Nandini Bajpai: “Arranged marriage is one of those things that has been widely misunderstood..”

5 Questions With...

Arranged marriage is one of those things that has been widely misunderstood
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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Nandini Bajpai and ask her five(ish) questions. Nandini’s novel A Match Made in Mehendi is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind A Match Made in Mehendi? 

Nandini: I’ve always been interested in how Indian American kids born and/or raised here have adapted to life in the US. How they view their parents’ traditions and what they choose to change, keep, or leave behind. First- and second-generation teens get such different signals from their peers and parents especially about things like crushes, dating, and assimilating or holding on to traditional values.

Contrasting traditional matchmaking with modern dating apps let me look at these conflicts in a lighthearted way. Arranged marriage is one of those things that has been widely misunderstood in mainstream America. It’s good to lift the curtain on that process a little bit and examine it in proper context as something that is changing with each generation and is in essence not that different than other ways people connect.

What character do you most relate to and why?

Simi is the character I spent the most time trying to understand. She clearly has the talent to be a matchmaker but has a fiercely independent streak that makes her push back against parental hovering and expectations. She wants to be herself, find her calling, and leave her mark, all on her own terms. It was really fun to be in her head! That said, the characters I relate to the most were probably Preet and Geet, Simi’s cousins. I have three sisters and a lot of younger cousins that I was close to growing up, and their relationship feels very real to me.

Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I think that the teenage years are an important stage in life and have always had a place in literature. Look at Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and other classics that are about teenage girls. People of any age look back at these formative years with affection and that’s what makes YA popular with adults as well as teens.

YA today also has so many sub-genres—fantasy, contemporary, historical, science fiction—that all still center on the teen experience and worldview. The increasingly diverse voices in YA also make it an exciting genre to write and read. I feel there’s a sense of hope and optimism even while dealing with difficult issues that is essential to YA that people just love.

Please describe the content of A Match Made in Mehendi and what readers can expect from the read.

Fifteen-year-old Simi comes from a long line of Indian matchmakers and her family is convinced that she has the “gift,” but Simi is more interested in art and in finding a way for her and her best friend Noah to leave their mark in high school. Noah talks Simi into using her matchmaking skills to create a dating app to shake things up in school and the app goes viral, turning the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy—but also helping a lot of people, including Simi and Noah, find matches in some unexpected places.

What’s next for you in the book world?

I have two work-in-progress manuscripts that I’m really excited about finishing. I also have a backlist of books that have been published overseas that I would love to find a home for in the US. More on that soon, I hope. Stay tuned!

What’s your favorite writing method that you follow for inspiration?

I don’t have a fixed method for inspiration but I do find ideas everywhere! In fact, it gets quite hard to decide which idea to commit to and work on when there are so many possibilities. That’s the price of having an overactive imagination, I guess! Once I find I can’t stop thinking about an idea, I know it has legs and can settle into first draft mode. Getting through a story from beginning to end is more about discipline and tenacity for me than method. Craft and method are more part of my process in revision!

About the Author:

Nandini Bajpai grew up in New Delhi, India, before settling in the Boston area with her husband, kids, and a fluctuating number and variety of pets. She has published a YA novel, Red Turban White Horse, with Scholastic India. A Match Made in Mehendi would be her U.S. debut. 

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