Books·My Life in Books

4 books that shaped the life of Bollywed star Roop Singh

Bollywed star Roop Singh spoke to CBC Books about the book that informed and shaped her.

Bollywed is now streaming on CBC Gem

An Indian Canadian woman with long brunette hair poses for a photo in a red dress across the street from a periwinkle blue and pink building. In front of the building, a red streetcar begins to pass. Just out of frame, dancers with purple cloth and gold outfits dance around the woman.
Roop Singh poses for a photo outside her family's bridal shop, Chandan Fashion, in Toronto's Little India. (CBC)

Roop Singh is known on-screen as the daughter-in-law of the Singh family, an intergenerational Indian Canadian family who star in Bollywed, a heartwarming docu-series about the Singh family as they run their iconic bridal shop, Chandah Fashion, in the heart of Toronto's Little India. Bollywed is now streaming on CBC Gem.

Having owned and operated the shop for over 30 years, the Singh family offers an honest look at what it's like to run an intergenerational family business, especially when new and old values collide over the excitement and extravagance of Indian weddings.

Singh, who identifies as the bookworm of the family, spoke to CBC Books about the books that have made her who she is today. 

Nothing Much Happens by Kathryn Nicolai

The bottom-half is an illustration of a person with short, brunette hair sleeping in a white and brown bed with a book lying open on their chest. The top half is blue with the title of the book, Nothing Much Happens.
Nothing Much Happens is a book by Kathryn Nicolai. (Penguin Canada, Megan Elise Crimmins-Helton)

"One of the books that I feel like everyone could benefit by having on their nightstand is Nothing Much Happens by Kathryn Nicolai. 

"It's based on a popular podcast that she translated into a novel. It's a collection of short stories, each about two to three pages long. 

Each story encourages you to find the beauty and joy in the simplest of everyday moments.- Roop Singh

"Each story encourages you to find the beauty and joy in the simplest of everyday moments. They are designed to help still your mind and ground yourself in the present moment.

"I am a big fan of her stories; they help calm me down before bed."

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 

In this 1952 picture, Ernest Hemingway is reading a letter informing him he has won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Old Man and the Sea. (AFP/Getty Images)

"One book everyone has to read as a rite of passage is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. 

"It's a rare simplicity. It's beautiful and captivating, as well as tragic and devastating. It's one of my favourites.

"My father recommended it to me. He's a big reader himself. It's something he would quote a lot and he basically made me read it so that we could talk about it. I am so glad he did because now I will often go back and read it myself. 

"It's about a fisherman who hasn't been lucky at sea for about 84 days straight. He has an apprentice who he loves a lot and even the boy's parents have taken the boy away from the fisherman, saying he's bad luck. And then he goes on his 85th day at sea and catches something, something magnificent and basically it's a struggle at sea — I don't want to give away too much because it's definitely something everyone should read! 

"I think the main thing my dad was trying to get across to me [by recommending the book] was that life isn't always easy and that even if something in your life is going on that overtly seems to be defeating you, that doesn't mean your spirit needs to be defeated ever. That's one thing you have control over: your internal narrative." 

Selected Short Stories by Rabindranath Tagore 

A portrait of an older man with a long white beard and robes who stares to his left in front of curtains.
Selected Short Stories brings together some of the works by Rabindranath Tagore. (Wikimedia Commons/public domain, Penguin Classics)

"I love his work because personally, I see my own culture reflected back to me. Tagore is really good at capturing the human condition: he brings to light both the beauty and the flaws that are inevitably embedded in all of us. 

"His stories aren't always pretty or happy and kind and sometimes they do leave you feeling a little dark and sad, but they get you thinking. He marries realism and idealism very well. 

"One of my favourite short stories by him would be Kabuliwala. It's a really, really sweet story if anyone wants a little peek into his work. 

I love his work because personally, I see my own culture reflected back to me. Tagore is really good at capturing the human condition.- Roop Singh

"I see myself reflected in the short story. Toward the end of the story, it culminates in the main character getting married. 

"Indian culture has this tendency where when a girl gets married, it's very transitional. It's something I wish would change, but it's almost like you're leaving one family and embracing another. It's heartbreaking and beautiful and my own wedding day was extremely emotional in that sense. 

"I lived with my parents before I got married so not only am I getting married and starting this new life but I am moving away from them. That is part of my culture that was beautifully showcased in this story." 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling 

An illustrated book cover of a boy wearing glasses with short brown hair and a black shirt smiling in front of a castle in the background. Beside him is a big, bearded man holding a lantern and a young girl. The title reads "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a book by J.K. Rowling. (Bloomsbury, Mary McCartney)

"I don't think I would be true and authentic to myself if I didn't mention one of my all-time favourite books, Harry Potter.

"As a kid growing up in the '90s, this is a rite of passage. It's a world I'm still very much captivated by. I was 11 years old waiting for Dumbledore to come tell me I'm a wizard.

As a kid growing up in the '90s, this is a rite of passage.- Roop Singh

"I was so invested in this world that I was heartbroken at the idea of it coming to an end. So I've read the first six books and I refused to read the seventh book because I don't want it to come to an end in my mind. My husband finally convinced me to read the last book so I'm reading that."

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