By Shobhan Bantwal
Despite my 40-year-old arranged marriage and my conservative childhood in small-town India, I’m a hopeless romantic. Surprised? Why else would I write my India-centric stories bubbling with drama, emotion, colorful ethnic characters, rich cultural elements, and most importantly romance?
Contrary to popular belief, most modern Indian arranged marriages are rooted in mutual liking and respect. Most couples have the choice of rejection if they take an instant dislike to each other or have serious doubts about a future together.
While many think a "romantic arranged marriage" is a contradiction, I believe it is possible to have romance in a relationship built on a practical foundation. In fact, when parents of potential brides and grooms research suitable matches for their children, they invariably choose someone with similar family values, and compatible economic, educational, and social backgrounds.
But then again, falling in love and finding one's own soul-mate can be such fun!
Some folks seem to view arranged marriage as a quaint and antiquated custom of two strangers entering blindly into a loveless union forced by their elders. Nonetheless, from personal experience and the examples amongst my family and friends, I can safely say arranged love is the kind that may be slow to ignite, mature, and stabilize, but it is an abiding love that often lasts a lifetime. I call it “arranged love.”
In my humble opinion, romance is not always about roses, champagne, and diamonds, although it does have a special appeal. Sometimes being there for each other in sickness and health, through the ups and downs of life, raising children, and sharing a few laughs is more precious than wine and moonlight.
Besides, isn’t every marriage or long-term relationship a gamble to some degree, no matter which way the partners meet? I have to confess though, that my fiction is vastly different from my personal life. In my stories, the hero and heroine fall in love, experience some wild adventures, and often go against cultural dictates.
My latest book, The Reluctant Matchmaker, is the story of a petite Indian-American woman, Meena, who falls in love with her super-tall boss. Things get complicated when he requests her assistance in finding a suitably tall bride for himself. So is Meena going to help him or find some way to make him fall in love with her?
I would love to hear your thoughts on love and life-long relationships.