Thulirkal: Speaking through Stories, Shayanika Suresh!

CTYA’s Blog has started a new Feature on Fridays, Thulirkal. Thulirkal meaning bud reflects the young Tamil youth we will be featuring. These youth are the buds of our community, and are growing into strong, achieving young men and women! Each week we will feature a Tamil youth of the week. For more information or to suggest a youth to feature, please feel free to email us at!

This week, we’ve brought you Shayanika Suresh!

Since Shayanika was just a child, she bravely wanted to try her hand at everything. She sang and played instruments, she drew, she wrote poems, she made clay figures. Where Shayanika lacked skill, she compensated with hard work, which can still be said about her today.

Growing up in several countries and moving from place to place with her family allowed Shayanika to acquire incredible people-skills: she makes friends easily, she attracts people and makes them comfortable. She understands them and makes herself relatable. It is not surprising then that since young age, Shayanika has occupied leadership positions in many school committees and extra-curricular clubs. Fast-forward four years and Shayanika chooses Sociology major and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. She excels at her studies, but more importantly, Shayanika’s literature works now acquire a deeper, sociological context, and so her short stories and poems not only entertain the readers but also educate and inspire them. Further along, Shayanika chooses to study abroad for two years to obtain a law degree, from which she recently graduated.

It is an understatement to say that Shayanika achieves whatever she puts her mind to. Being active in her community, juggling studies, writing projects and interning at a law company, Shayanika makes success look easy. Educated, personable and well-rounded, there is no doubt that she will get far in her career and creative endeavours. However, what makes Shayanika exceptional is her remarkable love of humanity which drives all her professional choices and saturates all her artistic accomplishments.

CTYA Blog Team: Thank you Shayanika for sitting down with us today. So, let’s get warmed up. Ok, now don’t think, just say what first comes to mind. 1, 2, 3…

Books or Movies? Books

Summer or Winter? Summer

Three things you would take on Desert Island? I would love to say laptop, a good read, and my phone but that’s not very practical now is it?  Thinking of survival, perhaps a mirror (to send signals), basic emergency food supply/provisions, and matchsticks/lighter.

Favourite Painting Medium? Oil

Role Model? Martin Luther King

CTYA Blog Team: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Shayanika: I’m a Law Graduate, and my legal career is a work in progress. I love writing, drawing, singing, dancing and talking…perhaps a little too much at times, but oh well! Eating out with my friends and, of course, chatting for hours is a favourite pastime. People tell me I’m easy-going, bubbly and always smiling, but I won’t go on about that. I dislike being late and I am a perfectionist in essence. My favourite colour is lime green, and so are the walls of my room. I love elephants and find parrots entertaining. I tend to follow my heart in making life decisions, and so far, my choices have been great! *crossing fingers.

CTYA Blog Team: What got you interested in writing, poetry and art?

Shayanika: I find it difficult to say how I got interested in writing, poetry and art, because it has been a part of me since my childhood. And at that phase in life, if I had any inclinations, it must have been on a subconscious level.

But, I do remember, at the age of seven, my mother admiring my work. I was drawing the images featured on my little brother’s blanket, on a sketchbook half my size. I remember trying to get the right shapes and sizes, and not quite getting there. I think this, and my perfectionist personality, pushed me to ‘practice’ drawing. People see my drawings and often comment: “Wow, you are so talented”. But, I honestly believe I wasn’t born with the talent to draw, as some individuals are. I taught myself to draw, and just pushed my limits every so and then, experimenting and working hard until I eventually got a result that looked as close to perfect as I can get.

My first poem was in Tamil. I was six and it told the story of a bird trying to feed pieces of fruit to my little brother pieces of fruit. To this day, I am not sure what that poem symbolized, yet it was the story my proud parents told everyone who came to see us. The interest that makes me write poems today, I have to say, came from my high-school years of reading Shakespeare and listening to my teacher read out the verses in a beautiful voice with a rich British accent. One day, I hoped, my poems would be read like that.

Funny enough, it was almost around the same milestone in my childhood, that I also began to write little snippets (mostly in the form of comics) that make absolutely no sense to me now, but were so thrilling to me as a child. I showed them to everyone I knew. They nodded in response, and murmured compliments on how cute or adorable I was, and that was all. But, these were accomplishments to me, and I thrived on them.

CTYA Blog Team: Tell us about your book, Lips No Longer Sealed, which you released in 2011. Could you recite a few lines from your most favourite piece for us? What was the inspiration behind this book?

Shayanika: Lips No Longer Sealed was essentially a dream come true for me. It gave me the opportunity to put together several pieces (mostly reality fiction) I had written over the years, as well as attempt to carry out a powerful message to its audience. The content of the book was inspired largely by some courses I took at the University of Toronto, which emphasized over and over again the impact of violence on individuals. It made me realize how deep the scars of such impact can be. I reflected on how these scars and the stigma that often results in the blaming of the victims have forced many victims into silence. Years later, this encouraged me to put together the book, and try to get the message out.

My favourite piece in the book is a short story called “Stripped of Honour” which tells the story of a young girl who is raped in a war-torn country, despite her mother’s brave attempts to protect her.

“As he spat out the last words, he grabbed onto my mother’s throat and pulled her hair with his other hand. My mother screamed. As I remained hidden behind the kitchen door, I closed my mouth with both my hands and cried silently”

This was the hardest piece for me to write as a woman. Rape is a very intimate form of violence, and it is for this reason that it has been used, throughout history, as a tool of genocide.

CTYA Blog Team: You have also been successful academically, and have completed your law degree in addition to your involvement with poetry and art, why do you feel extra curricular activities are important to pursue in addition to academics?

Shayanika: I believe that each individual should get a well-rounded education. To me, academic success is strengthened and often inspired by the works of art and poetry, and vice versa. The two spheres are intertwined: while one is food for the mind, another is food for the soul. I also believe that art is more accessible to the general population than academia, and hence, can be used as a tool to educate the public about important social, political, and cultural issues.

CTYA Blog Team: Are you currently working on any new writing projects?

Shayanika: I’m trying to explore other genres of writing, and yes, I’m working on a romantic thriller at the moment. It’s a very different ball game but I like the challenge and I have high hopes for it.

CTYA Blog Team: What’s your ultimate dream in life?

Shayanika: My ultimate dream is to have the satisfaction of putting my knowledge, talents and passions towards the development of society, both morally and socially.

CTYA Blog Team: Finish the sentence. “To me, Tamil youth are..”

Shayanika: A unified group of diverse, talented, extraordinary and powerful individuals who are passionate about their culture and are dedicated to building a brighter future.

For more information or to suggest a youth to feature, please feel free to email us at! Catch up with us next Friday where we’ll be bringing you another Talented Tamil youth story!

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