05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Shobhan Bantwal - Romance in the Land of Bollywood

By Shobhan Bantwal

Author of The Reluctant Matchmaker and other novels about India

Despite my nearly 40-year-old arranged marriage and my conservative childhood in small-town India, I am a hopeless romantic. And this is why I decided to buck the stereotype of serious Indian literary fiction and write romance instead. However, my brand of romance also includes some bold and controversial social issues that most South Asian fiction authors shy away from.

Fortunately there is an abundance of story ideas in my own culture. Consequently my books are essentially "Bollywood in a Book"—a kaleidoscope of all the elements of my native India—vivid tales woven around exotic women, authoritarian men, and hot-button social issues. My stories are filled with the vivid colors, textures, scents, and images of India. They offer a small glimpse of a tantalizing, paradoxical culture that is ancient yet modern, simple yet complicated. Kensington Publishing has given me an extraordinary opportunity to introduce my unique brand of multicultural fiction to a wider audience.

While conflict is part and parcel of every society, it is even more apparent in conservative cultures like India, where love and romance are rarely given credence. The rigid caste system and arranged marriage still exist in contemporary India. Dowry abuse is rampant, women are still considered burdens, and dominant males are fierce guardians of their heritage.

India is the land of the Kama Sutra, an ancient textbook on sex, and the Bollywood movies are all about romance, and yet the word "sex" is rarely uttered, premarital sex is frowned upon, and legitimate sex between married people is looked at as a necessary evil. Nonetheless all those countless taboos, spices, superstitions, saris, and languages provide the most delicious cultural tidbits that add complex layers to my fiction.

Three of my books are set in India. The protagonists are very different in their personalities, and yet they share a few traits, like the strength to overcome extreme challenges and the tenacity to become independent.

My debut novel, The Dowry Bride, is the story of a young Indian bride's escape from her abusive marriage and her journey to freedom and love. The Forbidden Daughter brings to light the horrific practice of female fetus abortion, but the dark topic is intricately woven into a story of courage, hope, and ultimately, romance. The Unexpected Son is all about pre-marital sex and the lifelong consequences of bearing a child out of wedlock. But every one of these novels has romance as the underlying theme.

The Indian-American immigrant experience is yet another delightful source of conflict, where conformist Indians raising their children in the emancipated American milieu grapple with dating, pre-marital sex, and sometimes gay relationships. Young, second-generation Indian-Americans facing the challenges of conservative family lives combined with fitting into the American social fabric form the topics of my two latest novels, The Full Moon Bride and The Reluctant Matchmaker.

Information on my writing, contests, book clubs, author events, recipes, photos, contact, and charities that I support can be found on my website:  Readers can also find me on Facebook.


Margaret Tanner said...

Wow, all that Bollywood action and colour, but the underlying problems as you have pointed them out, make a fascinating and dramatic background for you to work with.
Best of luck with all your writing ventures.



Shobhan Bantwal said...


Thanks for posting your comment and for your kind wishes.

Shobhan Bantwal

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and your writing with us here at Romancing the Genres. I thin you and I have something in common in out writing: we want to shine a late on dark issues as well as to uplift our readers with a happy ending. Your books have intrigued me and I can't wait to read them!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Each of these books sounds AMAZING! I have a friend who is originally from India, was married to a traditional Indian man, and after the divorce she came out as a Lesbian. Talk about conflict. Her parents still live in India, but somehow they have managed to come to terms with it. When I listen to her talk about it I am gobsmacked at the combination of old and new traditions mixed with ages of knowledge that has always gone against tradition but never talked about it openly.

Exciting stuff.

Judith Ashley said...

Shobhan, Thank you for Contributing to our Blog-O-Versary! Your books certainly highlight our theme of Romance Around The World.

You have a rich layered culture to draw from. Your stories sound amazing and I love your covers! especialy the one with the baby!!!

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Thank you, Judith & Sarah, for your kind words and your support. I think you ladies are wonderful writers and your blog supports every kind of romance genre there is, which is terrfic!

Maggie, your friend's story is so intriguing, it could become a novel by itself. Yes, Indian culture is a bundle of contradictions & that's what makes it such a goldmine for story ideas.