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Amrit meets reknown UK authors Bali Rai & Sathnam Sanghera

On Saturday 4 October 2014, Punjab2000’s Amrit met with renown authors Bali Rai and Sathnam Sanghera at the Everybody’s Reading Festival 2014.

Writers Bali Rai and Sathnam Sanghera with Amrit Matharu at Leicester's Everybody's Reading

Writers Bali Rai and Sathnam Sanghera with Amrit Matharu at Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading

Everybody’s Reading is a 9 day festival of all things reading taking place across the city in schools, libraries and venues in Leicester including Curve, The Guildhall, Museums, The Phoenix, The City Farm, Space Centre and lots of cafes, bars and other unusual places.

Everybody’s Reading is about encouraging people from all over Leicester to hear spoken word artists, poets, authors and community writers in their local community venues and offers funding to help make this happen. Last year the event welcomed around 4500 people to reading events.

Leicester author, Bali Rai headed a small talk along side business columnist for The Times, Sathnam Sanghera at The Font on De Montfort University campus in Leicester on Saturday 4 October at 6.30pm.

Rai’s debut novel, (un)arranged marriage, was published in 2001 to fantastic reviews; he has since written numerous popular books for children and young people including The Crew, The Whisper, Rani and Sukh and most recently Web of Darkness. Rai attends many school visits and now spends a large part of the year doing events, promotions and creative writing classes.


Sanghera’s first book was the autobiography The Boy with a Topknot a memoir of his life growing up as a young Sikh boy from Wolverhampton discovering his identity and uncovering family secrets. In 2013 Sanghera released his debut novel Marriage Material. Marriage Material is a wonderful novel which fluctuates from present day to the past hardships of the first generation Punjabis that immigrated to the UK presented through the corner shop life in 1950’s Britain.

Bali Rai and Sathnam Sanghera talking at Everybody's Reading event

Bali Rai and Sathnam Sanghera talking at Everybody’s Reading event

The two spoke about their books and what it was like being classed as a British-Asian author. Sanghera commented that “I don’t write about culture, I write about life. It just happens to be set in our culture”. Whilst Rai made a point of raising the issue of being ghettoised as a writer by including family, culture and ethnicity in their works.

Rai asked Sanghera during the discussion, “how do you get beyond being ghettoised?”, Sanghera commented that it seems that within the media there is only  a select handful of faces that are allowed to be given a mainstream presence.

“I don’t mind being termed British-Asian, but I don’t want to be just that”, replied Sanghera.

Amrit met with writers Bali Rai and Sathnam Sanghera

Perhaps because of the few stories sharing a take on the “brown life”, readers like one of the guests at The Font mentioned that as a non-Asian reader there can sometimes be a fear of not understanding particular situations and being hesitant to ask.  Sanghera shared that his autobiography was written for his white friends at the time. It was to allow people to understand him in case he was disowned for sharing such an in-depth part of his life.

Rai made a point to mention “if those that are asked the questions are offended, it says more about that person being offended than the person asking the question”. He had explained that during one of his school visits, a child commented to him that they enjoyed reading his books not because they were brown, but because they liked them.

Amrit with her signed copy of Rani and Sukh by Bali Rai

Amrit with her signed copy of Rani and Sukh by Bali Rai

Sanghera’s autobiography brings forward a very unique element to literature concerning Asians as there is very little available of Indians and the topic of metal illness. This book was about understanding psychological conditions and how they are dealt with by Indian families through the tale of Sanghera’s life. Coming from a Punjabi background in Wolverhampton it was interesting to hear the humour in Sanghera’s voice at an Amazon review, “A boring book about a Muslim boy from Manchester. One star”.

Amrit & Sanghera pictured with debut novel Marriage Material

Amrit & Sanghera pictured with debut novel Marriage Material

Rai asked if there is a need for such issues in Indian circumstances to be talked about. Sanghera spoke that he feels there is more energy than he has needed to continue tacking these topics. However Sanghera feels that class is a factor that differentiates cultures more in a way that we see how the Banga and Dhanda families are defined in Marriage Material.