With the release of her debut, Do You Know Any Good Boys?, right around the corner, Meeti Shroff Shah is one excited author. Her book, leading us through the ups and downs in the arranged marriage process in a hilarious manner, is already flying off the shelves even though they aren’t on them yet!
I was lucky to get a chance to talk to her even though she’s busy with the release.
About the title, why’d you pick it? It’s so catchy, great choice.
Well, the original title of this book was ‘Darling, there’s someone we’d like you to meet’. But at some point, my editor and I realized, we needed a title that you could recommend to a friend without having to say, uh, it’s Darling something.
I’ve heard the question, ‘Do you know any good boys?’ uttered a hundred times. My mum has asked it, all sorts of aunties ask it, in all sorts of languages and each time, it means only one thing – a bachelor of marriageable age and suitable income!
One day, while brainstorming for the title at a friend’s birthday lunch, it came up and it stuck.
This is your debut right? What prompted you to write it? Was the experience exhausting? Or was it that hilarious?
Yes, this is my first book. And I wrote it because I could not, not write this one.
During my husband-seeking years, after returning from yet another arranged meeting, I’d meet my friends for coffee and fill them in on how the ‘date’ had been. We’d laugh or groan about how funny, boring or awful the experience was and every time, they’d say, ‘Meeti, you should write a book about this!’ And so here it is.
On a more serious note, I hope this book sheds some light on this rather terrifying and often frustrating, process. Had I had a book like this one during those years, I know it would’ve helped me through some of the tougher times.
Your favourite lines from the book?
One of my favourite paragraphs from the book is this description of a Gujarati Sangeet Function:
“To begin with, everyone comes prepared. They’ve practiced their moves – yes, even the ones who look like they are having coordinated paralytic seizures – with a professional choreographer for months in advance. Then there’s a DJ who arrives equipped with a foam machine, pink disco lights and a repertoire of the choicest items numbers about disreputable ladies called Munni, Sheila and Chameli, because somehow that seems like appropriate music to play in a gathering that includes little children and even littler grannies. Then there are the ear-hair-sprouting uncles and the jiggly-armed aunties who in the normal order of things wouldn’t dream of holding hands with their spouses in public, but when called upon to perform at a sangeet sandhya think nothing of getting cosy with each other on stage in touchy-feely ‘cupple songs.’ Then there’re always someone’s chubby, pimply, pre-pubescent kids who dance for the entire six-minute duration of a song and their father will inevitably yell encore at the end and then they dance the six whole minutes again. And finally, the bride and the groom are summoned for their own duet performance, which for some reason the MC – an enthusiastic member of the family with a latent Dale Carnegie syndrome from whom the mike will eventually have to be yanked away with some force at the end of the evening – always describes as a solo, as if the couple is one beating heart with four flailing limbs.”
What does your husband think of the book and (if you’ve included him in it) of your perception of him?
My husband read this book as it was being written. Every time he read a new chapter, I’d watch him from the corner of my eye – for some reason, he had forbidden me to just sit across and stare openly – he was my humour-sensor. If he smirked, it meant that my jokes were working. If he didn’t, he was in trouble.
I am only kidding. His feedback was extremely critical in the early stages of the book. Also, just an aside: he is also on the cover of the book, and he is absolutely tickled by the fact.
Any favourite authors?
There are so many! But if I must pick: Anne Lamott and Maya Angelou for their wisdom and courage. Jane Austen for her brilliant characters. And J.K. Rowling for the sheer magic of her world.
This is a memoir, so will this be the only book you publish or are you already thinking of future ones?
I certainly hope not. I am itching to do some fiction next and may be even a funny memoir about early motherhood, at some point.
Any tips outside of this book for the world of online dating that’s burst onto the scene now?
A couple of my friends have tried online dating and I think it is exciting that they have the option. Meeting a potential husband at a bar certainly beats meeting him under the watchful gaze of your parents, his parents and the very, very invested Lata Aunty who set you up.
But I think the key to finding love through online dating is the same as to finding someone the arranged way – perseverance. I feel that if you can find it in you to just keep at it, to not be discouraged after a few failed attempts, you may, eventually, find love.
Anything else you want to say, Meeti. Especially to readers who want to grab the book and are going through the tedious arranged marriage process.
I have found that the only thing harder than a first arranged ‘date’ is the second ‘first’ date and then the third ‘first’ date. If you can approach the process with a sense of humour and a little faith, you may find it easier to keep at it till the end.
FemmeFriday is a section I’m starting on my blog after reading this article. And also, after going through the unwittingly meagre number of female authors I’d read. This is just pathetic. In came FemmeFriday. It’s basically feminist Friday with anything female related in the literary world. You can read more about it in this page.