Thursday, August 04, 2011
Arranged Marriages - an interview with novelist Shobhan Bantwal
Award-winning author Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book”—romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture—stories that entertain and educate. Her latest novel, "The Full Moon Bride", is a compelling story that explores the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as young Indian-American attorney Soorya Giri navigates the gulf between desire and tradition.
I'm privileged to host Shobhan on my blog this week, as she answers questions about love, romance and marriage.
Q: The book's blurb starts with "What makes a marriage-love or compatibility? Passion or pragmatism?" Shobhan, what is your own view about the foundation blocks of a good marriage? Do romance books mislead us about true love and the happy ever-after?
My latest book, The Full Moon Bride, revolves around the conflict in a young Indian-American woman's mind about choosing between arranged marriage and finding a mate on her own.
Having had a happy arranged marriage that is now in its 38th year, I have faith in the old-fashioned belief that love, passion, pragmatism and compatibility can and do co-exist simultaneously and harmoniously within a good marriage. In fact, they are the foundation blocks of a solid marriage along with mutual respect, compromise, and sacrifice.
I am a hopeless romantic, so I honestly can't say that romance books mislead us about true love and the happily-ever-after. We all need romance in our lives and romance books give us that much-needed break from the mundane nature of daily life. This is one of the reasons I write books with romantic elements, what I call "Bollywood in a Book". However, some of the more formulaic romance novels tend to romanticize physical love to the point that impressionable readers like teenagers and young adults can mistake sex for love. While sexual desire is a vital component of love between a man and a woman, true love transcends the physical.
The commercialization of Valentine's Day and other holidays, flowers, jewelry, chocolate, wine, and candlelight as symbols of love by the retail industry further impact upon man-woman relationships. To me, true love is about two people being there for each other through the worst of circumstances as well as the best. All the above-mentioned tokens, although cute and touching, are merely that: tokens.
Q: What are some advantages and disadvantages of arranged marriages?
The most significant advantage of arranged marriage is the discreet but intense research done by both the bride and the groom's families before an alliance is made, making sure that both partners come from similar social, economic, and religious backgrounds (caste in India). This makes for minimal adjustment, a fact that is often overlooked in non-arranged marriages, and can be the major factor in many divorces. Falling in love sometimes makes couples blind to the more mundane yet significant aspects of marriage and family, something that arranged marriage pays serious attention to.
The disadvantage obviously is two strangers coming together in a life-long relationship that is a bigger gamble than the average American-style marriage, where two people have known each other and come to love, before tying the knot. Also, in arranged marriages in conservative cultures like India, family and honor always come first, which places undue amount of pressure on a couple to stay together even when the marriage is unhappy or abusive.
Q: And the question you've been dreading: what made you choose this topic?
By its very nature arranged marriage is an intriguing and sometimes controversial topic that can trigger interesting debates. The subject matter is great fodder for a juicy storyline and therefore ideal for book clubs and women's fiction with romantic elements. I enjoy bringing more awareness to this custom, which still flourishes in India and other Asian cultures.
Besides, having raised a daughter in this American culture, and observed her dealing with the challenges of fitting into two diverse cultures in her youth, I was compelled to write a story about second-generation immigrant life. Most young men and women whose families have settled in the U.S. for generations are unaware of the unique cultural conflicts that their immigrant counterparts experience. I felt this story would bring to light some of those rare experiences.
Readers can find my books, events, contests, photos, recipes, and contact information on my website: www.shobhanbantwal.com/ or visit my facebook page: www.facebook.com/ShobhanBantwal.author
Thank you for a great interview.