'When Dimple Met Rishi' Is The Arranged Marriage YA Rom-Com We've Been Waiting For — EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK
Do you long for the romantic comedies of the early-Aughts, with their meet-cutes and frighteningly lovable main characters? Then Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi is the arranged-marriage rom-com you have to read. It's being described as "Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood with the humor and heart of My Big Fat Greek Wedding," so clearly it's the book we've all been waiting for. Read on for an exclusive first look at the cover and the first three chapters!
When Dimple Met Rishi, out May 30, 2017, centers on Dimple Shah: fresh out of high school and excited to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers. The retreat means a welcome break from Mamma's search for Dimple's "Ideal Indian Husband," which makes it all the more surprising that her parents have agreed to pay for it.
What Dimple doesn't know is that she's been betrothed to a fellow summer program attendee, Rishi Patel. He wants the structure and tradition of an arranged match, and he knows his betrothed will be among the program participants.
The two teens might have been jazzed up by the same retreat, but they couldn't be more different in their approach to marriage. Can they work out their differences and make this arranged marriage work, or will their parents' efforts be for naught?
Sandhya Menon couldn't be happier about having her YA novel published. Here's what she has to say about the cover for When Dimple Met Rishi:
"When I saw this cover, I actually squealed with joy. Not only is it charming, hilarious, and colorful (which is how I hope readers will describe the book!), it also features an Indian-American teen girl, front and center. To have a cover that authentically represents Dimple & Rishi's story — a celebration of growing up with immigrant parents, of occupying that delicate space between Indian and American — is a dream come true for me."
Bustle is proud to exclusively reveal the cover for When Dimple Met Rishi and an excerpt
from the novel! See the cover, and read the first three chapters below:
Chapter One: Dimple
Dimple couldn't stop smiling. It was like two invisible puppeteers, standing stage left and stage right, were yanking on strings to lift up the corners of her mouth.
Okay, or maybe something less creepy. The point was, the urge to grin felt irresistible.
Dimple clicked on the email again and read it. Stanford. She was going to Stanford. Even though the acceptance letter had come in the mail weeks ago, she hadn't allowed herself to really, fully believe it until her student login details had come via email. She'd thought that, at the last minute, Papa would have second thoughts and renege on the deposit. Or that Mamma would call and tell them Dimple had changed her mind (and if you didn't think Mamma would do something like that, you'd never met her).
The urge to grin felt irresistible.
But no, it had all actually worked out. Everything was settled. She was officially enrolled.
Now, if only...
Dimple clicked over to the other window she had open, her smile fading just a tad.
Insomnia Con 2017: A fabulous opportunity for rising high school seniors or recent grads! Come learn the basics of web development on the sunny SFSU campus this summer!
Just shut up and take my money, Dimple thought.
But it wasn’t that easy. It would be an incredible opportunity, this was true. She'd have a leg up on everyone else when she started Stanford in the fall. And think of the contacts she'd make! Some of the biggest names in web development had gone through Insomnia Con: Jenny Lindt, for instance. The woman was a genius. She'd basically designed and coded the billion-dollar Meeting Space app and website from the ground up. It made Dimple salivate just to think of sitting through the same classes, participating in the same activities, walking the same campus as she had.
But she didn't know if she could push her luck with the parental unit.
The summer program cost a thousand dollars. And while Papa and Mamma were solidly middle class, they weren't exactly flush. Not to mention she'd already stretched her luck about as far as it could go, she was sure, by asking—nay, haranguing—them to let her go to Stanford. She was sure the only reason they had agreed was because they were secretly hoping she'd meet the I.I.H. of her—no, their—dreams at the prestigious school.
I.I.H., for the uninitiated, stood for Ideal Indian Husband.
She was sure the only reason they had agreed was because they were secretly hoping she'd meet the I.I.H. of her—no, their—dreams at the prestigious school.
Uggghh. Just thinking about it made her want to Banshee-scream into a pillow.
"Diiiiimpllllle?" Mamma sounded screechy and frantic as usual.
