When Dimple Met Rishi
When the world is dark and gloomy, I turn to YA to make my heart remember how to feel. I recommend this to anybody. And the book you need to read when the world is steeped in gray is Sandhya Menon’s New York Times best-selling debut When Dimple Met Rishi. It’s a warm hug of a book that will, without fail, brighten your life.
It made me smile and believe in love. When I finished it, I clutched the book to my chest, wishing I could read it again for the first time (as well as plotted who to give it to next).
So. The story.
Meet Dimple. She is contemplating her future career prospects and what she wants to do when she finishes high school: engineering or computer programming, which one?
Meet Dimple’s mum. She just wants Dimple to have a nice Indian husband.
Enter Rishi. A teenage boy who wants to please his parents and do right by them. He has a younger brother who loves to break the rules, so Rishi feels he needs to be the traditional, dutiful son. He wants to make his parents happy and what would make them really happy is if he meets and one day marries Dimple.
Both sets of parents have arranged it all. The set-up is flawless and Rishi puts his best foot forward and greets Dimple in Starbucks with a simple “hello, my future wife.” In horror, Dimple hurls her ice coffee at him and runs. Ah, so… not quite as flawless as it may have seemed.
When Dimple Met Rishi is, simply put, gorgeous. Dimple is a feisty young girl who is certain she knows what she wants, and what she wants is a successful career in the sciences. Rishi is a beautiful, old soul who wants to make people happy. He is honest and kind and is purely himself 100% of the time. The chemistry that they have, because of course it doesn’t end with a coffee to the face, is so sweet and beautiful. It isn’t instant, far from it. They don’t just go from confused disdain to banging in the dorms and expressing their undying love for one another under a full moon. They talk to one another, they fight and they infuriate each other. It feels so real and, better yet, it feels like a young, new romance should feel – slightly awkward, confusing but also super sweet.
YA literature is going through a major diversity change and Menon is helping push it in the right direction. Our leads are both Indian-American. Their parents immigrated to the United States but brought with them their culture and their beliefs. They speak Hindi at home, partake in Bollywood dance, eat mainly Indian foods and wear traditional clothing – though Dimple doesn’t always. I loved this aspect of this book. It became not just a budding romance, but a debate on tradition, culture and the difference between the parental generation, who were born and raised in India, and that of the modern, American teenager.
The story takes place at a pre-college Tech summer ‘camp’ in which Dimple attends because she wants to be a computer programmer. The other kids at the camp are privileged, rich and very white. The clash of culture here is great as Dimple and her white roommate discuss their families and their expectations for life. Her roommate has some very frat/sorority kind of friends and this crew is a bunch of dicks. You know they are, the book doesn’t hide it, but the way that they dip into the story accentuates how a contrast of culture, upbringing, and lifestyle can be tough for those who are ‘different’, especially when there’s a clear disrespect for understanding someone else’s culture.
Rishi is my favorite character in the book. Every sentence about him melted my heart and made me go all gooey-faced. He’s beautiful, so sweet, so lovely and, as I mentioned before, 100% true to himself which is a quality that I hold in high regard (perhaps because I didn’t follow it a lot when I was a teenager but try very hard to now). He knows who he is and he doesn’t apologize for it.
That is where he differs from Dimple. Dimple doesn’t quite know what she wants, who she is or where she belongs. Ah, the perfect breeding ground for ferocious debates, major discussions and, yes, the start of a beautiful infatuation.
I loved this book. If that isn’t clear, then it’s because I’m getting tongue-tied and hobbling myself. It’s the book that when passed around my office, made everyone go *happy sigh* ‘that book’ every time the name When Dimple Met Rishi was mentioned. ‘That book’. That’s it in a nutshell. Hug it, love it and for godsakes read it. Do your heart this one little favor. You won’t regret it.