Brinda Gulati is a writer and founder of Instagram shop @thriftbybrinda. Her extensive scope of writing includes opinion pieces for the Kashmir Times, Jammu, freelance projects and now her first novel.
Brinda explains how the Warwick Writing Programme provided a creative space for her to develop and cemented her motto: ‘If you write, call yourself a writer’.
What did you study at Warwick?
I completed my BA and MA in Creative Writing with a First Class Honours. The Warwick Writing Programme is unlike anything I’ve ever come across, and I studied in NUS, Singapore from 2013-14 so I already had a solid frame of reference. While it’s undeniably true that one needn’t attend prestigious writing courses to be successful as a writer, the past four or five years at Warwick have been insurmountable in my growth as a writer – more so, in the finality of making a choice each day to call myself a writer, always and unapologetically.
What are you currently doing?
I’m a columnist for Kashmir Times, Jammu, one of the oldest state newspapers in India. I write op-eds on India's slipping democracy, mental wellness, women's rights and safety, and the psychogeography of spaces and places https://www.brindagulati.com/opeds
I also work as a freelance writer at a consulting agency with roots in India and the US. The more glamorous job, or so it seems, is my small shop on Instagram; my mother and I jump-started @thriftbybrinda in December 2020, and since then we’ve completed about 500 orders. It’s a small business on Instagram in partnership with Deside, an online fashion thrift retailer; we source, curate, market, and package thrifted finds.
A large part of my successes in these independent ventures is the fluidity I’ve learned to mirror from the likes of Sarah Moss, Maureen Freely, David Morley, and Gonzalo Garcia. Most recently, I publish a paid newsletter on Substack called Writer of Wrongs.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’ve recently started reading one poem with my morning coffee. I like going to sleep with words and waking up to them. I knew I wanted to be a writer since the sixth grade, and fortunately that fire is still ablaze. I write reflexively: as a response to the state of the nation, as medicine, as resistance and healing. I believe that writing is the most permanent medium of resistance and the more the Indian government tightens the reins of the press, the more I’m inspired to write. It's impossible for me to switch off even when I'm watching movies or TV shows or reading for leisure. There’s always a pen, pencil and notepad within arm's reach. Everywhere I look, I see words.
What do you love?
I love spaces – objects – abandoned places. I take it on as a challenge to novelise memory and loss, the excavation of belonging, and finding homes without a roof and four walls. I’ve also taken an interest in documentary photography – anything that tells a story, really. I love telling, listening to, writing, and reading stories to find a sense of belonging within myself and a community with those who share my proclivities – like finding warmth in each other with our hands hovering over the metaphorical campfire. I'm currently obsessed with the psychology of cults, the psychogeography of cities, and memoirs on eating disorders. I find myself going back to Places of the Heart by Colin Ellard and Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri quite often these days.
What’s a favourite memory of Warwick?
There are a lot of memories I hold dear, a lot of people that I admire. My mentor, Sarah Moss, saw something in my writing that I was perhaps too green to see in my second year, and to this day, I look to her for advice.
David Morley once said in a poetry seminar to nine of us that: “if you write, call yourself a writer.” That’s stayed with me, and so whenever someone asks what I do for a living and how I pay my bills – I say I’m a writer, without explanation or justification.
I remember taking the U1 in the snow to attend Creative Writing seminars hosted by Gonzalo Garcia and we studied Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell at 9am in our pyjamas, the six of us huddled on the couch just talking.
The Warwick Writing Programme is inspired – it’s impossible not to be touched by the magic of the ordinary and the simple genius of creating art, however you may choose to define it.
What’s next for you?
My first novel is finished and ready to go! I completed the mammoth project over three years and now begins the search to find someone who sees me in my writing – for someone to take a chance on me. Other than that, I’ve begun working on my second novel and I suspect a PhD in Writing is not out of bounds. Whatever happens, the writing will never stop, even if it has to hibernate for a while in messy folders on my desktop.