When Dimple was younger, she'd go running downstairs, heart pounding every single time, terrified something awful had happened. And every single time, Mamma would be doing something mundane like rummaging in the kitchen cupboard, greeting her casually with, "Have you seen my saffron?" Mamma never understood why it made Dimple so livid.
"Just a minute, Mamma!" she shouted back, knowing full well it would be more than a minute. Dimple now knew better than to rush when she heard her Mamma call. They'd arrived at an uneasy truce—Mamma didn't have to modulate her tone if Dimple didn't have to drop everything and rush to her aid for saffron emergencies.
She clicked through the photo gallery on the Insomnia Con website for another five minutes, sighing at the building's giant glass and chrome structure, at the tech nerds grouped together in inviting clusters, at the pictures of previous, jubilant winners of the legendary talent contest that gave them extra seed money for their apps or websites. Dimple would kill to be one of them someday.
Participants of Insomnia Con were tasked to come up with a concept for the most groundbreaking app they could conceive during their month-and-a-half at the SFSU campus. Although no one could actually code an entire app in that time frame, the idea was to get as close as possible by the judging round. There were rumors that, this year, the winners would get the chance to have their concept critiqued by Jenny Lindt herself. Now that would be epic.
Dimple said a little prayer that she’d win a thousand-dollar lottery, turned off her monitor, adjusted her ratty gray salwar kameez, and made her way downstairs.
"Woh kuch iske baare mein keh rahi thi na?" Papa was saying. Didn't she mention this?
Dimple stopped, ears perked. Were they talking about her? She strained to hear more, but Mamma pitched her voice too low and Dimple couldn't make out anything else. Of course. When she actually wanted to listen Mamma decided to be quiet and reserved. Sighing, she walked into the living room.
Was it her imagination or did her parents look a little flushed? Almost...guilty? She raised her eyebrows. "Mamma, Papa. Did you need something?"
"Dimple, tell me again about—oh." The guilty look disappeared as Mamma pursed her magenta-lipsticked mouth, taking Dimple’s appearance in. “Wearing specs?" She pointed to Dimple's glasses, perched on the end of her nose like usual. Mamma's eyes roamed, squinting with disapproval at Dimple's unruly black curly hair (which she refused to let grow past her shoulders), her face so completely unadorned with makeup, and sadly, in spite of Mamma's optimistic naming, nary a dimple in sight.
Was it her imagination or did her parents look a little flushed? Almost...guilty?
She should be thankful I brushed my teeth this morning, Dimple thought. But Mamma would never understand Dimple's aversion to makeup and fashion. Every other week, one of the aunties from the Indian Association came over to help Mamma dye her roots black while Papa was at work. He was under the impression she still had her youthful color.
"Where are your contacts? And remember when I showed you how to do kaajal?” Kaajal was the potted eyeliner that was hugely popular in Mamma's youth, a trend which she apparently hadn't noticed had died away sometime in the seventies.
"Vividly," Dimple muttered, trying to tamp down the annoyance in her voice. From beside Mamma, Papa, ever the peace maker, was making a surreptitious please let it go face. "I just graduated three days ago, Mamma. Can't I have this week to relax and be lazy?"
Papa's face now resembled a roti that had been left in the pan too long.
"Relax and be lazy!" Mamma thundered. Her glass bangles jangled in synchrony. “Do you think you're going to find a husband by being lazy? Do you think, for the past twenty-two years since marrying your father, I've had a minute to myself to be lazy?"
Of course not, Dimple thought. Because you've been too busy hovering. She bit her tongue and sank down on the sofa, knowing that once Mamma got started, she'd be at it for a while. It was better to let her talk until the words petered out, like those wind-up chattering teeth you could buy at the joke store. There were a million things she could say in acerbic response, of course, but Dimple still hadn’t ruled out asking to enroll in Insomnia Con if the opportunity presented itself. It was in her best interest to hold back.
Of course not, Dimple thought. Because you've been too busy hovering.
