Today, we have a our Featured Author Shobhan Bantwal, author of the Dowry Bride. This is Shobhan’s debut novel and her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion.
Good morning Shobhan,
SB: Good morning, Rebecca.
Welcome to Chitchat and All That
SB: Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s great to be invited as a guest to a popular blog like yours and talk about my debut novel, THE DOWRY BRIDE. I’m looking forward to this chat.
Would you tell us a little about the custom of a dowry? Why is it still used today in some countries?
SB: Dowry is a gift of cash, valuables and/or household items presented by the bride’s family to the groom at the time of marriage. It is considered a contribution towards the newly-weds’ savings and a rainy day fund of sorts. Although dowry is not universal amongst all Indian castes and classes, there are some that practice it very strictly. To this day, it plays a significant role in some of India’s arranged marriages.
What is the good or bad of a dowry?
SB: First, let me explain the good. Centuries ago, the custom of dowry started out with good intentions. It was a means to ensure equitable distribution of ancestral property and wealth between daughters and sons in a primarily patriarchal society. If the married daughter lost her husband or ended up in a divorce, the dowry was her equivalent of an insurance policy, but over the years the custom has gone from being a gift to an entitlement in some instances. Now the bad: Some grooms’ families consider it their right to be paid by the in-laws. And in some cases, if the dowry is not paid or is not enough in their opinion, they begin to harass the bride and/or her family and the harassment can turn into abuse.
Why do you think the people of India think there is a negativity about exposing one’s culture to the rest of the world?
SB: I believe it’s human nature to portray only the best of oneself and keep the negative or vulnerable side hidden. Family secrets, or rather cultural secrets are supposedly not meant to be aired in public. I’m sure a lot of Americans are not happy about articles and books that highlight the high divorce and crime rates in the U.S., guns in the hands of school kids, gangs and homeless people in cities, etc, being broadcast to the rest of the world. For the longest time, Russia was a closed society behind the proverbial Iron Curtain. It’s only when its government crumbled that the whole world found out about the abject poverty amongst the people of the former U.S.S.R. Every culture has its dark secrets and not too many people like to expose them.
What led to your decision to write a book?
SB: I was a sociology major in college and deeply interested in social issues like dowry. But back then I wasn’t a writer then. I took up creative writing decades later, and that’s when I decided to write about a subject that was of interest to me.
Did you write the book to only denigrate the dowry custom or did you put something in it to inform the readers about India’s culture and custom?
SB: My reasons for writing THE DOWRY BRIDE were to educate, inform and entertain. Just writing a non-fiction book on dowry would have a limited audience, whereas if the subject were to be introduced in the form of an interesting book with twists and turns and some intrigue and romance, the likelihood of many people reading it and understanding the culture of India was much higher. My own understanding of other cultures, other eras and governments has often come through reading fiction.
Do you have plans to write another book?
SB: I have a two-book contract with Kensington, so yes I plan to write another book set in India. At this time I’m rolling around some ideas with my editor about the what kind of story, its length, et cetera.
If you had not been a writer, do you see yourself pursuing any other avenue?
I have full-time job as a government employee. Since I have a master’s degree in public administration, it is a natural extension of that to work in the field of public service. Creative writing started out as a hobby in my menopausal years and now it is gradually turning into a second occupation.
Did you create your plot first or the characters?
SB: The plot came first. I had this idea for the story swirling in my mind and then the characters more or less appeared on my radar, slowly evolving as I created them and then wove them into the fabric of the tale.
Did you know the end of the story at the beginning?
SB: Yes, to some degree I did. The end didn’t turn out exactly as I’d pictured it, because my characters took on a personality of their own, and as the story progressed, the end had to suit those personalities and the way they’d react to the circumstances in their lives.
What is your most favorite part about this book? Be it a feeling, a line in the story that rings true to your own identity.
SB: My favorite part is my protagonist Megha’s transition from a shy and frightened girl at the beginning of the story to a confident young woman who puts her intelligence and life-lessons to good use at the end. To me that’s positive as well as promising in any woman’s life – a reaffirmation of the resilience of the human spirit.
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what would they be?
That can happen but it’s not true of this book. I see myself in characters in some of my short stories and also another novel that I wrote, but that book hasn’t been published.
Shobhan, thank you for joining us at Chitchat and All That it was a pleasure having you. Can you tell readers where they can get a copy of your book.
Thanks for having me here, Rebecca, and asking me some really in-depth questions about Indian culture and specifically about dowry and how it factors into my novel, THE DOWRY BRIDE. I always enjoy talking about both those topics.
Readers can buy THE DOWRY BRIDE at all nationwide bookstores and all on-line booksellers in the U.S. and Canada. For additional information about the book, my other writings, dowry facts and figures, book reviews, and my favorite Indian recipes, they can visit my website: www.shobhanbantwal.com