Always rooting for the underdog, award-winning author Balli Kaur Jaswal uses the power of storytelling to transport readers to alternate worlds where everything works out in the end. It’s an ethos that forms the core of her novels like Erotic Stories for Punjabi Women – a Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick that’s also been picked up by Scott Free Productions and Film4 in the UK for a film adaptation. Not one to rest on her laurels, the Singapore native debuted The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters last month.
When not stuck in the pages of her next book, Balli is either chasing her active toddler, listening to My Favourite Murder podcasts while going on walks, or exploring new restaurants and cafés.
All good in the ‘hood
Joo Chiat and Katong
“I like the diversity and the mix of old and new, which are representative of Singapore. There’s a range of restaurants, bars and many places I can take my kid to. I don’t feel like I have to leave this area to find fun. It also has a chill atmosphere to it, which I really enjoy, even on a Sunday when the places are crowded.”
Zion Riverside Food Centre
“My comfort food in Singapore is carrot cake. I love the mix of flavours in this simple dish. It’s savoury yet sweet if you get it with the black sauce. There’s a food stall in Zion Road Food Centre where it’s done with less oil, making it extra crispy.”
Writers on the block
The local literary scene
“It has established itself in the last couple of years. There are more young people who are now interested in the craft of writing and in literature, which is promising. But we can’t be complacent. We need to keep supporting and advocating for writing to continue growing here and to be part of Singapore’s culture and landscape.”
Inspirations behind her novels
“I like to highlight the stories of invisible or marginalised people, especially women in communities that claim to be inclusive but ignore people who don’t quite fit in. That’s the lens I like to put in my writing: looking at the stories that we don’t see in the common narrative about places and people.”
Only in Singapore
Safe and sound
"The walkability of it, the safety, the fact that you can go from one place to another feeling relatively comfortable as a woman which is one thing we take for granted sometimes. It’s important for me as well because walking is a huge part of my writing process. It’s partly a release and partly a way for my thoughts to come together especially if I’ve been writing for a little while. And being able to do that at any time of the day is very liberating."
The Great Singapore Workout
"It’s one of my favourite things to look back on and giggle about. It’s the idea that the whole nation had to exercise together and do the same kind of exercise."
Watch Balli take us through her top spots in Joo Chiat and Katong: