I’m very pleased to have the talented author Shobhan Bantwal as my guest. She’s the author of The Full Moon Bride and other books based on Indian culture. Those of you who know me are aware of my fascination with Native Americans, mostly in a historical context, but I’m also intrigued by the ‘other’ kind of Indian.
Shobhan Bantwal: “Do American readers and moviegoers know anything at all about the life of an average middle-class Indian man or woman? Not many know a lot about Indian culture. It is not because they choose not to learn; it is because Indian writers and moviemakers have not been effective in portraying the true face of India to American audiences.”
*So you’re saying Outsourced and Slumdog Millionaire aren’t entirely accurate, huh:) Years ago, my uncle and aunt lived in India while he was a public health doctor, and my family hosted a medical student, one of a group of exchange students from India, plus my parents visited India, which gives me a little more to go on, though not a lot.
Shobhan Bantwal: The real India lies somewhere between the glitz and glamour of Bollywood movies and the poverty and despair of serious literary novels and documentaries. That is the India I try to capture in my stories, albeit peppered with some romantic drama and high emotion.
*But of course. That makes for an entertaining read.
On the surface Indian culture appears to be a somewhat homogeneous and tranquil sea of a billion plus people. Underneath that perceived harmony lies a turbulent culture that grapples with many social issues like caste, dowry and domestic abuse, female-fetus abortions fueled by obsession with producing male children, and chronic political corruption. And yet, amazingly India has managed to survive as the world’s largest democracy and even emerge as a major international power.
For me personally, the road to creating shy yet sociable, timid yet sufficiently bold women clad in saris and lehengas, and making them likable has been a rocky one. Presenting sensitive, softhearted males as real men and not wimps, and authoritative males as essentially good at heart to a non-Asian readership is even harder.
I constantly struggle with the fine balance between explaining and over-explaining an Indian word, custom, tradition or adage. Indians are not prone to emotional displays, so I often have to get into the character’s mind and explicate the finer emotions.
In the end, what I try to portray is an interesting story about Indian culture with a different slant. When elements of an exotic foreign culture are woven into a story that would otherwise have been bland, it turns into a multicultural fiction book. I call my brand of fiction “Bollywood in a Book.”
The Full Moon Bride is all about second-generation immigrants and their struggle to fit into two diverse cultures. In this latest novel I explore the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as a young Indian-American woman navigates the gulf between desire and tradition, American and Indian cultures.~
Readers can find Shobhan Bantwal’s books, events, contests, photos, recipes, and contact information on her website: www.shobhanbantwal.com/
visit her facebook page: www.facebook.com/ShobhanBantwal.author