HOW DID SHOB­HAN BANT­WAL CONCEIVE DOWRY BRIDGE?

Storizen Magazine - - Special Feature -

Women’s is­sues in con­tem­po­rary In­dia have al­ways fas­ci­nated me, even as a teenager grow­ing up in small-town Bel­gaum (Kar­nataka), in the 1960s. I was a tomboy, the rene­gade child in a con­ser­va­tive Brah­min fam­ily of five girls.

Decades later, as an In­dian-Amer­i­can woman with a mas­ter’s de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy, and try­ing to write her first novel, I nat­u­rally grav­i­tated to­wards a hot-but­ton so­cial is­sue: In­dia’s “dowry sys­tem.” I wanted to bring aware­ness to this no­to­ri­ous prac­tice that still thrives in In­dia, de­spite the laws ban­ning it.

In­cor­po­rat­ing this dark, dis­turb­ing topic into an in­trigu­ing enough story to cap­ture read­ers’ at­ten­tion was a unique and ex­cit­ing chal­lenge. I de­cided to make The Dowry Bride a so­cial drama with vivid char­ac­ters and en­gag­ing ro­mance. Since there were no Amer­i­can writ­ers who wrote such Bol­ly­wood-style nov­els at the time, and dowry was an enor­mously cap­ti­vat­ing sub­ject, I suc­ceeded in get­ting a top-rated agent, rep­utable Amer­i­can and In­dian pub­lish­ers, and a de­light­fully wide au­di­ence. Hence five more books fol­lowed in quick suc­ces­sion. The Dowry Bride tells the story of Megha, a young bride about to be burned to death by her hus­band’s fam­ily, but man­ages to es­cape in time to save her­self. The only per­son who can pro­tect her is Ku­nal, her brother-in-law, and a most un­likely ally. How­ever, while she hides in his home, the for­bid­den at­trac­tion be­tween them grows and com­pli­cates an al­ready con­vo­luted and dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. Torn be­tween her love for Ku­nal and the dic­tates of so­ci­ety, which will Megha choose?

Shob­han Bant­wal is an In­dian-Amer­i­can au­thor of six nov­els and co- au­thor of two an­tholo­gies. Her ar­ti­cles have ap­peared in The Writer, Ro­man­tic Times, In­dia Abroad, Lit­tle In­dia, New Woman, Storizen, The In­dian Trum­pet, and In­dia Cur­rents. Her short sto­ries have won hon­ours / awards in con­tests spon­sored by Writer’s Digest, New York Sto­ries, and New Woman (In­dia) mag­a­zines. Two of her nov­els have won The Golden Leaf and Na­tional In­die Ex­cel­lence Awards.

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