This week’s interview is with Rashi Rohatgi, whose debut novel, WHERE THE SUN WILL RISE TOMORROW, is a story of love and family set in early 20th century India. Below, Rashi shares about the strangest job she’s ever had, the time her teacher left her in tears, and the talent that she wishes she had (it involves two wheels!). Enjoy!
Rashi is a Pennsylvania native who lives in Arctic Norway. Her writing has appeared in, among other venues, Electric Lit, The Toast, and The VIDA Review. She is a Bread Loaf and VONA alumna. Her debut, Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow, was published in March 2020.
Follow Rashi online at her Website.
What’s one book that had an impact on you?
I didn’t read it until I was an adult, but Kavita Daswani’s Indie Girl really nailed, I think, the feeling of being a young girl interested in fashion and interested in being heard, and hoping those things can go together and not really know how to do it. I didn’t think of it that often, consciously, when writing Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow, but my protagonist – while basically a complete opposite, personality-wise, to hers – shares her longing to get others to understand how important it is for her not only to look like she belongs, but to actually have a seat at the table and a voice there.
What talent do you wish you had?
I can’t ride a bike. I’ve tried learning multiple times – for awhile as a child, I had it, and then, despite all proverbs to the contrary, I forgot. I’m now watching my child learn how to ride a bike, and it’s so magical, the way his feet rise from the ground when a puddle approaches, and his body is so still, and yet he’s moving further and further away from me. He can’t wait until he learns how to drive, but I’d trade in my license any day.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel (that’s not in the book):
Leela’s granddaughter, Ruby, takes part in the student protests that rocked India throughout the post-Independence decades – if you know an Indian person of the right age, ask them to sign you “We Shall Overcome” in Hindi – but when Leela reads Ruby’s letters, she’s disappointed. My earliest drafts of this book traced Leela’s entire life, and she dies a bitter old bigot.
What’s the strangest job you ever had?
When I was studying abroad, I worked as a translator at a museum. I was totally not the best person for the job, but it was before Google Translate was a ready option and what I did was turn the Spanish-language materials they’d received into a rough Russian version, which I assume a native speaker went over for style, but I don’t know. It was wonderful to see how museum exhibitions come together, and to see how thoughtful the museum staff were about the ways in which museums have the potential to make beauty accessible but also to perpetuate racism – I’m by nature an impatient person and they worked really slowly and carefully to do right by the exhibit and the nature of the space and their likely guests.
Tell us about one of your proudest moments/one of your disappointments:
Even as a child I loved to write, and I could kind of tell that I was good, but I wasn’t sure if being able to put words together was enough to create a book that others would want to read. In second grade, my teacher called me up to her desk one day as the others were filing out to recess, and told me that my handwriting and general inability to put my writing into a neat and organized package meant that my creative writing assignment was unacceptable. She was trying to tell me this to give me a chance to redo it, I think, not to upset me, but I burst into tears and never did. Two years later I had a substitute teacher who pulled me to her desk after a creative writing assignment and I was wary, and when she asked whether I’d plagiarized the assignment I was ready to burst into tears again when she apologized for the accusation. The writing was so good, she explained.
Thank god for editors, cover designers, publishers – for everyone who knows how to turn stories into actual books.
MORE ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s 1905, and the Japanese victory over the Russians has shocked the British and their imperial subjects. Sixteen-year-old Leela and her younger sister, Maya, are spurred on to wear homespun to show the British that the Indians won’t be oppressed for much longer, either, but when Leela’s betrothed, Nash, asks her to circulate a petition amongst her classmates to desegregate the girls’ school in Chandrapur, she’s wary. She needs to remind Maya that the old ways are not all bad, for soon Maya will have to join her own betrothed and his family in their quiet village. When she discovers that Maya has embarked on a forbidden romance, Leela’s response shocks her family, her town, and her country firmly into the new century.