Interview with Sakal Times

The following is the full text of an interview with Renu Dhole of Sakal Times. This originally appeared in the format in this picture. Scroll down for the text.

What were you trying to achieve when you started out compiling this book? Was this an exploration of any specific concerns you had?

I was hoping for it to be an exploration of specific concerns that everyone in any stage of an arranged marriage has – while looking for a groom, after the engagement, during the wedding, during the marriage, after babies, or even when the relationship is not going well. Though some of these concerns are also relevant to a love marriage, I think they’re slightly different in arranged marriages, partly because families tend to be a lot more involved, and partly because the courtship is in fast-forward mode. So, you don’t have those precious memories of the first rush when you realised you were attracted to someone, of the trepidation before the asking out happened, of the moment you realised this was it and so on. I wanted to look at issues that everyone grapples with in a marriage. Maybe readers will find answers to some of their questions. Or maybe they’ll know they’re not alone.

How did you go about choosing the stories? Was the process of sifting from your research tough?

No, not at all. I’m quite anal that way, thankfully. I drew up a list of categories – my interviewees had to include women from across religions, across the country, and across professions; also, there had to be a mix of women who had married early and married late, who are newly-married and have been married for some time and so on. And my interviewees are all intelligent, coherent women, which made my life very easy. The original structure I’d had in mind for the book shifted shape, and everything fell into place nicely.

What were the attitudes of modern Indian women to arranged marriage that were truly interesting, unexpected to you as a researcher, writer?

I think what I found most interesting, and most different from the previous generation, was the refusal to compromise. Yes, they will make adjustments, but they will not sell themselves short. I’d thought going in for an arranged marriage was a compromise in itself, but while doing my research, I saw that that was a very judgmental and erroneous assumption. Another aspect is how easily women adapt themselves to domesticity and responsibility, even if they’ve never had to look after themselves before, you know – like even if they’ve gone directly from their parents’ home to their marital home.

Arranged marriage arouses a lot of curiosity amongst non-Indians, Westerners. What is the readership you've intended this book for?

Before I started interviewing people for the book, it was targeted at people who are planning to have arranged marriages. But it grew into something else as I went about writing it, and I think it speaks to a much wider audience. Now that the book is written, and I’ve had feedback from readers, I find that it appeals to a lot of men and women. One of my younger brothers told me that this will probably be most handy for men, because it gives them a peek into how women think and what women want. I think it also arouses curiosity among Indians who are put off by the idea of arranged marriage. Like any author, I would like the book to have universal appeal. :-)

You are so many people rolled into one – stand up comedian, actor, journalist, writer. What's coming up next? A book on effective time management? :)

Hahaha. Time management is easy when you don’t have a job and get paid to do the things other people do in their spare time – read books, watch movies, rant about politics, and make wisecracks. But, seriously, the only thing I ever wanted to be in my life was a writer. I’ve known this was my ultimate goal since I was in kindergarten. I’ve got three novels in my head – one is a satire; then, I want to convert a play I’ve written into a novel, because it will allow me to explore the characters and subject with more nuance; and one is a semi-autobiographical, semi-historical novel. And two non-fiction books are crawling around in my head too. :-)

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