When I heard about this book for the first time I practically leaped out of my seat with delight at having a YA contemporary of this kind out there in the world! On paper it was everything I wanted and never thought I needed. I must admit that I went in brimming with hope and totally unrealistic expectations, which is why I’m beyond thrilled to share my thoughts on a story that checked all my Bollywood boxes!
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
A bit of back-story: I am coloured and proud of it! In a world where the topic of race sparks more animosity than celebration, it feels good to say this wholeheartedly and unapologetically. I’ve always been proud of my heritage, and I was raised to appreciate and respect people from all different backgrounds, religions, races and cultural groups. That being said, I do understand the restrictions that comes with it all and it was exciting to be reading a book exploring these shared frustrations in the voice of someone who truly gets it.
On the subject of ‘heritage’, my maternal grandfather was Indian, so naturally I was drawn to the synopsis of what would be Sandhya Menon’s striking debut. My fierce love for Bollywood movies, and the rich Indian culture as a whole, is what drove it all home – I needed to get my hands on this book!
And so I did.
And I completed it last night.
And I absolutely, with the entirety of my fragile human heart, LOVED THIS BOOK!
If you love the Bollywood scene as much as I do then you will adore this story! It explored the Indian culture in a way that can only be done from a personal perspective, and focused on real life issues without removing the light-hearted quirkiness that often come hand-in-hand with a Shah Rukh Khan Blockbuster. Of course, the references to his films turned me to mush, so I think it’s safe to say that this post is written from a completely biased point of view…
But this is my point though: having more diverse, own voice books on the market gives more people the chance to connect and relate to something. Reading about Dimple’s rather conservative parents and the boundaries she kept pushing, reminded me of my own upbringing. Her passion for SMET and her need to give back, along with Rishi’s struggle to balance his own happiness with that of his parents, became a personal story for me. I felt connected to these characters on such a deep level and I just know that there are many others out there who feel the same way.
“She inhaled deeply—and sneezed. Stupid allergies.
“Gods bless you,” Rishi said.
Dimple arched an eyebrow. “Gods?”
He nodded sagely. “As a Hindu, I’m a polytheist, as you well know.”
Dimple laughed. “Yes, and I also know we still only say ‘God,’ not ‘gods.’ We still believe Brahma is the supreme creator.”
Rishi smiled, a sneaky little thing that darted out before he could stop it. “You got me. It’s my version of microaggressing back on people.”
“So, okay. This is how it works in the US: In the spring we’re constantly subjected to bunnies and eggs wherever we go, signifying Christ’s resurrection. Then right around October we begin to see pine trees and nativity scenes and laughing fat white men everywhere. Christian iconography is all over the place, constantly in our faces, even in casual conversation. This is the bible of comic book artists . . . He had a come to Jesus moment, all of that stuff. So this is my way of saying, Hey, maybe I believe something a little different. And every time someone asks me why ‘gods,’ I get to explain Hinduism.”
Dimple chewed on this, impressed in spite of herself. He actually had a valid point. Why was Christianity always the default? “Ah.” She nodded, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “So what you’re saying is, you’re like a Jehovah’s Witness for our people.”
Rishi’s mouth twitched, but he nodded seriously. “Yes. I’m Ganesha’s Witness. Has a bit of a ring to it, don’t you think?”
I wrote a post not too long ago where I shared my anger frustrations on how obvious it is when an author just doesn’t get what it means to be someone from a different social group, and how unnerving it is to read when you are from said social group. Reading When Dimple met Rishi is the perfect example of why it is so vital to have these stories told in the voice from which it stems. There are things that just cannot be taught and things that cannot be understood no matter how much research and observations are made – you have to be it to express it.
“You’re going to see a lot of it. People getting ahead unfairly because of the category into which they were born: male or white or straight or rich. I’m in a few of those categories myself, which is why I make it a point to reach out and help those who aren’t, those who might not necessarily be seen if I didn’t make the effort. We need to shake this field up, you know? We need more people with different points of view and experiences and thought processes so we can keep innovating and moving ahead.”
Of course, there are matters in this story that affects people from all walks of life too. One that stood out for me especially was Dimple’s battle of choosing between a career and a relationship – a struggle a lot of women face today. The idea that you need to be one thing or the other, you can’t have the best of both worlds. Even though I thought the subject could’ve been explored a bit more, I did admire the message behind it since it was something I experienced too. It’s a difficult thing to overcome, which is why I would’ve loved Sandhya Menon to take it further, but now that I think about it I appreciated this direction better. The way to approach this dilemma is to just do what makes you happy – I guess when I look back at my own experience it really was as simple as that.
“This is our life. We get to decide the rules. We get to say what goes and what stays, what matters and what doesn’t.”
I gave this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads – I loved it SO much!
Did you read When Dimple met Rishi? I’d love to know what you thought of it!