Thursday, September 9, 2021

Anisha Bhatia Interview - The Rules of Arrangement

Photo Content from Anisha Bhatia

Born and brought up in Mumbai, India, Anisha Bhatia lives in San Diego, California with her husband and their two children. She loves tea, biryani, books and beaches, not necessarily in that order. The Rules of Arrangement is her first book.​

Greatest thing you learned in school
To advocate for myself, and that no one else was going to do it for me. It took a while for that to sink in though!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The support of fellow authors has been amazing! Especially the new authors who’ve debuted before me. They’ve been wonderful.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I started writing on and off because I didn’t want to forget my grandparents. I grew up listening to stories about their lives in Sindh and the home they left behind when India and Pakistan were partitioned. When I moved to America, I wrote simply to not forget. That was the beginning.

I remember reading a hilarious book by Sophie Kinsella which single-handedly pulled me out of a postpartum funk, and I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if I could do for someone what this book had done for me. That was how the germ of an idea started.

Tell us your latest news.
I recently did an interview with a fellow author for Women’s Fiction Day which was fun. It’s also really lovely seeing the support for THE RULES OF ARANAGEMENT from friends, family and fellow writers. I am awaiting publication day and working on a new novel. Hopefully the first draft will reveal some of its secrets to me.

Can you tell us when you started THE RULES OF ARRANGEMENT, how that came about?
After my second child, I took up an evening class at UCSD simply to get out of the house! The class was called Creating Unforgettable Characters, and Sheila Bua was the result of the final assignment.

While working on the initial drafts. I realized that the underlying thing I wanted to say with this book is for women, for girls from traditional societies, who wonder if there are choices besides what they’ve been told. This is to tell them that there are options out there and its ok to choose them and they can do that without breaking away from family.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d like to tell them that fighting your mind, your conditioning, is one of the hardest things a person can do. And that the people around them, their elders, the aunties and uncles, all of them have a story, all of them had dreams just like you do. They are who they’ve become because of that story.

And foremost, I wrote this story for girls, for women, especially South Asian, who’ve been made to feel “less” than because of their appearance or weight or skin. I want to tell them that you are enough, you deserve all the good things, all the chances you get - take those chances, don’t hold yourself back, and watch yourself soar!

What part of Zoya did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing the irreverent thoughts inside Zoya’s head. Growing up in India, you weren’t allowed to be too opinionated. It could mark you as a firebrand (read: not good daughter-in-law material), but I think a lot of girls have thoughts like these running through their heads, and I wanted to capture that. So, Zoya’s funny irreverent voice and Sheila Bua came together in a story.

And Sheila Bua, of course! I LOVED writing the funny things she says!

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
Chapter eight was enjoyable. It has Zoya and her boss Arnav meeting on a more personal level which was fun to write; the pacing is fast, and it is filled with humor and tender moments.

Chapter eighteen was something I really cherished where the reader learns how Zoya and Sheila Bua’s lives are connected.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Ha! It’s not a book character, but I would love to introduce Sheila Bua to Captain Marvel from the Marvel Universe. (I’m a huge Marvel fan!) It would be SO fun to see Sheila Bua try and matchmake her with one of the superheroes. I think she’d totally match her with Captain America, simply because they both have “Captain” in their names, so according to her bizarre logic they’d get along! She’d also tell Thor to shave more often!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
To take all critiques with a pinch of salt, unless they’re all saying the same thing. Then you need to really pay attention.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Believe in yourself, even when the thing you’re aiming for looks completely unreachable. Just once. Say ‘keep the faith’ and move one step forward, then another step. It will lead you to a place you had never imagined you’d get!

Best date you've ever had?
Oh gosh. None. I’ve led such a boring life – ha! (I really should’ve made something up J)

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
As strange as it sounds, I wouldn’t go back. The time now is where I am and where I’d like to be. All of our experiences, our emotions, the people around us, all the good and all the bad, everything is a part of a tapestry to get us to where we are right now, in this space and time. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I can’t say it was a particular incident but writing this book has made me more empathetic towards older Indian aunties. That they could have a life of their own, a story of their own, and that they are real people instead of just figureheads. That every person on this planet has a story, and a valid one. I wish I had realized that when I was younger.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
To a little cottage in a town in Cotswold, England. I would love to live there six months of the year, get involved in the town and community, drink lots of tea, and write books.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
All the things that need to be done the next day. And that is usually the time I get the best ideas for the story and characters. So, I hurriedly write them on my phone, after which I am wide awake!

