora talked to Sanjana Kartik of India Currents about From Ash to Ashes, cultural taboos, and the personal trauma that triggered the novel.

Sanjana Kartik: Why did you write this book?

Krishma Tuli Arora: The purpose of the book is to raise awareness about topics that are taboo in South Asian culture, such as mental health and trauma, marriage outside one’s religion, adultery, the generational and cultural gap between parents and children, as well as homosexuality.

SK: Can you share the back story behind From Ash To Ashes?

KTA: The death of my first child inspired me to write a story about a family who struggles with grief and loss. My personal trauma of losing a child was what fueled my writing as a way of channeling my emotions and grief. This novel helped me cope, and after many years, I learned to live a healthy and fulfilling life again.

SK: It took a while for this story to evolve. Why? And what makes it unique?

KTA: This book is unique because it focuses on a Punjabi Sikh family, a group not often represented in literature. I began writing the book when I was 25 years old, after my son’s death. It took another 17 years till completion and then another year to find a publisher. It took so long because I would put it down for years at a time because I had four more children. I also returned to school for my Master’s in Education and worked as a High School Social Studies teacher for eleven years.

SK: Is there a central message you wanted to share?

KTA: The main message of this book is the importance of incorporating “oneness” into our lives. Accepting fully and unconditionally the differences of others. It is essential to see not only the “oneness” and unity of our humanity, but also embracing our spirituality of the “oneness” of the universe, God, and nature around us.

SK: Your story addresses some taboo subjects. Tell us about that.

KTA: The topics of mental health, family solidarity, and the immigrant experience are crucial to the issues plaguing our society today. My book addresses the problem of divisiveness within families as well as society. The characters suffer due to their inability to communicate with each other. The divisive nature of people and the burden of societal pressures lead to a fatal tragedy. The story’s moral is to recognize the unity between all people and what ultimately matters most:  love.

This book embodies multiple themes and perspectives in one story while simultaneously tying tragedy and triumph together.

From Ash to Ashes – an excerpt

“I had been hiding at home for the last few months, praying that I could stay hibernating like a bear, warm and safe, where my wounds could heal into scabs. Shielded from the cruel winter of the world, I wanted to stay there in that place of false safety without being reminded of the memories that would rip open again, the place where I bled.”

From Ash to Ashes (‎Apprentice House Press, May 2023) by Krishma Tuli Arora released on May 23, 2023.

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Sanjana Karthik

Sanjana Karthik has her own writing organization – Your Words Matter To Us, a mental health app – myEsprit, and is the host and co-founder of the Shawmulticultural show – The Reality Is. Her poetry...