Thank you so much for being the first stop on the blog tour for my first novel, Marriage Unarranged, Sue.
It’s no secret how long it took me to get this far (twenty years, if you didn’t know), and I have documented my writing journey several times on both my blogs (so if you are interested, please check out my links below).
What I haven’t really told my prospective readers, is more about the characters, so over the course of the tour, I will be sprinkling little nuggets about various characters.
As today is Day One, I thought it would be a good start to introduce you to Aashi. Aashi is the main character in Marriage Unarranged. Though, why should I write about her? I’ll just hand the post over to her!
“Oh! Hi there! I’ve never done something like this before, so I’m not quite sure what you want me to tell you!
So, I’ll start with the basics. My name is Aashi. Aashi Gill. I’m a British Indian girl, born and bred in Birmingham. And I’m Sikh.
I’m really excited because it’s the year all my dreams are going to come true; I’m getting married! I literally can’t wait! And I have the perfect fiancé, Ravi. Everything I ever wanted in a husband. He’s good looking, has a great job, he’s got a lovely family, and he loves me.
We’ve set the date, 5th August 2000. The gurdwara is booked. The venue is booked. I’ve even got the caterers arranged.
All the family knows, even though we haven’t sent out the invitations yet. It’s one of those typical Indian things. Any whisper of a prospective wedding, and the whole tabbar, that’s family, as in the whole extended family – all six hundred of them, is aware, then they want to get involved in the engagement ceremonies and the preparations. And when the date is set, it is announced to one and all, sort of like a ‘save the date’ thing.
Actually, I don’t even have invitations yet. But I will do soon. I’m off on a shopping trip to India with my mummy-ji and big brother, Sunny, soon, where I’m getting my wedding outfit, and a whole new wardrobe, basically. It’s a thing, you see, for my family to send me to my new home with a special marital wardrobe, called a daaj. I’ve got a folder filled with pictures of all the outfits I want to get.
It’s quite helpful that my daddy-ji works in the Indian clothing business. He has a shop on Soho Road. It’s like a mini India here in Birmingham. He’s got plenty of contacts back in India, so hopefully I can get all I want, with a good discount. And even if they don’t offer one, mummy-ji is an expert at bartering.
I can’t wait, because Sunny has even managed to get us an appointment with a proper designer out there, with a view to ordering my wedding outfit from him.
And we’ll visit Chandni Chowk in New Delhi to choose my wedding cards. I know it’s a long way to go for cards, but have you seen how much invitations cost here? Especially Indian wedding cards! They’re never a simple affair. There are inserts as well as the basic invitation, that detail all the pre-wedding functions. And, what with that six-hundred-strong family I mentioned earlier, that means a lot of cards. So, it works out cheaper, and there is so much choice!
The only other thing I need to do is choose where we’re going on honeymoon, and that’s not just my choice, is it? I’ll be popping over to meet Ravi in a bit actually, to finalise the destination. Oh! Look at the time, I’m going to be late! Hopefully, I’ll meet with you all soon too. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to attend the wedding!”
And here is an excerpt from the beginning of the book…
Taking a deep breath, Aashi opened the door an inch. She then flung it wide and stood there with her arm extended, and her palm turned upwards. Her eyes searched Ravi’s face. In her trembling hands lay a piece of tissue. Inside it was… a condom wrapper.
“What is this? Don’t say it, I know what it is, but why is it here?” Tears pricked her eyes.
“Babe, I can explain,” Ravi muttered. “You see, one of my mates came over the other night, and his girlfriend was with him, and well, they must have, well, you know. Don’t worry. I’ll have a word with him.”
Aashi pushed past him into the bedroom. With her whole body shaking, she sat on the bed and wiped the tears away. That’s right. Of course, Ravi wouldn’t do anything. How could I even think it? She checked for a tissue box. Aah, on the bedside table. Noticing the slightly open drawer, she absentmindedly tugged at it. Something stuck, so she went to adjust it and shut the drawer. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Ravi’s hand, shooting out towards her.
She removed the empty box, which once contained three condoms, and stared at it.
Shoving Ravi away, Aashi fled down the stairs. Snatching her bag and her car keys, she rushed out of the house. She scrambled into the car; her vision blurred. She didn’t need the rear-view mirror to know her face was awash with tears.
What’s so wrong with me? She searched the tear-stained, slightly blotchy, face in the mirror. After all those long chats about the future and how important it was to save yourself for the right one. How could he do this to me? Has there been anyone else?
As she studied her face, Aashi became aware of a figure approaching the car. Ravi. Oh no you don’t! Aashi locked the car and went to start the ignition when Ravi appeared at her window.
“Please, babe, open the door. We’ve got to talk.”
“Leave me alone!” Aashi screamed. “I don’t want to see your face, EVER AGAIN!” She turned away and started the engine.
“Aashi, honey, you have to listen to me.” Strange, his voice sounds clear for someone standing outside the car. Aashi glanced to the left, and there he was, sitting beside her.
“Please, get out, before I do something I regret.” In her hurry to start the car, she somehow pressed the central locking button on her key. Typical. Even inanimate objects are betraying me now.
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…
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.
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