GROWING UP IN THE DIASPORA

A CONVERSATION WITH PRIYANKA SINGH

Priyanka will be sixteen next birthday and is a tenth grader at Saddle River Day School, a well appointed Private School with over a hundred year tradition in Bergen County, New Jersey, just miles from New York city. Born in the US, she has visited India a few times to see the good old country of her parent’s origin, meet with their extended family and experience sights, sounds and vibrancy of India for herself.

A picture of patience if one were to see her poring over her n’th thousand-piece puzzle to put the pieces together in order and harmony, and she has done so many of these in their intricate and bewildering detail. Why? ‘Oh it is so absorbing. You lose sense of time and place. Forget anxieties. Stay focused in a simple, harmless way and in the end you find you have made something nice. It is like putting Humpty Dumpty together again, sort of creative.’

That patient quiet is perceptible in her paintings, her playing on the Piano or strumming at the Guitar. She has won an award in painting and her still life paintings display a refreshing touch of the joyous and aesthetic in mundane things surrounding us. ‘I am very fond of music. O’ yes, the Indian music is good. Some pieces like the kirtan are so very calming – one feels as if at peace but I wish I could understand the words.’

She is an avid reader. ‘I read a lot of books about vampires, about unfortunate events and themes which make you aware of the evil and unfortunate that may be there in the world. We should know it. We should recognize it exists so that we can avoid it, not fall victims to it. There is something to learn from everything even if it is sad.’

In one of her earlier visits to the home country she was there in August. ‘It seems to rain like it would never stop and bugs and insects seem to be coming out of everywhere. But the Indian cars [three wheeler in which she took a ride] are so good, so open. I like the air blowing on my face,’ she told her grand mother.

She received the Presidents award signed by none other than George Bush in her fifth grade for academic excellence. She would like to go into Psychiatry or Fashion. ‘Both keep you in touch with people – people of all hues, with their views and preferences. I think that keeps you in touch with life. I think my parents would encourage me to do well at what I am interested in. They always guide me and are so helpful.’

‘Why don’t you write about others?’ ‘I am not a nice person – I only think of myself’ she says. I wish we all could have her sense of modesty with her innate sense of perplexities of life while still so young.

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Priyanka lives with her parents in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Her father Ravi Partap Singh is a graduate of Delhi College of Engineering and MBA from the Ivy League Columbia University. Her mother Simran is a graduate of Lady Irwin College, MSW from Bombay University and MBA from Fairlee Dickinson University.

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