Sep 22, 2010

Mining my Heritage by Shobhan Bantwal

Back when I was growing up in a small town in Southwestern India in the 1950s-60s, creative writing was the last thing on my mind. In fact, outside of the required school and college essays, I had not written a single creative word. But when I took up writing at the late age of 50, I naturally turned to my own heritage for inspiration.

It was amazing to wake up one day and realize that perhaps my ho-hum life would actually be of interest to others. Having had a strict Hindu upbringing at home and a parochial school education under the watchful eye of Catholic nuns, an arranged marriage was the only kind of marriage I knew and expected. But all those elements added up to a life that was unusual to others.

There is so much fodder for story ideas in my own culture that I rarely have to look beyond it. Consequently my books are essentially "Bollywood in a Book"—emotional stories about women who are fiercely loyal to their men despite their authoritarian ways, and hot-button social issues like dowry, female-fetus abortion, and the infamous caste system.

Sex outside marriage is taboo in India, divorce is frowned upon, girls are considered burdens, boys are adored, and falling in love used to be an unknown concept. Recently the trend has changed and young men and women fall in love and marry outside their caste and manage to live happily enough. But the basic tenets of family life still remain the same in my culture, providing me with an endless permutations of story ideas.

In my latest novel, THE UNEXPECTED SON, my protagonist as a teenager falls in love with the wrong man, a man who is notorious for womanizing. He dumps her after using her. But that single mistake comes back to torment her 30 years later, when she has finally managed to get over him and make a life for herself in the United States. She has to reconcile with her past at the risk of losing her family.


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Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book,” romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture. Born and raised in India and now an American citizen, Shobhan had an arranged marriage and writes about that topic and other controversial social topics unique to India. THE UNEXPECTED SON is her fourth book.

Shobhan’s articles and short stories have appeared in a variety of publications including The Writer magazine, Romantic Times, India Abroad, Little India, U.S. 1, India Currents, and New Woman. Her short stories have won honors and awards in fiction contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories and New Woman magazines. To read her stories, articles, favorite recipes, and more, go to her website: www.shobhanbantwal.com

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