Getting started on a novel is probably the hardest part of writing. It is the same with most other pieces of work, of course, but with a novel being such a long and arduous undertaking, it is overwhelming to begin from scratch.
That is why I will not begin from scratch. I was floundering around, tossing ideas around and testing the waters. But I realized that the amount of research I would have to do in order to get a sense of my characters in all these outlandish plots was not feasible for a novel to be completed in a month.
So then I thought to myself that the one place I could look to for a wealth of knowledge was in my own past experiences. My own culture. Thank you, Rukmani, for making me see the error of my ways. I once asked you why you wrote in an Indian setting so often, and you told me quite simply, that it was because you were Indian. Something to that effect. At the time, I scoffed at my heritage and felt it to be too alienating to an American audience to write in that setting. However, now I realize that I would much rather write a novel in a familiar place because it will be better, than write something from a Point of View I cannot even begin to understand. It will be better.
I am trying to accept this. I am Indian. I was raised with very strong Indian values. I speak Hindi. Fluently. I am as much an Indian as I am American, though I was born on this soil and have lived here for many years. I have not forgotten that other country or its ways, and they come more naturally to me than trying to mimic the lives of families I have only seen from the outside and never experienced. I would have to live in a white girl’s shoes to do her story any justice.
So here we are, at a bit of a crossroads. I accept that my stories will be better when they call upon my roots rather than somebody else’s.
With that thought in mind, here is a beginning excerpt of my novel. I do not know if it will stay in the final draft or not, but the seeds of my story are here. It isn’t much; less than 400 words are posted here. But still, it is a start and I want to pursue the story that I see taking shape. Enjoy!
AS YET UNNAMED
Riya sat at the edge of her bed. Her dupatta covered her face and she was thoroughly nervous and unprepared for whatever the night held in store for her.
Any other day, she would have changed into comfortable clothes, rid her face of the layers of makeup, and crawled into the covers. But tonight, she didn’t know what to expect. She didn’t know if Arjun was even going to sleep on the bed with her. When they had agreed, they had never planned for this. In fact, she had pretended that the details didn’t exist, as if saying yes to their marriage because he seemed a decent enough man was enough for the deed to be done.
Unfortunately, Indian families didn’t work that way, and Riya had endured nearly a month of festivities before she arrived to the bed this night. There were rose petals strewn across the bed, and they formed the alphabets A and R in the middle. The king sized bed had been outfitted with a beautiful and richly-colored coverlet of mahogany and varying shades of taupe. It was resplendent with pillows and surrounded by a gauzy veil of sheer beige lace. There were candles on the bedside tables and the windowsills, and whole atmosphere screamed of romance.
She knew Arjun’s two younger sisters, Sonali and Pooja, were behind the stunt. As his younger sisters, it was customary that they decorate the bridal chamber and welcome their sister-in-law into her new home. The wedding had passed by in a blur and the ongoing celebration and dances left Riya bubbling with excitement. It had felt like somebody else’s wedding at times, and the constant merriment had made her forget that she didn’t really know him. It had made her forget and for that, she was grateful.
That is, she was grateful most of the time. Right now, she heard the hushed giggles behind the door and she sat there, properly veiled in all her bridal finery, as a hanged woman awaiting her fate. Once he walked through that door, she did not know what would happen. She wasn’t sure what she wanted more – the considerate rejection or the farce of seduction.