"No, I haven't,” Mamma continued. “Lazy shouldn’t be in a woman’s vocabulary." Adjusting the violet dupatta on her gold-and-pink salwar kameez, Mamma settled against the couch. She looked like the brilliant Indian flower Dimple knew she'd never be. “You know, Dimple, a grown daughter is a reflection of her mother. What do you think others in our community will think of me if they see you...like this?" She made a vague gesture at Dimple's person. "Not that you aren't beautiful, beti, you are, which is what makes it even more tragic—"
Dimple knew she shouldn't. But the flare of temper that overtook her made it all but impossible to stop the flood of words leaving her mouth. "That is such a misogynistic view, Mamma!" she said, jumping up, pushing her glasses up on her nose. Papa was muttering something under his breath now. He might've been praying.
Mamma looked like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Misogynistic! You call your own mother misogynistic?” Mamma darted an indignant look at Papa, who appeared to be extremely invested in a loose thread on his kurta. Turning back to Dimple, Mamma snapped, “This is what I’m worried about! You lose sight of the important things, Dimple. Looking nice, making an effort…these are the things girls value in our culture. Not this—” she made air quotes, which up until now, Dimple hadn’t realized she knew how to use—“’misogyny’ business.”
“This is what I’m worried about! You lose sight of the important things, Dimple. Looking nice, making an effort…these are the things girls value in our culture."
Dimple groaned and clutched her head, feeling like that ancient pressure cooker Mamma still used when she made idli cakes. She was sure there was an actual chance she would explode. There was no way she and Mamma were related; they may as well have been two entirely different species. "Seriously? That’s what you think I should be relegating my brain space to? Looking nice? Like, if I don't make the effort to look beautiful, my entire existence is nullified? Nothing else matters—not my intellect, not my personality or my accomplishments; my hopes and dreams mean nothing if I'm not wearing eyeliner?" Her voice had risen incrementally until it echoed off the high ceilings.
Mamma, caught up in the moment, stood to meet her glare. "Hai Ram, Dimple! It is not eyeliner—it is kaajal!"
Dimple’s temper flashed, the heat tempered only slightly by the dampness of disappointment. This was an argument they’d had so many times, she and Mamma could probably say each other’s lines. It was like they were constantly speaking two different languages, each trying to convince the other in an alien lexicon. Why couldn’t Mamma make the smallest effort to understand where Dimple was coming from? Did she really think Dimple had nothing valuable to contribute besides her looks? The thought made Dimple’s pulse skyrocket. She leaned forward, face flaming, ready to speak her mind about how she really felt—
The doorbell chime echoed through the house, bringing them to a standstill. Dimple’s heart still raced, but she felt all the million old arguments stall, unspoken behind her lips.
It was like they were constantly speaking two different languages, each trying to convince the other in an alien lexicon.
Mamma adjusted her dupatta that had begun to fall off during the argument and took a deep breath. “We have guests,” she said demurely, patting her hair. “I trust you will behave for them, Dimple?”
Papa looked at her with big, pleading eyes.
Dimple managed a curt nod, thinking, Saved by the bell, Mamma. You don’t know how lucky you are.
Chapter Two: Dimple
Mamma bustled out of the room in a cloud of sandalwood perfume to open the door. Dimple tried to take deep, calming breaths. Stanford was only a few months away, she reminded herself. And if she could swing Insomnia Con, freedom would be hers very, very soon.
"Helloooo!" Dimple heard after a moment. The word trilled and echoed like a small, annoying bird’s song.
Papa grimaced. "Ritu auntie," he said, half-resigned, half-annoyed. He reached over and grabbed the phone. "Important phone call," he murmured as he disappeared around the corner.
"Traitor," Dimple called softly at his retreating back. She stood and pressed her palms together just as Ritu auntie rounded the corner in her wheelchair, pushed, as usual, by her silent, watchful new daughter-in-law Seema. "Namaste, Ritu auntie, Seema didi."
Technically, Ritu wasn't her aunt, and Seema wasn't her didi—older sister. But it was customary to always be respectful of your elders, a lesson that had been drilled into her since she was a baby. And yet, somehow, Dimple found herself questioning them—and really, everything—all the time. Mamma often lamented that her first word had been why.
