I have known Ritu Bhathal, yes this lovely lady
pretty much since we started blogging. In that time she had blogged her heart out. Her prolific output, her range of subjects, her dedication to improving the craft all stand out. But she is almost always the first one to read and comment on any new post I launch into the ether and her approach has been universally supportive, as you would expect of someone who values her Bloggily.
A while back she took what she considered to be a brave step with a book of poetry but she need not have fretted. It was an excellent read, a proper dipper-inner. At the time she talked about the book, that project that had been on the slowest of slow burns. Would it ever come to be?
Yes, it would! It’s here in
I was privileged to be a beta reader and, while I doubt my comments helped much it was clear she had a usp of her own, using her experiences as a woman with a British Indian heritage steeped in both cultures, but with all the quirky humour that seeing the absurdities of both sides gives you.
Here’s the blurb…
started ended with that box…
Aashi’s life was all set.
Or so she thought.
Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.
But then Aashi found the empty condom box…
Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.
Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.
And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets? A stranger who’s hiding something…
And this is the rather delightful cover
And so you know where to grab your copy here are all those social media links that define our lives
Blog Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com
And by clicking the following link, you get to my author profile on Amazon
Now, I don’t come cheap and so when Ritu asked if I’d help with her launch I, of course agreed… on condition.
And that was to answer some questions that bubbled around in my head as I read that earlier draft. I’m sort of nosey like that and, hmm, maybe you’ll be interested too. So here we go, over to Ritu to see how she stands up to my searching examination…
1. I want you to tell me how you balanced your story against the inevitable cultural sensitivities of being of British Indian heritage. Did you wonder how your parents would take the perspective your characters have and modify anything. Ditto your relatives back in India and the portrayal – an expat of sorts but necessarily of a culturally aware Indian background – how would they view this. Patronising foreigner or One of our own?
When I first started to write this story, I had no idea what would happen; whether I would finish it, if it would be a short story or a fully formed novel. With this in mind, I had no thought of anyone else reading it.
Then it became a real thing. You know, something that everyone out there could read, if they wanted.
I like to think that I have kept it balanced, in a way that it would raise a giggle (or an eyebrow, once in a while) from those British Indian readers out there, who could relate to some situations and reactions, and it would be accessible to western readers, and maybe even educate them to an extent.
Aashi, the main character for this book, is very similar to me, in that she is a British born Indian, Sikh girl, from a reputable family, with simple ideals. Writing from her perspective came easy. (Not that she is me, clearing any misconceptions there! I am happily married and haven’t experienced a broken engagement!)
I may have played with some stereotypes, but in a loose way, to create humour.
If any of my Indian compadres aren’t enamoured of any parts, it is not meant to reflect what they think of India, but what a British-born-Indian feel, upon going ‘home’ so to speak.
My Pops and Mum are extremely supportive of my writing, and yes, I may have toned down certain scenes, thinking of what they might think, when reading, but then again, they know it’s fiction, and I don’t think I have written anything to offend them, or anyone else.
I even have a great aunt who lives in Canada, who is chomping at the bit to read it. Am I worried? No. I think she’ll love it!
I have already had a good few people I know asking whether it is autobiographical. No. It is not. It is a purely fictional story, set in real places, with imagined characters – honestly!
2. I’m fascinated by the concept of cultural (or indeed any) appropriation in literature. Could only someone of your background have written this? Should only someone like you write this? Or does it not matter as long as there’s an attempt at honesty in the characters and their perspectives.
I think, quite possibly, it would be best to be someone like me to write about what a young British Indian woman thinks, as I have lived and experienced life as that very person. But I don’t see why someone who isn’t of my background, or gender, even, shouldn’t have a go. The important thing is to get honest feedback, so you know whether you have got it, or ended up with a stereotype-filled piece of writing that could be misconstrued by people of that background.
I attempt a male viewpoint in the story too, so I asked a British Indian male to read it too, to get his opinions. On the whole, he thought it was good, but worried that I may have pandered to the stereotype of Punjabis who like a drink and get rowdy a bit. However, that is all part of the humour, and no one else picked that out as a worry as it was minimal!
3. You’ve lived here you whole life with a foot in several camps culturally and this seemed to me when I read it as a love story to that pot pourri experience. But what was the most difficult – being British and imagining the indigenous Indian view, or viva versa?
To be honest, Geoff, pretty much all the characters I portray are British born Indians, and the characters they meet in India, we learn of them from these British born characters, so It wasn’t too much of an issue.
There was only one character who was Indian- born, Milan, but he is quite a flamboyant one, and as he might just feature in a future book of mine, I will be doing more research on certain opinions to make sure a deeper portrayal of him is accurate.
As you say, I have been here my whole life, but I have had my feet, and an arm in the Indian, British, and Kenyan ways of life, as that is my background! We have learned to create an amalgamation of the three key cultures in our lives, as a family, and I think these things are what give me so much inspiration.
Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.
From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is credited to her mother. The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her writing, from fiction to poetry. Winning little writing competitions at school and locally encouraged her to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes.
A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!
Ritu also writes a blog, www.butismileanyway.com, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, and Best Book Blog in 2019.
Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the fur baby Sonu Singh.