As tech experts both your hero and heroine tend to be data driven which leads to the creation of ‘the marriage code’. What is the code and how did it come about?
The marriage code is a customized search for the perfect woman that Emma develops for her coworker Rishi. It only finds women who match his exact specifications (well, his and his family’s). I like to think of it as Match.com (or shaadi.com in India) on steroids.
This is definitely not a love at first sight story! In fact, Rishi and Emma have quite a difficult time getting along at first. Can you describe their first meeting and how this sets the scene for their relationship?
Emma is in a super rough spot. Her carefully constructed world is collapsing because her boyfriend has publicly proposed to her, she wasn’t ready, and he in turn blames her for turning him down. So the next day she goes into work, clinging to the fact that at least she has her job, and this project she’s put all her blood, sweat, and tears into. But then Rishi, a stranger, tells her that this project is no longer hers. For a woman who likes patterns and predictability, well…she loses it. Now Emma is faced with the threat of no job, no boyfriend, no homey apartment—until she convinces her manager to give the project to her, not knowing Rishi is slated to manage it, and that it’s his salvation from the pressures of his family. They still need to work together…closely. And that sets the two of them off on a journey they never expected.
Emma is from the Northwest and Rishi from the south--southern India that is. There are some serious cultural differences between these two. What are some of the biggest roadblocks they face in their relationship?
Emma’s biggest roadblock is trying to protect herself. She’s carefully constructed this world she lives in to be compartmentalized, practical, and to suit the life she thinks she needs to rely on. Even though Rishi’s not out to get her professionally, she’s been taken advantage of before by male coworkers and she doesn’t want to let it happen again. For Rishi, the pressure to get married to a woman who will fit into the culture of his family is the biggest roadblock. His family depends on him, and their reference point for someone marrying outside their culture has caused so much heartache, it’s hard to get past that.
This is a very personal story to you—like Emma, you moved to India and had to adapt to your new environment. What are some customs that you liked the best? Which ones were more challenging for you?
When I first moved to India, and especially when interacting with my (now) husband’s family I was constantly trying to make sure I wasn’t offending anyone. In the US, we have one main gesture that is super offensive and it’s easy NOT to use it. In India, what you do with your hands and feet can be offensive, and so it’s more nuanced; there is a lot of using your right hand vs your left hand, not putting your feet towards someone, knowing when to take off your shoes, and that takes some constant reminding and getting used to. Oh, and eating with your hands. In the book, Emma feels like she looks like a toddler eating, and yeah, so do I!
My favorite customs are mostly around how in general, I think Indians cherish their traditions. Despite all the Western influence, it feels like people still care a lot about continuing to practice traditions of their family, religion, and heritage. Whether it’s the clothes people wear, the multitude of holidays, or the weddings chock full of ritual and customs, I think it’s amazing to take the time and intention to continue practicing those. I also really appreciate their reverence for elders. There is a lot of respect given to the wisdom and experience of older people in the culture that feels very different then how we often treat our elders in the US, for example.
Why is The Marriage Code the perfect book to introduce you to readers?
The Marriage Code is very personal to me because I wanted to write a book that echoed some of the experiences I had moving to India and meeting my husband. So if there is any kind of introduction to my writing and me, this is definitely a good one!
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