"Namaste!" Ritu auntie said, beaming up at her. Behind her, Seema watched unsmilingly through a curtain of long, sleek black hair.
And yet, somehow, Dimple found herself questioning them—and really, everything—all the time. Mamma often lamented that her first word had been why.
"Please sit, Seema," Mamma said. "Can I get you some chai? Biscuits? I have Parle-G, bought specially for you from the Indian market." Mamma was constantly on a mission to make Seema feel at home. It was her opinion that the reason Seema was as withdrawn as she was was because Ritu auntie hadn't done a good enough job making her feel welcome in her sasural—bridal home. This had created a strange rivalry between Ritu auntie and Mamma. Dimple pitied Seema, caught like a helpless fly in the web of their crazy.
"Oh, Seema and I found something she likes better," Ritu auntie said. "Milanos. Isn't that right, Seema? Tell her how much you like those."
"They're delicious," Seema said dutifully. After a pause—perhaps awaiting another directive—Seema sat in the empty armchair next to Ritu auntie. Dimple sat down, too.
"Oh, we have those also!" Mamma announced triumphantly. "Let me go and get. And some chai for everyone."
Left alone with the visitors, Dimple pushed her glasses up and attempted to wrack her brain for something to say. Thankfully Ritu auntie had majored in small talk in college. "So! All ready for Stanford, Dimple? Your Mamma can't stop talking about it!"
"Really?" Dimple smiled, touched. She hadn't heard Mamma say much about Stanford besides to lament the price tag of a private school education. It just went to show, Mamma was proud of her only daughter’s intellect, deep down. Maybe, in spite of Dimple’s doubts, Mamma really did want her to get the best education, even if she pretended to be—
"Yes! So many boys go there for engineering. You'll have the pick of the litter." Ritu auntie looked at her with an expectant gleam in her eyes.
Of course. Dimple should've guessed. It was the I.I.H. nonsense again. She suspected the entire community of aunties was in on it. It was like some bizarre version of a geo-caching club; the minute somebody’s daughter turned eighteen, all the aunties began to scheme the shortest route from her parents' home to the ultimate prize—her sasural.
Dimple should've guessed. It was the I.I.H. nonsense again. She suspected the entire community of aunties was in on it.
"Right...but I'm really more interested in their technology program," Dimple said, forcing herself to stay polite.
Seema shifted in her seat, uncomfortable with this show of assertiveness, but Ritu auntie only waved her off, as if she thought Dimple was being demure—who on earth went to college with anything but the aspiration of landing a marriageable partner? Dimple thought of Insomnia Con, of Jenny Lindt, of SFSU, of Stanford. Of all the things she’d jeopardize if she called Ritu auntie a backwards, anti-feminist blight on democratic society.
Thankfully, Mamma returned then, arms trembling from holding a heavy silver tray laden with a teapot, teacups, and cookies and plates. "Chalo, chai aur snacks ho jayen! And Seema, I brought you extra shakkar for your sweet tooth!" She guffawed over-jovially, and Dimple had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing at Seema's frozen expression. The woman was so uncomfortable with Mamma's interest in her, and yet, she had no idea how to put a stop to it. Dimple felt bad for the other girl, but not bad enough to say anything—attention on Seema just meant less on her.
Mamma set the tray down on the coffee table, and everyone helped themselves.
"So, where is Stanford, exactly?" Ritu auntie said between bites. "San Francisco?"
There was a strange sort of stillness from Mamma's side of the couch, which Dimple tried, and failed, to decipher. "Um, not quite," she said, turning back to Ritu auntie. "It's about forty minutes south of San Francisco proper."
"Pity," Ritu auntie replied, grabbing another cookie just as Seema was reaching for the same one. Seema's hand seemed to shrivel and she straightened up, giving up on cookie retrieval completely. Mamma, smiling smugly, put two cookies on a plate and handed them to Seema. Ritu auntie, oblivious to the entire exchange, went on. "San Francisco is supposed to be such a beautiful city. Full of opportunities for the young."
