Balancing different cultures is something 20-year-old Ananya Bhattacharya knows well. Born in Mumbai, India, she has since then lived in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and currently in Manhattan where she attends New York University. When she’s not performing in NYU Bhangra folk dance team or the NYU Dillagi Bollywood fusion team, she writes. Whether it be of the reality she sees as an aspiring business journalist or the abstract she creates as a poet, her words flow from the world around her.


Why do you love to write?

Maybe it’s just a language thing. It sounds a little bit pretentious, but I really like words. I really like languages in general. I’m adept with languages. Bengali is my mother tongue. I’ve learned German, Spanish, [Latin, English, and Hindi]. I’m just good at picking up languages when they appeal to me. So it’s not just English poetry. I really try to read Spanish poetry as well, and I like it. I’d rather go for poetry than for music because even when I’m just listening to music, I listen to the lyrics and not the beat as much. So overall in life, Words are my thing.


What brought you to New York City?

College did. I didn’t want to go to a state school because going to games and drinking in dorms is not my idea of fun. I’ve always been a big city girl. I like to get out, explore and have a life independent of school and work.


What is your family like?

I grew up in a protective but liberal family that sort of grew up with me. My parents brought up my older brother differently because his entire childhood was spent in India. We moved to London when I was 10 and after I enrolled in an unfamiliar education system, and my parents opened their eyes and minds to the new ways life the city was offering, they too adapted. I was allowed to go on an overnight trip for drama when I was 11. My brother was shocked- he was not allowed to leave the city at that age because of the context he was brought up in. His amazement continued as I took up Drama and History for IGCSE in Grades 9 and 10- my parents had been firm believers in the Doctor/Lawyer/Engineer paths- and although I was also taking Mathematics and Sciences, my parents were far more open to my individual choices because the system, my school and the board, encouraged it. I travelled with friends at a young age and I met people from all walks of life. Had I lived in Mumbai forever, I may not have started community service at the age of 14 as I did, amongst other positive changes.


How often do you get to see them while you’re living in New York?

My mom came to drop me in freshman year, but that was the one and only time a parent has. They haven’t accompanied me to and from college since that once because they want to come for graduation. They might visit next summer but mostly, being an international student, their tickets are added costs. Being apart from them is annoying more than difficult because they haven’t seen where I live and my dad doesn’t really know what my campus is like either so when I talk about NYC, they seem lost and I wish they knew.


How has living in different places influenced who you are?

I feel well versed in dealing with people from all walks of life. It has made me more sensitive and mindful in life and in my writing. I also draw on different cultural aspects and imageries from distinctly different places I have lived in.

By Kathryn Jones