Author Nandini Bajpai creates space for South Asian representation

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When young adult author Nandini Bajpai was growing up in Delhi, India, the children’s publishing industry did not yet exist there. Bajpai loved Hindi poetry and Amar Chitra Katha comics, but if she wanted to read stories about characters of her age, she and her sisters had to turn to books and comics imported from the UK and the US- United. [the book] there was no one with your experiences or background, it was a big disconnect, ”says Bajpai. Now Bajpai writes characters with Indian families and cultural traditions that she yearned to see portrayed in literature as a youngster. His second release in the United States is a reinvention of his first book released in India.

Bollywood sister of the brideTells how 17-year-old Mini Kapoor is planning her sister Vinnie’s wedding in two months on a tight budget. Discerning readers will feel right at home in the fictional “Westbury”, Massachusetts, home to the famous “Fellsway College” on the edge of Lake Waban, with potential wedding venues owned by the “Massachusetts Botanical Society”. Mini must navigate marriage plans with her estranged aunt (a designer to Bollywood stars), while Vinnie completes her medical residency in Chicago (a future doctor rather than a literal Bollywood actress). Meanwhile, Mini tries to stop embarrassing herself every time she meets the cute and mysterious Vir. But despite all their careful planning, a hurricane threatens to overturn their plans. This novel is a heartwarming tale of how family and friends support each other during times of celebration and hardship.

Nandini Bajpai (courtesy of Carter Hasegawa)

The book is loosely based on the marriages of Bajpai and his sister-in-law. After graduating from college in Delhi, Bajpai moved to Australia with her family, where she met her husband. The ceremony took place in Brisbane in her sister’s backyard, and just like Mini, she wondered how they were going to adapt Indian wedding traditions on a smaller scale. Without the help of the internet to spot an Indian priest or decorations, Bajpai says his loved ones have truly come together to “make this event special for a couple they care about.” This is what it really is. It is a question of community. “

In the Bajpai community, her younger sister chose her wedding saris and bracelets in India, invisible to Bajpai. Her entrepreneur father-in-law brought in a team to set up the tent. Her cousin installed the mandap and her aunt made wedding garlands by hand with a needle and thread. Neighbors even came to the house to vacuum and walk the dog. Then in 2011, when she helped plan her sister-in-law’s wedding in Massachusetts, Hurricane Irene threatened to disrupt the ceremony. Both in real life and in the book, Bajpai says everyone involved thinks, “This is a crisis, so how can we help? We plant [in] together and do it.

Although “Sister of the Bollywood Bride” was released on May 25 in the United States, another version of this story was first published by Scholastic India in 2013 under another title, “Red Turban White Horse: My Sister’s Hurricane Wedding ”. (This was Bajpai’s first author debut in any country.) The Indian publishing industry had come a long way from Bajpai’s childhood and was now hungry for young adult books written by Indian authors. The core of “Red Turban White Horse” remained the same when it was edited for American audiences in 2021, but the firmly established 2011 Hurricane Irene turned into an ambiguously dated hurricane and Bajpai added a lot. no more cell phones.

Before becoming an author, Bajpai had an eclectic career. In India she taught programming at a computer training institute and in Melbourne she worked for a running shoe company. Then, when she and her husband moved from Australia to Massachusetts, she was an analyst at Fidelity for almost five years before deciding to start their family. When she had children of her own, she realized that the representation of India in children’s books hadn’t changed much since she was a child herself. She decided she wanted to be the person to fill this gap.

The cover of Nandini Bajpai's book

“I had to write and write and write,” says Bajpai. “It was a steeper learning curve for me. More of the ‘pull yourself up through your bootstraps’ kind of thing. But she enjoyed learning to write well. Some of her first short stories were published in the Newton-based children’s magazine. Kahani, which focused on South Asian stories before closing in 2010. Many of his local writer friends have also published work there. She was able to create a community of South Asian writers in Massachusetts, even though the publishing industry as a whole did not believe there was a market for their stories, overwhelmingly favoring stories from white authors instead.

Then in 2014, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag has taken the children’s literature community by storm, We need various books nonprofit and a wave of diverse story requests that the publishing industry had never seen before. By this time, Bajpai had already published “Red Turban White Horse” and his historical novel for young adults “Starcursed“In India, in addition, she was under contract for her mid-level fantasy novel”Rishi and the karmic cat»With the prestigious Indian publisher Rupa Publications. Bajpai said, “If I had kept these manuscripts, I could have published them here, but I had no rights in them.” But there were new opportunities for Bajpai. In 2019, the fourth book she published overall was her first book released in the United States. “A match made in MehendiTalks about a girl who doesn’t want to follow in her family’s footsteps as matchmakers, until she realizes that creating a matchmaking app could improve her social standing in her high school.

Now that “Sister of the Bollywood Bride” has been released, Bajpai would like to return to his wheelhouse of writing historical and mythological novels. “I feel like I have this depth of a cultural well that I can draw from,” she says. “I am very comfortable in this space.” After a life spent wanting to tell these stories, the publishing industry is finally ready to meet her wherever her imagination takes it.





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