Okay, Dimple could not have asked for a more perfect opportunity if she'd crafted it from rainbows and sunbeams herself. She cleared her throat. Perhaps with Seema in the room, Mamma might want to appear more magnanimous. "Actually, it's interesting you bring that up," Dimple said. She took a sip of hot tea to bolster herself. "There is an opportunity in San Francisco this summer I'm interested in. Do you remember me telling you about it, Mamma?" She forced herself to keep her face calm and slack, like asking her parents to drop a grand on this sort of thing was something she routinely did, NBD.
"Mm?" Mamma looked distracted, blowing on her tea. "Oh, something about...web development?"
Wow. Dimple had underestimated Mamma—maybe she really did pay attention. "Haan, that's right!" She smiled encouragingly. "Insomnia Con at the SFSU campus. It starts in three weeks, and it's such a fantastic program. Some of the greatest minds in technology have been through it. It's six weeks long, and you learn so much. It would really help me prepare for Stanford. But it’s pretty expensive..." She trailed off, reddening when she noticed Ritu auntie watching with interest. Even Silent Seema seemed to be studying Dimple’s reflection in the silver tray.
"It sounds worth it to me, if it will help your career," Ritu auntie said into the silence. Dimple looked up in surprise. Not that she wasn’t thankful for the help, but she had to wonder at this sudden interjection. Since when did Ritu auntie think in terms of benefiting a woman's career? "Why don't you discuss it with Vijay, Leena?"
Dimple looked at Ritu auntie in disbelief, and Ritu auntie winked at her.
Dimple looked up in surprise. Not that she wasn’t thankful for the help, but she had to wonder at this sudden interjection. Since when did Ritu auntie think in terms of benefiting a woman's career?
After a moment, Mamma bellowed for Papa to come over. "Vijay! Idhar aayiye!"
Papa came in, a wary expression on his face that he quickly converted to a warm smile for the visitors. "Ritu, Seema, hello."
Seema didi immediately shot to her feet and pressed her palms together. "Namaste, Vijay uncle."
"Please, sit, sit." He took a seat by Mamma, and then, after the briefest of pauses, reached out and snagged a Milano.
Mamma and Dimple both said, “No!” but he stuffed the cookie into his mouth before they could stop him, and then grinned sheepishly.
Dimple put two fingers to the bridge of her nose. “Papa, you’re a diabetic!”
Mamma sighed over-dramatically. “Kya aap mujhe vidhwaa chodna chahte ho?”
Dimple rolled her eyes at her mother’s words. “It’s diabetes, Mamma. I don’t think he’s going to die and leave you a widow any time soon.” Ritu auntie was watching this little family drama with interest, but Seema looked like she’d rather be anywhere else but here.
“If he doesn’t take his medication like he is supposed to he will! Checking his blood sugar, eating a balanced diet—he doesn’t want to do any of this!”
The tips of Papa’s ears began to turn pink and he cleared his throat. “Okay, okay. Now why did you call me?”
The air in the room tensed. Mamma adjusted her salwar kameez and looked at Dimple. "Tell him what you told me."
Barely daring to breathe, Dimple repeated verbatim what she'd told Mamma. "I have the link to the website, if you want to look at it," she finished.
Papa and Mamma looked at one another. It always amazed her, how they could seemingly communicate without speaking. She wondered what that was like, that level of intense bond. Though she’d take to wearing kaajal every day before she’d admit it, Dimple sometimes felt a pang at the thought of never having that. Because, she was sure, the kind of bond Mamma and Papa had would require a self-sacrifice she would never be okay making.
It always amazed her, how they could seemingly communicate without speaking. She wondered what that was like, that level of intense bond. Though she’d take to wearing kaajal every day before she’d admit it, Dimple sometimes felt a pang at the thought of never having that.
Finally, Papa turned to her. "Yes, I would like to see the website. But I think your Mamma and I both feel that you should go." His cheeks were tinted vaguely pink, as were the tips of his hairy ears, like he was embarrassed by this show of caring.
A beat, two beats, three. Dimple blinked, not quite sure what had happened. And then her body caught up with her brain.
