GETTING TO KNOW – As the local and national political discourse heated up a few years ago, Minita Sanghvi looked to romance novels to keep herself from doom-scrolling. But when she couldn’t find what she was craving on the shelves, the Saratoga resident wrote one herself.
“Happy Endings,” her debut novel, was published last year by HarperCollins in India and is said to be the country’s first lesbian romance novel. It follows two best friends, Krishi and Mahi, who grow to realize they love each other but are separated when their families find out. A chance encounter a decade later puts them on a collision course as Mahi has become Mahek Singh, India’s number one actress and Krishi has become a celebrated author in the U.S. The two have to contend with Bollywood glamor, interfering relatives, crazy fans and zealous best friends complicating their relationship.
It was recently long-listed for the AutHer Awards, a joint venture between JK Paper and Times of India, both based in New Delhi.
Sanghvi is the commissioner of finance for Saratoga Springs and a professor in the department of management and business at Skidmore College. Her research is centered around gender and political marketing. She lives in Saratoga with her wife Megan and their son Jamie.
The Gazette caught up with Sanghvi earlier this week about how she came to be an author and
Q: Can you tell me a bit about where you grew up and what brought you here?
A: I was born in Bombay, India and I moved to the U.S. in 2001. The basic reason I moved is I knew I was gay and I knew that that was not an option in India. Homosexuality was a criminal act and society didn’t have space for people like me.
From the get-go, I knew I just wanted to get married, find love, be happy, have a family, that sort of thing. My dreams were not beyond that but it was just not possible in India. So I moved here.
I came out to my family in 2002. They were incredible. That was 21 years ago and the world was a very different place for gay people 21 years ago, especially in a place like India and my parents are not super liberal. They are moderate, leaning progressive kind of people and they didn’t necessarily understand all of it or get it but they loved me and that was the true North that we had. When I got married to Megan, they were very happy that I found someone that was a good match.
Q: How did ‘Happy Endings’ start? Did you always have plans to write a novel?
A: No. The political discourse kept getting sharper and sharper. I was [up] late at night doom-scrolling on my phone. It was happening nationally, but also happening locally. I was on a committee for charter change and it pitted neighbors against neighbors.
I felt like there was just so much more anxiety and my wife was like, ‘Doom-scrolling at night is not helping you.’ That time period was also really hard because the racism that was happening in the USA was just so overt. So much of it had come out of the woodwork.
For a person of color, an immigrant, a gay woman, it was all of these pieces and I had a child that I had to worry about who’s half brown. We’re in a very red part of the country. All of that just made me feel very anxious.
So I started reading romance to soothe myself and I was reading lesbian romances because that’s what I was interested in. It was just sort of frustrating because it was just mostly white women and affairs with other white women. And I was used to all this drama in Bollywood movies; it was like fireworks. So I felt like my romance was missing flavor. The coming out had no drama to it. I wanted to see something like that and I wasn’t seeing anything like that. And so I was like, ‘oh, you know what? I’ll write something like that.’
I started writing and I would put Jamie to bed at night. I would read him his bedtime story and then start writing at around 9:30 or so and I would write every night until 12:30 or 1.
I built up 60,000 words in 30 or 40 days.
Q: Were there any particular challenges in writing the book or during the editing process?
A: I write for academia. So part of me had to stop academic writing and [start] more fictional writing, more casual, sort of the way people talk. But that was fine, you get used to it.
I think most authors will tell you writing the book is the easiest part. Finding an agent, that’s the hard part, right? Finding a publisher may be hard. And then marketing the book is a whole beast. There’s so many of those other pieces. When mostly what authors want to do is just write.
Q: Can you tell me about the publishing process?
A: On a lark, I looked up the top 10 literary agencies in India and looked at which one was accepting people, and I sent it to them. The next day, I got a reply saying, ‘This sounds interesting. Send us the first five chapters.’ And so I sent them the first five chapters, and then a few weeks later, they’re like, ‘Send us the whole manuscript.’ It was magical because it never happens like that.
They sold it to HarperCollins and then HarperCollins was supposed to release it in November 2020. Then they were going to release it in May 2021, when Delta happened in India. Then they were going to release it in November 2021. But again, there was that big surge. Anyway, it finally ended up releasing in November 2022.
It got reviewed by Hindustan Times [and] other newspapers, [including] the Telegraph. I have an epilogue in the book and in the epilogue, I’ve imagined a future in India where [LGBTQ] people could get married and when I went to India in November for the book release, there was actually a case that the Supreme Court agreed to listen to petitions on marriage equality.
That was really exciting to see the future as you imagined it in the works. I wrote an op-ed in The Times of India, which got published about how everyone deserves a happy ending.
Q: How has the novel been received so far?
A: It’s hard to gauge. The only way I can gauge is the reviews that have been coming on like Goodreads. You have straight people who’ve read the book and said, ‘Oh, it’s so simple. Love is love. What these two people feel is no different from any of the other books where I’ve read, where it’s two straight people feeling this.’ So I think it was eye-opening for a lot of people in that sense.
Even the cover, we looked at a bunch of covers with HarperCollins and there was one cover option that had just two champagne glasses. And I was like, No, we can’t have this because even if you have a teenager in India in some small city questioning or wondering and they see two women on the cover, that’s going to make an impact. We may not realize it, but it is and it’s important to have those two women. They were very receptive to all of that.
Q: What do you hope readers experience or take away from “Happy Endings”?
A: I think one of the things that I’ve been really happy to see, at least for the Indian readers who have posted reviews, is that it’s not very preachy about the struggles of gay people in India. But you do get a sense of the struggles of gay people in India and how it may have been 10 years ago and how it might be today. Little pieces, like, where somebody was comparing a gay person to a pedophile, those little things that still happen. It was heartening to see that people picked up on those little things that had scattered all over the book.
“Getting To Know …” is a weekly feature spotlighting people making a difference in the lives of others. If there’s someone you think we should feature, let us know by emailing us at [email protected]
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Email Newsletter, News, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs