7 Questions with Anita Jari Kharbanda

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1. If you could travel back in time, (assuming there’d be no risk to yourself or changing the course of history) where and when and why would you go?

I’d definitely travel to Punjab in the 1700s and meet the main character of my book, Mai Bhago. I wish I could say I’d fight beside her, but she is the battle warrior, and truly my pen is my sword. I’d love to learn about her battle strategies, and what motivates her. This discussion would have to take place after I faint when first meeting her! 😂

2. Your book is set in the late 1600s and early 1700s in Punjab, India. What fascinates you most about this time period?

I’m fascinated by this time period because it marks the birth of Sikhism. This is my religion and Mai Bhago’s religion. During this time period India was not actually a country. It was a subcontinent with border skirmishes and invading groups. At the same time, however, it was full of vivid cultural traditions and celebrations. This was the time period before, and leading up to colonization. It is important to understand everything that led up to colonization, so we can connect with South Asia’s evolution. History is key to helping us understand why certain events happened. History also teaches us to learn from the past, and make better decisions in the future.

3. What elements of this time period do we still see today?

We still see some of the same foods, the language and clothing. The language is Punjabi, and a staple meal includes roti, a wheat flat bread.

4.     What do you think young people from this time and place could teach us today?

I think they could teach us the importance of bravery and fighting for what you believe in.

5. Is there an historical tidbit that didn’t make it in the book, but is super interesting?

I did not include historical details about Banda Singh, a brave soldier of the Sikhs. He avenged the tenth Guru’s murder and laid the foundation for a Sikh kingdom. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, was the final living guru of Sikhism. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, and our tenth guru named our Holy Book the final Guru, within which lay the teachings and beliefs of those before him. Banda Singh was an ascetic who lived in hermitude, and who the Guru met when living near the Godavari River. The Guru saw a special fire in Banda Singh, and charged him with avenging the men who persecuted the Guru’s Sikhs and sons. The Guru was then fatally injured, and Banda Singh went on to kill the man responsible, as well as build a Sikh Empire.

6. What’s your favorite historical fiction (any age!)

I have too many to count! I love reading books about partition era India, and the Nazi era. I’ve also enjoyed stories about the Texas Dust Bowl or the Transcontinental Railroad or the California Gold Rush. Give me good writing and an interesting piece of history and I’m hooked!

7. What are you working on right now?

I can’t tell you that. It’s a secret. 🙂



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