Dilsher Dhillon’s short story, Learning to Swim, was Juggernaut’s Editors’ Pick of the Week. He daylights as a writer/analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). When he’s not passively succumbing to existential despair, he’s usually dreaming up get-famous-quick schemes with his twin brother or scouring Tumblr for all things beautiful. Juggernaut talked to him regarding his work and he shared insights about his writing and experience with the Juggernaut Writing Platform.
Could you inform the readers about your work?
My work is usually semi-autobiographical or in some cases an attempt to capture certain feelings/ideas/life-related revelations I experience and frame them through a wider, fictional narrative. Salient themes of my work include existential despair, ‘otherness’ and the idea of ourselves as our own worst enemies.
Please tell us something about your early years and your major influences. What inspired you to work on this story?
I am influenced by everything. Every person I meet and everything I read and watch. For Learning to Swim, some important spiritual influences were Nadine Gordimer’s Jump and Other Stories and Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary about the refugee crisis, Fire at Sea. The story came from my brother, Mansher. I was intrigued at writing about something so common to read about but so hard to empathise with.
How much is your plot influenced by real-life stories?
The plot isn’t influenced by specific incidents or real-life stories, although I did read several first-hand accounts of refugees to get an idea of what they have to go through. That being said, that image of a small child, Aylan Kurdi, being washed up on the beach was an important point of narrative reference.
Please tell us what books have influenced your life most.
Off the top of my head – Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, The Life & Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee, Zorro by Isabel Allende and A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley.
What difference does writing make to your life?
Writing is what I do to make sense of everything. It also gives my weekends some actual purpose.
Did you face any challenge while writing this piece?
The idea was to be true to the experience of the newly settled immigrant without being exploitative.
How was your experience with the Juggernaut Writing Platform?
Easy to use, nice interface and a novel approach to showcasing the work of moonlighting writers.