A new name doing India proud abroad

Mandira Nayar

NEW DELHI: Her story seems possible only in the dream-factory that is Bollywood. But at the young age of 18, Kaavya Viswanathan has made it come true in the land of Hollywood.

Already got her life made as it were, Kaavya -- studying at Harvard to be an investment banker -- is believed to have received 500,000 dollars for a two-book deal. Her first book, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, And Got In", has received rave reviews and is one of the year's biggest fiction titles from Time Warner Book Group UK. And believe it or not, it only gets better for her.

Film rights have also been sold to Warner Brothers and the book will soon hit the big screen. The perfect face for the poster-girl of the hard-working "desi" doing India proud abroad, Kaavya might be stuck with the slot but claims she didn't intend to do so.

"I didn't write the book with the intention of fitting into a `desi' slot. But, Opal's Indian heritage is a huge and important part of my life, just as my heritage is to me, so I'm thrilled that the book is having a good reception in the Indian community, both in America and India. I don't think the book's success is dependant on the `desi' tag, but I do feel that there is an additional cultural dimension to the novel that Indians and Indian-Americans will be able to appreciate,'' she says.

Adding a new Indian name to the `chick-lit' section that has become a new trend, her book revolves round an Indian girl named Opal Mehta who is told by Harvard that she needs to have "fun" to get in. And going about her new missing "ingredient" with the same serious attitude that she did to gather all the accomplishments, she and her parents decide to overcome this tiny obstacle. While the parallel between her reel and imaginary life might be difficult to ignore, Kaavya makes it clear that this is not her life story.

"Superficially, Opal and I have a lot in common. We both go to Harvard, we're both Indian girls from New Jersey, our families even drive the same cars. But I promise, the similarities end there. I borrowed lots of details from my life in terms of setting, names and descriptions, but in terms of personality I'm nothing like Opal and my parents aren't remotely like the Mehtas,'' she asserts.

The book is distributed in India by Penguin and is available at most bookshops.

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