I’m both – immigrant and a teen who grew up in the diaspora: Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon - author of When Dimple met Rishi
The author always enjoyed writing since her childhood. Photo courtesy: Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon – the author of recently published charming romantic comedy When Dimple met Rishi, introduced a bright new voice in young adult fiction.

Published on May 30, the novel springs from the author’s own experiences while struggling to fit in and adapt to her new country while still showing respect for the long-standing traditions of her Indian heritage.

Sandhya Menon shared her journey with Connected to India (CtoI). Here is what she said:

CtoI: How and when did you decide to be a writer?
Sandhya Menon:
I’ve always written, ever since I was seven or eight years old. I used to have notebooks filled with short stories and poems (and badly drawn art!). So I suppose I never made the decision to be a writer; it just came naturally. I decided to pursue publication in about 2011 and began writing more seriously then.

CtoI: When Dimple Met Rishi is a very interesting name, will pique reader interest. What is the book about?
Sandhya Menon:
Thank you! All compliments about the title should be directed to my editor as she’s the genius behind it!

The book follows the lives of two Indian-American teens whose parents want to arrange their marriage (when they’re older, of course). Dimple, being a progressive coder, is completely against marriage and tradition of any kind, whereas Rishi, a secret comic book artist, is the exact opposite. The story follows how they come to terms with what it means to be Indian-American and how to go after what you really want.

When Dimple Met Rishi
Photo courtesy: Sandhya Menon

CtoI: Is it a love story that never happened?
Sandhya Menon:
It’s a love story that definitely does happen. It just takes some finagling to get it there!

CtoI: Why did you decide on writing a rom-com?
Sandhya Menon:
I’ve always loved reading rom-coms. There’s something comforting, warm, and familiar about a story you know is going to turn out happily in the end. Writing one was a natural extension of reading them all these years.

CtoI: Do you write under another name too?
Sandhya Menon:
I have written under the name SK Falls, although that name is inactive now.

CtoI: Who are you targeting with the book? Is it primarily for Indian audiences?
Sandhya Menon:
This book is for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong in the larger whole. I suspect that’s a lot of us!

CtoI: What are the initial reactions on When Dimple met Rishi?
Sandhya Menon:
The initial reactions have been so promising and heartwarming. I have gotten so many emails and messages from young readers who are so excited to see themselves represented in light-hearted, happy fiction. The cover, too, with a desi model front and centre, has evoked many happy responses.

CtoI: How do you situate yourself in writing of the diaspora, and in the United States more specifically?
Sandhya Menon:
I’m both – immigrant and a teen who grew up in the diaspora, so I write from that perspective. I remember being completely immersed in Indian culture before I moved to the US at the age 15, so it was a definite shock for me to suddenly be immersed in American culture. However, once I acclimated (and as a teen, I acclimated quickly!), I felt the same struggles that teens born in the US feel—that push-pull between my parents’ culture and the culture I was growing up in. Now, as a writer, I can put those experiences to use when I write characters like Dimple and Rishi.

CtoI: Who are the writers you admire or draw inspiration from?
Sandhya Menon:
I love authors who do comedy effortlessly and manage to tug at your heartstrings at the same time! Some of my favourites are Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, and Laura Weisberger.

CtoI: Who is your favourite Indian writer?
Sandhya Menon:
Arundhati Roy is a classic favourite and a newer favourite is Roshani Chokshi.

When Dimple Met Rishi
Photo courtesy: sandhyamenon.com

CtoI: Which book(s) are you reading right now?
Sandhya Menon:
An older one, but as superbly written as all of her books are — Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier.

CtoI: What's next? What are you working on now? Can you give us a preview?
Sandhya Menon:
I’m currently working on edits on my next novel, another YA contemporary which will be released in the summer of 2018. Like When Dimple Met Rishi, it features a strong female Indian protagonist. This one also happens to be a filmmaker, and the entire novel is written in epistolary format, which was so fun. I can’t wait to share with readers.