Meaning is not manufactured, it is experienced.
Dipika Kohli has lived these words.
She intuitively knew them when she quit her first job out of college and moved to the other side of the globe. It was not her first move across cultures during a moment of strife.1 Her parents had moved her and the family from Michigan to Goldsboro, North Carolina when she was ten years-old. It was a sudden and wrenching change for young Dipika, who just months earlier had lost her best friend to the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182. In a bitter irony, the bombing took place over the same Irish soil on which she found herself unexpectedly living many years later.
The Elopement is a headlong adventure, with much transit and transition. Like Ms. Kohli’s life, it races from under snowy street lights and a lonely Lake Johnson, into the green Irish hills, with its lakes in the middle distance, then off to a Japanese metropolis of glass buildings and snaking corridors. It is breathless and thrilling, at times it feels as though one were reading The Bourne Identity of the Housewife.
The tale is filled with the kind of passion, intrigue and feeling that can only come from experience. Ms. Kohli takes us down a very personal path into her heart and soul. She acknowledges as much when she recounts her own struggles to feel comfortable and grounded in Japanese culture. She doesn’t want be soto, which means “outside” but rather, the opposite, uchi, which literally means “inside.”2
Her writing style mirrors that of her blog, Kismuth, the practical infused with the mystical, perhaps reflecting the duality of the cultures in which she was raised. In an interview with the Clarion Content, Ms. Kohli said she felt the tension and the joy of real, powerful reactions. She faced it travelling solo through India, meeting her Dad’s uncles and her Mom’s aunts, heretofore unknown, learning that although she grew up in a nuclear family in North Carolina, she was part of a large extended family that had by no means forgotten or abandoned her.
She faced her own reactions everywhere from a quiet, and sometimes lonely, Irish cottage to flying a kite by herself at lunchtime over Lake Crabtree, desperate to get away from a mindset that didn’t suit her.
She notes that she was no finished product, instead, she says, “I liked who I was becoming.” Ms. Kohli takes us through that becoming and beyond in what is the first of a four part series. A memoir that she hopes will, “give people time, space and permission to do some soul searching of their own.”
The next installment, available October 15th on Amazon, is called, The Dive. For good reason, it will dig into the deeply personal topic of losing a pregnancy in a discompassionate town, in a realm of acquaintances, far from friends and loved ones. But before you get lost in total despair, as Ms. Kohli once was, remember this is ultimately a story of triumph and success, travelling through dark times and on to a place that has a happy family, with a healthy child, and a passion for the creative and the community, here, in Durham.
On her own website, Ms. Kohli quotes Joseph Campbell on a dark Hobbesian day,
“Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time. The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.”
You can read The Elopement like that, with a samsaric sensibility, or you could let your soul run light and free, knowing the sun will come up tomorrow. Either way, or anywhere in between, there is lots of knowledge, wisdom and life story in these pages.
We are reminded of the words of the English poet Robert Herrick as we eagerly await the next volume from Ms. Kohli.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
Ms. Dipika Kohli will be speaking at TEDx Raleigh on Oct. 13, giving a talk called “There’s Not That Much Time Left.”
1Technically, it wasn’t her second move either, that came when she dropped out of art school after a semester to move to Japan.
2American kids might say down, she wants to be down. Cool, inside, one who gets it. Not lame, excluded, outside the joke and the meaning.