When did Valarie start showing signs of lead- ership, courage and
care for the community?
One of the times when I realized that Valarie was a very caring child, more so than children
her age of about 7, was when we
were visiting Los Angeles.
We were walking down the
street when a homeless person
approached us on the sidewalk.
When he asked for a handout
my reaction would have been to
ignore him and walk to the other
side of the street. Valarie insisted
that we help, regardless of my
explaining to her why it is impossible to
help everyone that asks.
Even at that age Valarie could be very
persuasive and impossible to say no to.
She showed a compassion and understanding far beyond her age that day.
Valarie is an adult now, but has not
changed one bit in her concern for those
less fortunate among us.
She has always been passionate about
helping and making a difference.
Of course, as any father would, we
wanted her to be financially secure in
whatever work she decided to pursue, but
when we expressed our concern in this
matter, she said ‘Let Sanjeev and I pursue
our passion and the money will
follow.’ Both our son Sanjeev and Valarie,
with our full support, are following their
During her junior year at Stanford,
Valarie decided to travel to India to interview survivors of the 1947 Partition of
India. She was preparing to leave when
the attacks of 9/11 happened and
Stanford decided it was too dangerous to
send students abroad.
9/11 and its repercussion on the Asian-American community had a deep affect
on Valarie. This is when she first took on
the desire to help this community, switching from traveling to India to taking on
the camera, traveling across the US, and
then the world, to document stories of
hate crimes that were taking place everywhere.
Among her many accomplishments,
which ones do you value most? And why?
Besides her high achievements in academia, her way of storytelling, making a
difference, especially by inspiring young
For example, after watching DWF
(Divided We Fall) many young students
sent her e-mails, telling her how it had
changed them. That is so powerful.
Her strong will and tenacity to always
do the right thing for others is remark-
‘She can do anything
‘SHE DID THINGS AS THEY
WERE THE RIGHT THINGS
she puts her mind to’
Valarie Kaur says her biggest fans are her parents.
In an e-mail interview with Arthur J Pais, Judge Brar,
Valarie’s father, speaks about his talented daughter.
She always followed her heart
and her passion, Sanjeev Brar,
Valarie Kaur’s younger
Arthur J Pais.
Her daily living is full of meaningful, purposeful moments.
It does not matter how busy she
is, she always makes time for her
family and friends.
We love the way she is continuing
the legacy of her
grandparents. Loving them and
honoring them through her work
in the most profound way.
She held the very first Sikh service with kirtan at the Harvard
Divinity School. She can do anything that she puts her mind to —
for example, taking up Kathak in
With the permission of her
teacher, she performed a beautiful
Kathak dance at her graduation
ceremony at Harvard.
This is her most meaningful gift
to us. It makes us very proud of the
way she is embracing our heritage.
As parents, what have you learned
To be tenacious, strong and open
Life is not black and white; there is a lot
To empathize with others; to be more
loving and compassionate.
To be courageous; to speak up even
when it is not popular, and to stand up
not only for ourselves, but for others as
What incidents from her childhood do
you remember most?
When she was around five, I was driving
and she was in the back seat. She was put-
ting on her watch or doing something,
and I was telling her to do it the other
way, and she said, “You have your mind
and I have my mind, you do it your way
and I will do it my way.”
Since then, her way has been the way for
She has an adventurous nature to
COUR TES Y: VALARIEKAUR. COM
Valarie Kaur, second from right, at the premiere of her first film, Divided We Fall, in San Francisco in 2006.
With her were, from left, Sanjeev Brar (brother), Sharmila Gill (cousin), Sharat Raju (husband and DWF director), Sharon
Gibson (DWF story consultant), Kathy Jennings (DWF production assistant), Ravi (friend), Dolly Brar (mother), John
Tebbets (friend), and Judge Brar (father).
explore. She was always a perfectionist.
Be it History Day competitions, science
fairs — everything she learned, she
learned well and excelled at it.
Her interest led her to finding her own
way to her religion and spirituality.
Always questioning every step of the
way for better understanding, be it science or religion.
What is the best advice that you and your
wife have given her?
Our best advice has been to allow her
the freedom to pursue her passions and to
do what makes her happy and content
with herself, even if it means to take the
road less traveled.
This advice was based on the trust we
had about her intelligence and wisdom to
choose wisely. ;
Valarie Kaur’s imagination was evi- dent even when she was a little girl when she would watch films like Disney’s Aladdin and pretend she was some of the characters in the
film, remembers her younger brother Sanjeev
“She was always very creative, and she was
shining in school not only in the arts, but also
science projects,” he adds.
Politics and History and a concern for her own
heritage began dominating her imagination
when she was just about 16.
“Valarie and I grew up in a pretty conservative
home,” he continues. “Our father (Judge Brar)
was a Republican though in the later years he
would change his politics. We used to have a lot
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