"Oh my god, thank you both!" she squealed, throwing her arms around them.
Seriously? Was that all she had needed to do this entire time? Ask Mamma for things while Ritu auntie and Seema didi were present?
Her parents chuckled and patted her on the back. She pulled back and grinned at them, still not able to completely believe it. They were letting her go to San Francisco to attend Insomnia Con, just like that. It felt unreal. She should buy Ritu auntie a present.
"This is toh great news!" Ritu auntie clapped her hands together. "Leena, before she goes, you must take her to buy some new salwar kameez." The older woman appraised Dimple’s current outfit with pity. “Clearly she could use the help, na…”
"Good idea. And kaajal, of course," Mamma said, nodding sagely.
Okay, maybe no present for Ritu auntie.
Chapter Three: Rishi
The girl was scowling. Literally scowling.
She was pretty, with wild black hair and huge brown eyes she hid behind square-frame glasses. And petite, a perfect match for his 5'8" frame. But that scowl...
Rishi handed the picture back to his parents. "She doesn't look too...happy, does she?"
Ma put the picture away in the envelope and handed it back to him to keep. "Oof oh, don't worry, beta. They probably just clicked it at a bad time."
"She doesn't look too...happy, does she?"
Pappa put his arm around her and laughed. "Remember how Ma and I met?"
Rishi grinned, misgivings receding. The story was legendary in their family. Within minutes of meeting one another, Ma had beaten Pappa with her umbrella because he took her seat on the bus. He maintained that, in his defense, he hadn't seen her in line (she was rather short). And in her defense, she said it had been a long, wet day schlepping through monsoon floods. That seat on the bus was the only thing she'd had going for her. What made it funnier was that Pappa had been on his way to her house to meet her parents to arrange their marriage.
"You ended up giving her the seat after all," Rishi said. "Even after she beat you up with her umbrella."
"Or maybe because of it," Ma said knowingly. "You men are all the same—you need a strong woman to keep you in place."
"But not too strong," Rishi said thoughtfully, looking back down at the envelope on the counter. "Dimple Shah looks...fierce.”
"Or maybe because of it," Ma said knowingly. "You men are all the same—you need a strong woman to keep you in place."
"Na, beta, we've known Leena and Vijay Shah for decades. You might even remember them from some weddings we've all attended over the years," Pappa said, though Rishi had no memory at all of this girl. And he definitely would’ve remembered her. "Hmm, maybe not...you were so young. Anyway, they are a good family, Rishi. Solid. From the same part of Mumbai as us. Give it a chance, toh, beta. And if you don't get along..." He shrugged. "Better to find out now than in ten years' time, no?"
Rishi nodded and drained the last of his chai. This was true. What was the harm, anyway, in attending a program in San Francisco for a couple of weeks to meet Dimple Shah? Obviously she'd already agreed, so she must think it was a good idea, too.
Everything looked good on paper, he had to admit. She’d just graduated high school like him, and had apparently gotten into Stanford. Which, of course, was across the country from MIT, where he'd been accepted, but he was sure they could work something out. Their parents already knew each other, and felt their personalities would be compatible. She'd been born and brought up here, too. They probably had a lot in common. Besides, when had his parents ever led him astray? Just look at them, arms around each other, eyes twinkling with anticipation for their oldest son. They were the poster children for arranged marriage.
Besides, when had his parents ever led him astray? Just look at them, arms around each other, eyes twinkling with anticipation for their oldest son. They were the poster children for arranged marriage.
"Okay, Pappa," Rishi said, smiling. "I’m going to do it."
Rishi whistled as he walked into the den, his heart lifting like a helium balloon in spite of himself. He fully believed romantic comedies were idiotic. There were no insta-love moments in real life that actually lasted. Rishi had watched dozens of his friends—of all ethnicities—fall in love at the beginning of the school year and become mortal enemies by the end. Or worse, become apathetic nothings.
He fully believed romantic comedies were idiotic. There were no insta-love moments in real life that actually lasted.