First Heartbreak?
8th grade, I think. All one-sided!

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love for sure. Love and heartbreak give you perspective and make you more compassionate. And you can always change names and put them in a book!

  • 1. The story is about body image and how our societies condition us to not accept who we are.
  • 2. It tackles impossible beauty standards and the struggle to retain your identity.
  • 3. It is a satirical take on the South Asian culture of arranged marriage and expectations
  • 4. The main character irreverent narrative takes on a deeply traditional society to make it funny and relatable yet thoughtful.
  • 5. The story comes with a quirky cast of friends, aunties, relatives, bosses, the whole motley crew.
  • 6. It’s an inside look into the modern Indian life juxtaposed with traditions, the tussle between the two, and the women at the center of it.
  • 7. The story will introduce you to a boisterous Indian family, with a hint of romance.
  • 8. It’s an ode to the bustling city of Mumbai.
  • 9. It’s packed with mentions of Indian food – read on a full stomach please!
  • 10. More than anything, it is a love story of the self, of standing up for yourself no matter what and being true to who you are.
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE RULES OF ARRANGEMENT
One of my favorite quotes is from chapter 1
“The trick with our traditions is to not argue. Things don’t change just because you want them to. We’ve all rebelled passively for centuries—do your thing, quietly, without anyone knowing you’ve rebelled.”

Here’s a little scene from Chapter 1 where the reader gets the first glimpse of Sheila Bua wanting to get Zoya married:

The doorbell rings in a sing-songy tune, first of many buzzers in a day, its suddenness making Sheila Bua jump. Sujata bai, one of our three maids, saunters in. Her pink sari hangs limp on her thin body and she brings with her a musky odor.

“Tell me, Geeta,” Sheila Bua reverts her attention from the maid to the topic of the day, “have you started looking for boys yet?”

“No, we haven’t started. How can we start without you? But this stupid girl wants to wait for another year before getting mar­ried. Can you imagine?” Mum clicks her tongue and smacks my shoulder. “That we start looking for boys when she is twenty-seven! What are we to do?”

What happens to modern, fairly sane mothers when it is time to get their daughters married? “Yes, I want to wait for another year,” I mutter.

“Wait?” Sheila Bua staggers as if she’s discovered a dead body right in the living room. The heels of her sandals totter under her weight as she turns to Mum. “Are you out of your mind to let her wait? These girls of today! She wants to give me my first gray hair, turn me into an old woman?” Sheila Bua’s silky black hair, almost blue in its darkness (regular double doses of L’Oreal hair dye) is pulled back into a low ponytail. Angry little crinkles gather on her forehead at the collective foolishness of the young.

Balli Kaur Jaswal’s EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS meets Kevin Kwan’s CRAZY RICH ASIANS in this hilarious comedy of manners set in Mumbai where modernity jostles with tradition.

Zoya Sahni has a great education, a fulfilling job and a loving family (for the most part). But she is not the perfect Indian girl. She’s overweight, spunky and dark-skinned in a world that prizes the slim, obedient and fair. At 26 she is hurtling toward her expiration date in Mumbai’s arranged marriage super-mart, but when her aunties’ matchmaking radars hones in on the Holy Grail of suitors—just as Zoya gets a dream job offer in New York City—the girl who once accepted her path as almost option-less must now make a choice of a lifetime.

Big-hearted with piercing social commentary, The Rules of Arrangement tells a powerful, irresistibly charming and oh-so relatable tale of a progressive life that won’t be hemmed in by outdated rules. But not without a few cultural casualties, and of course, an accidental love story along the way.

You can purchase The Rules of Arrangement at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ANISHA BHATIA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Rules of Arrangement by Anisha Bhatia.