Finding a New Community in Pittsburgh: Q&A with Tuhin Das

Friday, 10 January 2020 11:56 AM Written by 

Tuhin Das by Grace WongTuhin Das comes from Barisal, a city in south-central Bangladesh, where writers are currently being persecuted under the Information and Technology Communication Law. As such, his life has been deeply impacted by groups who limit freedom of expression. Carnegie Mellon University invited him to Pittsburgh as a visiting scholar, and in 2016, City of Asylum invited him to join their writer sanctuary program.

Today, Tuhin has been in Pittsburgh for nearly four years as an ICORN writer-in-residence at City of Asylum. He remains a lover of his nation’s literary culture and continues to write poetry books – eight total – in his native language. In 2019, Tuhin received an Artist Opportunity Grant from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council to assist with fees to translate his short stories, essays, and children’s stories from Bengali to English. He also serves on Thrive Advisory, the young professionals’ board of Literacy Pittsburgh.

Being considered as a local artist” made him especially at home. We’re happy to have him our community.

Tell us about yourself and your art practice? 

Here I want to quote my poem: ‘Every day I ask myself:/Who are you?/Every person I meet wants to know:/‘Are you Indian? Irani? Iraqi? or Syrian?’/Me? I’m a flower of my language.’

My home language is Bengali. So I am a Bengali secular writer who is from one of the South Asian countries, Bangladesh, came to Pittsburgh to find my own place in the free world.

I work in many genres to express myself: poetry, drawings, short stories, flash fiction, novels, novellas, essays, journalism, and beyond. Through my writing, I promote freedom of expression, which is a fundamental requirement to preserve the rights of humans.

What’s your dream project?

I can talk about one of my projects. Since coming to Pittsburgh, I have written a novel, “Refused.” In my novel, I portray a family that belongs to a minority religion in Bangladesh, and demonstrated how fundamentalist views have determined the place of minority communities and women in that social structure. I could not write this novel while I was in Bangladesh because of the fatal consequences for writers who question oppression.

This novel is based on my life experience. I hope this novel will be translated and will publish one day in the US. This book will connect two continents.

Do you have any projects coming up that you’d like to share with us? 

Recently I finished editing my first poetry book in translation. This is a collection of my selected poems. In this manuscript, I seek to highlight the soft nuances, emotions, and feelings that were being slowly lost in Bangladeshi society due to fear caused by societal oppression. I speak in simple layerings about daily life, emotions, and connection to nature through realism, surrealism, and magical realism—these are my tools.

Poems flow between the world of night and the world of day; heavy emptiness and lyrical fullness. These words are a waymaking between the natural world of the body, water, forests, and birds and the industrial world of the street, slums, and neighborhoods. I wish to thank City of Asylum Pittsburgh for the writer sanctuary program, which enabled me to complete this work.

Photo by Grace Wong.

 

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