HomeArts & EntertainmentBooksInterview: Lilly Singh, author, Be a Triangle

Interview: Lilly Singh, author, Be a Triangle

What was the immediate inspiration for Be a Triangle?

I decided to write this book because, during the pandemic, I realised that who I am as a person, what my values are, what I want to achieve out of life, what my moral compass is, all fluctuated a lot day to day. If something was going great in my life, I’d be super grateful. I’d be a different person, when something was going bad and suddenly my entire moral compass would change. I would have a different viewpoint on life, and I didn’t understand who I was, changing so much from day to day. So I concluded that I needed to build a strong foundation of who I am that doesn’t waver. I call this book, “the blueprint for making a safe space in your mind”.

Why a triangle? What made you zero in on that shape?

When you Google what has the strongest foundation? The triangle came up in results as the strongest structural shape in the world. This is why so many buildings are triangles, and so I thought I should build my life like a triangle. What does that even mean, though, practically? It meant creating a base in my mind to come home to, that was strong enough to get me through the daily issues and struggles and to be able to enjoy my life in spite of them.

112pp, ₹599; Macmillan

The book maintains a balance between being an honest exposition of what it means to build a healthy relationship with oneself interspersed with your trademark humour. What was the writing process for the book like?

The writing process of this book was really tough. It was unlike anything else I’ve ever written because I actually had no idea what I wanted to put on these pages at the start. With almost everything else I’ve ever written, whether a script or my first book, I knew the stories I wanted to tell; I knew the advice I was giving. With this book, once I got really honest with myself about this book’s message, I realised that I hadn’t fully accomplished the work that needed to be done. I had to go through this spiritual journey myself first, in order to write this book. Which means that the writing process was really heavy because it required a lot of me improving as a person and doing the hard work of being vulnerable and reflecting. So it was a lot of false starts. I would start the book, stop, delete things, start, stop, but I’m really pleased with how the book came together and for readers to go on that journey with me.

Do you feel that as a woman of colour working in an industry that still has a long way to go in terms of being inclusive and aware – case in point, the recent Rosie’O Donnell incident with Priyanka Chopra – that there are these added pressures that you might have faced (and continue to face) as an entertainer?

I think great strides are being made for diversity in the entertainment industry, but I also think a lot of work still needs to be done. More often you will see diverse faces on screen but I want to see diverse faces in the rooms where decisions are being made too. I want to see diverse faces getting the same budgets and resources as other people. And so, it’s not just a seat at the table, it’s having that seat be properly supported too. And also, it’s about not being the only one at the table. So I think, yes, strides are being made but I would love it not to be so exceptional when we see a person of colour on screen.

The illustrations by Simmi Patel work seamlessly with the text. How much were you involved in their execution?

I have to give Simi full credit here. Simi was sent the text of the book and she would present ideas to me that were in line with the words I was writing. She nailed it across the board with all of her illustrations in the book. She’s just so talented.

Do you feel that “the mental health talk” should now be considered a necessary component of parenting?

Absolutely. Parenting, yes, but schools too. A big reason why I wrote this book is because I’m trying to do the work I was never encouraged to do as a kid. And that was really frustrating for me because when you give me a math problem or a word problem, I know how to tackle it; I know what the goal is. But when you talk about personal fulfilment or self love or how to rest, you don’t really know how to tackle those problems or find your way forward. I think it’s really important to teach the importance of understanding your own emotions, navigating trauma, self discovery, mental health and meditation in schools.

Now when “Anxiety Singh” makes an appearance, what are some of the immediate measures you take in order to get through the situation?

I try to meditate every day, although it usually does not happen every day. And when I feel a bit of anxiety, I do breath work. I always operate at 10, so when my nervous system tips over the top, I definitely have to do some work to calm down. And I really do go back to the guiding principles I wrote in the book – I start every meditation or every bit of breath work by saying, “There’s only four things that matter right now: it is your relationship with yourself, relationship to the universe, understanding distraction and implementing design.” Usually when I feel anxiety, the thing that I think about the most is the understanding distraction part. Anxiety distracts you from the place you want to be. So go through it, live it, it is a valid feeling. But know you can return to a place within you that is not this feeling. I use that a lot.

Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

I am in the animated movie Bad Guys, which is fun and I’m really proud to be a part of it. The cast is amazing, the animation is so unique, and the message is so timely. I also am a judge on Canada’s Got Talent, which is really cool because I’m a proud Canadian, obviously. I also just announced that I’ll be starring in a new Disney+ series, Muppets Mayhem.

What will your next book be about? Any such plans so far?

My aim is that this book is a blueprint that can be referenced for a long time, if not the rest of my life. In writing it, my goal is to have built such a solid foundation based on the ideas of the book that these words will apply years from now to my life and my readers’ lives.

Simar Bhasin is an independent journalist. She lives in New Delhi.

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