New J.K. Rowling Novel Stars a Sikh Family: HASAN SUROOR, et al
The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling whose new novel, The Casual Vacancy, features a Sikh family at the heart of its plot has said that she has been deeply influenced by Sikhism because of its stress on gender equality.
So, when she thought of introducing a “family of colour” in a predominantly white setting of her novel, “they had to be Sikhs.” It was her way of paying tribute to Sikhism.
Speaking to the BBC as the book was launched on Thursday, Ms Rowling said what attracted her to Sikhism was its "egalitarianism".
“It’s an amazing religion. My interest was sparked years and years and years ago when I was still in my twenties – and a girl I worked with briefly came from a Sikh family. We only ever had one serious conversation on the subject but it has stuck with me. She told me about the fact that men and women were explicitly described as equal in the holy book and that women are not excluded from any part of religious rites or observances. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
The reason she wanted to have non-white characters in her novel though it was set in “very white place” was because she thought it was an “interesting way” to examine certain social attitudes in a novel that was about “exclusion, prejudice and divisions.”
Elsewhere, Rowling has explained that she was "drawn by spirituality and faith" and had researched Sikhism to create a family of Sikh characters who figure prominently in The Casual Vacancy, having used "Christian imagery" in the Potter novels.
“I wanted the Sikh family at the heart of Pagford, and I wanted them to be second generation Britons. So they are insiders and outsiders simultaneously. In the book, it is Sikhism that provides religious morality, not the Church of England, which is represented by an empty church,” Rowling said.
Early readers of the book said they were impressed by the way the Sikh family and Sikhism had been treated in the book.
The book devotes considerable attention to Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, the Khalsa, and the “night-time prayer, Kirtan Sohila.”
The novel has been billed as the biggest publishing event of the year.
[Courtesy: The Hindu Newspaper, First Post, AFP. Edited for sikhchic.com]
September 27, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), September 27, 2012, 5:23 PM.
Interesting. J K Rowling gets it but India discards it's very own Sikh Gurus and the path defined by them, reducing the followers to terrorists and fundamentalists, killing them with impunity at the behest of a family that plunders India to the bone.
2: R. Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), September 28, 2012, 1:10 AM.
Perhaps the 'K' in J.K Rowlings stands for Kaur? Maybe we could start referring to her as J. Kaur Rowlings?
3: Ranjeet Singh (Dehradun, India), September 28, 2012, 7:51 AM.
It's great news. I pray to Waheguru that He will give more success to you, J. Kaur Rowling.
4: Teja Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), September 28, 2012, 2:50 PM.
I call upon the Sikh community leaders in the United Kingdom to honor this amazing woman and embrace her connection to Sikhi. Sikhs must capitalize on this positive exposure to bring Sikhi into the limelight with mainstream media. Sikhs have been negatively portrayed for too long and we must take advantage of this golden opportunity. There is no other with more star power than J.K. Rowling that has such reach to the worldwide youth audience. I put forward a challenge to the real leaders in the UK Sikh community - who are truly media savvy and competent for this task.
5: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), September 28, 2012, 11:19 PM.
The idiotic bunch of SGPC Masands (possibly egged on by Indian agencies) has already started protesting and asking for apology about some controversial language in the novel without realizing that it is a work of fiction.
6: Dr Pargat Singh (Nottingham, United Kingdom), September 29, 2012, 6:42 AM.
I agree entirely with Teja Singh ji. This is a golden opportunity to promote Sikhi to the world. When J K Rowlings puts pen to paper, the whole world sits up and takes note.
7: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), September 29, 2012, 2:41 PM.
J.K. Rowling is a gift to mankind. Like Enid Blyton, she has touched and reached the hearts of the children of the world. May Waheguru bless her.
8: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), October 01, 2012, 1:43 AM.
I thank J.K. Rowling for her featuring a Sikh family so positively at the heart of its plot in the widely sold novel, The Casual Vacancy. Sikhs being featured at the global platforms and media is a very positive development in our modern history. Rowling is a pioneer in this trend. We should recognize this contribution from a famous writer from another culture. I wish there are more Western writers depicting Sikh ethos.