An Interview with Tanvi Kiran Kulkarni, author of “Small Wild Epiphanies

Tanvi is an almost 20-year-old writer, dancer, art-enthusiast, and a huge fan of hugs. Her primary motive in life is to create safe spaces where people can talk about mental health, art, culture, politics, identities, and all the things that make us who we are. As an intersectional-feminist-in-progress, she is always trying to learn and talk about what is important and what isn’t heard. And when she is not frantically and excitedly documenting parts of her life, you will probably find her reading something, watching a tv show, or trying to find the right words to talk about her feelings. 

“Small Wild Epiphanies” is her first book. It is a collection of pieces born out of all such moments of sudden, striking realizations that have changed the author’s course and understanding of life in a gradual, subtle way.

Tanvi with the copies of her books
Tanvi and the copies of Small Wild Epiphanies

Tanvi Kulkarni spoke with me about her latest book, her writing journey, and what it means to be a young writer. She talks about feeling every feeling to her core and their relevance. Excerpts from the interview: 

1.  When did you first realize that you wanted to write a book?

 It was around August or September of 2019. I had been writing extensively on social media for a while, and sometime around August of last year, someone replied to a piece and said, “If this were in a book, I’d buy it.” It got me thinking, you know? I HAD been writing a lot- about friendships and mental health and hugs and love. My audience had always been the same. It always seemed safer that way. But that one tiny remark was SO important because it made me consider publishing seriously. Which can be such a tantalizing idea, honestly, because the first thing we’re wired to think of is all the ways things can go wrong. But then, one night in early September, I sat down with my parents and talked about it with them. I talked to my brother too, and he immediately jumped to the idea.

It was such a far-fetched prospect, but I already had the content. I had a good amount of written work. All I needed was to fill the gaps between having material and having a published book. 

2.  What happened next, what feelings did you feel?

SO much ALL at once! Naturally, there was an incredible amount of excitement at first. Thankfully, my brain didn’t assess the situation too much in the beginning. I feel like even a teeny tiny bit of overthinking in the first few weeks would’ve overwhelmed me so much, but as I began breaking the idea to the people in my inner circle, it felt so much more wonderful. The hardest part was keeping it from Instagram, though. I document so many special moments of my life there, and to not say a word about something that meant the whole wide world to me was incredibly difficult. I had never done anything of this sort before; publishing was entirely new territory.

Funnily, I can’t even say the initial excitement ever died down. So even though a few days after the idea was birthed, I’d begun compiling and editing pieces and working on the book, I was a bundle of nerves. There was anticipation, anxiety, endless doubt, but an immense amount of desire to do this with whatever I had in me. 

“I love finding new answers too. I think asking questions is really nice. It helps you build a whole new world, a whole new narrative, an entirely new perspective and even if a little, it helps you see things in a slightly different manner. And it is fun- like becoming a new person but having the same skin.”

Small Wild Epiphanies

3.  Are there any incidents from the time you were writing the book and getting published, you can share with your readers?

Like I said before, I’d been writing for a while, right? Nothing I’d ever written was with the intention of ever publishing it, let alone in my own book. But my favorite memories of working on the book- the editing, the compilation, writing of the preface and blurb, etc.- are all the times my brother and I made trips to the printing office. He’s usually in India only in December, and he flew down earlier in 2019, so we had to publish the book in December. Which meant I had practically no time to work on it. But he took me to the printing office on a daily basis, no matter how far it was or how exhausting it’d get. I think there’s something so special about being able to share your dream with someone. Watching them invest in it equally can be such an affirming experience.

My favorite thing about the process of getting Small Wild Epiphanies is all the people that have relentlessly worked on it with me- my family and my best friends. They really helped bring it to life. 

4. What do you want the readers to take away from the book?

Mostly just a feeling of warmth along with the feeling of being heard, loved, seen, and acknowledged. From the very start, I needed the book to be a reminder of kindness and goodness for its readers. To be a reminder of how special vulnerability is and how it can create entire communities for you, even within yourself. We seek so much acceptance and kindness and love from the world, and sometimes it can be easy to forget it exists because we see so much bad happening around [us]. So much can potentially go wrong. So much HAS gone wrong. And if I can help someone feel less alone, then I want to take a chance on it.

