What We Inherit: Growing Up Indian

A celebration of the slippages, strife and secret histories that make us—for better or worse—who we are.

A woman faces off against a xenophobic stranger across a supermarket turnstile.

A young girl mistakes her first period for strawberry yoghurt and endures an embarrassing puberty ceremony.

At the funeral of her cruel and prejudiced dadhi, a granddaughter reflects on the confusions of grief and the trauma passed through family lines.

A follow-up to the best-selling anthology Growing Up Perempuan (AWARE, 2018), What We Inherit tells the stories of Indian women (and a few men) in Singapore entirely in their own words. They question the expectations foisted upon them, discover new avenues into old traditions and carve out spaces for joy amid anger and sorrow. At a time when the bonds between us seem at constant risk of breaking, What We Inherit turns our attention towards community in all its complexities. It’s a reminder of how we honour, betray and ultimately bear witness to each other… and ourselves.

Featuring contributions by:

Akshita Nanda, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Constance Singam, Kelly Kaur, Mandakini Arora, Matilda Gabrielpillai, Pooja Nansi, Prasanthi Ram, Ranjana Raghunathan, Sharul Channa, and more

Published by AWARE. 


AWARE is Singapore's leading women's rights organisation. Since its formation in 1985, AWARE has carried out research on numerous issues affecting women, including workplace sexual harassment, poverty of older women and Singapore’s compliance with UN anti-gender discrimination standards. Over the years, AWARE has effectively advocated against laws, public policies and mindsets that discriminate against women. AWARE also provides case management, counselling, legal advice, befriending and other assistance to women in need.

What We Inherit: Growing Up Indian

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“Brimming with nuanced reflexivity, vivacious sparkle, and ultimately, resilient joy, What We Inherit: Growing Up Indian is an essential read, regardless of race.” — Amanda Lee Koe, author of Ministry of Moral Panic

“The wide-ranging voices in this collection–some funny, others heartbreaking–illuminate topics such as the body, dancing, rituals, fandom and sisterhood. This is a book to gift to those (including ourselves) still catching up with Singapore’s dazzling diversity, with the dedication: start here.” — Alfian Sa’at, poet & playwright

“This anthology is a work of advocacy grounded in intersectional feminism, a project committed to the integrity of the collective and the individual. The effort is ground-breaking, simply but powerfully, in its intent to surface Indian women’s stories in “fullness” and “on their own terms”. Here a diasporic context appears as a critical site for interrogating received legacies, constructing new subjectivities and forging fresh solidarities. Women from Singapore’s minority Indian community share their everyday lived experiences in essays crafted in a free-spirited mode. They speak in varied, contradictory voices, marking the text with unevenness, asymmetry, intrigue and poignancy. The writers appear as empowered historical actors who narrate their biographical journeys and institutional struggles with immense courage, challenging uncomfortable truths about inherited traditions and chauvinisms. The candid and moving vignettes reveal that moments of crisis also carry seeds of inspiration, enabling women to rebuild their lives anew, while pushing boundaries of societal expectations. Above all, I see this anthology as a safe space where Indian women’s voices are heard without rebuke, and their experiences articulated with dignity.” — Professor Vineeta Sinha, Department of Sociology (National University of Singapore)

“What We Inherit: Growing Up Indian is a timely, relevant and deeply meaningful collection of personal essays, stories and reflections. This beautifully conceived and curated anthology is packed with voices of despair and hope, struggle and freedom, shame and pride. Each contributor shares with the reader their truth, their history, their vulnerability. How specific their stories are, yet how profoundly they resonate. The stories in What We Inherit: Growing Up Indian should enter every home and every school in Singapore, for they deserve a place in our hearts.” — Haresh Sharma, Resident Playwright (The Necessary Stage)


Shailey Hingorani, Varsha Sivaram