Rishi knew from watching his parents that what mattered was compatibility and stability. He didn't want a million dramatic, heart-stoppingly romantic moments—he wanted just one long, sustainable partnership.
But in spite of his immense practicality, he could picture her in his life. He already knew the first time he saw Dimple’s picture that their story would become a sort of legend, just like Ma beating Pappa with that umbrella. She'd have some cute, funny quip about the day that picture was taken that would totally endear her to him. Maybe her parents picked that one to send because they wanted to convey her playful personality.
And if it all worked out? If they found that they were, in fact, as compatible as their parents predicted? Rishi's life would be on track. Everything would fall into place. He'd go to MIT; maybe she'd transfer there or somewhere close by. They could hang out, date for a couple of years through college and maybe grad school, and then get married. He'd take care of Dimple, and she'd take care of him. And a few years after that...they'd make his parents grandparents.
And if it all worked out? If they found that they were, in fact, as compatible as their parents predicted? Rishi's life would be on track.
But he was getting ahead of himself. First, he’d have to feel her out, see where she was with things. Maybe she wanted to get married before grad school.
He stopped short when he saw Ashish sprawled on the couch, mantis-like legs splayed out so he took up every inch of space on the love seat. His hair had grown out, and it curled over his forehead and into his eyes. He was dressed, as usual, in his basketball uniform.
It didn't matter that it was summer: Basketball and Ashish had been in a serious relationship since he was in elementary school. Now, eight years later, he was good enough to be the only rising junior on the varsity team. He’d been training at a special camp for athletic prodigies like him all summer.
"Dude, get your nasty feet off the pillows. How many times does Ma have to tell you before you'll listen?" Rishi thumped his little brother's shoe, but it didn't budge.
On the TV, someone scored and Ashish groaned. "Ah, man. You're bad luck, bhaiyya."
"That may be, but I think my luck's about to change, my friend. I'm doing it. I'm going to San Francisco." Rishi’s stomach swooped. If he was telling Ashish, it must really be happening. Whoa.
Ashish muted the game and sat up slowly. Rishi tried not to be too jealous of his little brother's bulging muscles; they just had very different interests, he reminded himself. "Tell me you're kidding."
Rishi shook his head and flung himself into the empty spot next to Ashish. "Nope."
"You're actually going to go meet that...girl dragon?"
Rishi punched Ashish's arm and tried not to wince when his fist stung. "Hey. Don't forget, the first time Ma and Pappa met—"
Ashish groaned and sank back against the couch. "Yeah, I think I have the gist of that story after hearing it four million times." More seriously, he said, "Look, man. I know you...you and I don't always see eye to eye on everything. You're, like, some weird thirty-five-year-old teenager. But don't you think you're rushing things? First MIT, and now this girl and Insomnia Con... I mean, what about your comics?"
"You're, like, some weird thirty-five-year-old teenager. But don't you think you're rushing things?"
Rishi's shoulders tensed before his brain had fully processed what Ashish was saying. "What about them?" He was careful to keep his voice light, casual. "Those are just a hobby, Ashish. Kid stuff. This is real life. It's not high school anymore."
Ashish shrugged. "I know. I just think, I mean, college doesn't have to mean you just let go of everything, does it? Like, I plan to play ball in college. Why can't you do what you want, too?"
Rishi smiled a little. "What makes you think this isn't what I want?"
His brother’s eyes, the same color of dark honey as his own, searched his face for something. Finally, apparently not finding it, Ashish looked away. "Whatever, man. As long as you're happy."
Rishi felt a pang of something, looking at his little brother. Ashish was now taller than him by a full inch. They were so fundamentally different. And to Ashish, he was just some weird relic, something that belonged in their parents' time in India, not here in modern America. Maybe this is the beginning of us growing apart, Rishi thought, and his heart hurt. But he forced himself to get up, because he knew they'd said all there was to say for now.
And to Ashish, he was just some weird relic, something that belonged in their parents' time in India, not here in modern America.
He made his way up to his room, to pack for San Francisco. For Dimple Shah, whoever she was.
Reprinted courtesy of Simon Pulse.
Image: Courtesy of Simon Pulse