I think that’s primarily why SWE was published too. I want it to be equivalent to a hug, to remind people that they’re brave and they’re capable and loved. We all need to be reminded that sometimes. Now more than ever, when so much physical touch is lost to caution and worry because of COVID. My hope is that people can carry the book wherever they feel like and remember that solidarity and warmth exist. 

5. What is the significance of the title?

 A moment of epiphany is basically a moment of insight because of something super commonplace or simple, right? So it’s essentially a moment that doesn’t look like anything out of usual, but you suddenly realize something because of how common and homely it is. Like laughing with the same person, you’ve been laughing with for months together and realizing that you laugh the most freely with them. Or chopping vegetables with your mother and realizing that you see so much of her in you.

Small Wild Epiphanies has come together due to poems and pieces that I’ve written solely because of endless such epiphanies. I’ve looked at something, been in a particular moment, felt something, all seemingly mundane and commonplace. Still, it has led to some profound, extremely incredible understanding of the world around me. That’s what Small Wild Epiphanies is- small and wild realizations that have led to this moment of time in my life. And then the next. And then so on. 

6. Who is your inspiration? 

This is always so difficult to answer! I think I pick and draw and snatch inspiration from everyone around me, all the time, passively or actively. I’m moved very easily sometimes, and I think I’m also super intrigued by all the things that set apart the people I see and hear and am around. Something as brief as a stranger’s kindness on a bus, my friends’ wit, all the ways they’re smart and loving, my mother, the list is endless! But more specifically, I think in terms of writing styles and writing inspiration and how honest I am when it comes to what I say and how I say it, writers like Sarah Kaye, Rega Jha, Harnidh Kaur, Ada Limon, Naomi Shihab Nye have greatly influenced the way I see the world. 

“Everyone is going through their own snowstorm with shoes that aren’t thick enough.”

Small Wild Epiphanies

7.  It is evident from the book, you love hugs. Tell your readers about the very first memory you have of a hug if you’d like. 

Oh, absolutely! Hugs are such gorgeous love languages. Some of my very early memories of hugs have to be with my kindergarten friends. I had this best friend, and we would hug so often. I was always a hugger. Which sounds SO funny in Hindi or Marathi, but there’s no other way to put it. I always remember being a hug enthusiast. One of my absolute best friends in school used to give the tightest, most heartwarming hugs to me every single day. So often, I’d go to school gloomy and carrying this enormous dark cloud, and she’d pull me in for a hug, and it immediately made everything less heavy. We’re not friends anymore, but the comfort and security of her hugs were one of the very initial instances that made them so important to me. Now it’s a love language, and so much of that is her.

Funny how these things can stay with you a lifetime, because a hug lingers on for SUCH a long time; my body still remembers hers. 

8.  How does it feel now that Small Wild Epiphanies is about to turn one?

Ecstatic and SO unrealistic, honestly. The last 1 year has been all sorts of encouraging, confusing, unprecedented, and affirming. Having people invest in something that is so huge to me is such a blissful feeling. We launched the e-book version a few months ago, and that was another milestone that I never thought I’d achieve. Small Wild Epiphanies has brought me closer to so many people. It has allowed me to have so many vulnerable conversations with people, and it has changed so much about the way I look at myself too.

The last nine months have snatched away from me all the happiness I get from being able to give people copies of the book in real life, but we have something super nice planned for December, which happens to be the anniversary month! I only hope this book serves its purpose and brings people closer to their feelings and the realization of the magic and miracle that their existence is. 

I’d like to publicly thank Tanvi again for taking the time out of her day to answer my questions that I, like many others, was dying to know. Be sure to buy Small Wild Epiphanies, which is officially live on Amazon! Stay connected to Tanvi by following her on IG.

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