The Bollywood Beauty
Sample of The Bollywood Beauty
In the end it wasn’t the heat of the brilliant morning sun that woke her up, or the muddle of noises from outside – it was a well-aimed jet of water shot through the flyscreen of her bedroom window. Kesh sat up from the shock of the surprise splash, the cool water making damp patches on the sheets and chasing the sleep from her eyes. They let her sleep in most mornings, but today was different. Judging by the noises coming from outside the house, everyone else was already up and busy. Two of her young cousins peered through the window, pressing their faces against the flyscreen, their voices shrill with excitement.
‘Merry Christmas, jiji! Wake up, sleepy-head!’
Even though no one in the family was actually Christian, Christmas was pretty much the biggest day on the calendar for Kesh’s extended family – even bigger when it was to be spent in Fiji. Everyone from everywhere had congregated at Kesh’s cousin Rupa’s place this year. The whole family had been talking about it since the last family get-together. This time they’d all had two years to plan for it, which was good – these things seldom came about on the spur of the moment. Mamta had started stockpiling chocolates early, and she’d dragged Kesh to every summer-clothes clearance she could find in the lead-up, buying armfuls of clothes in every imaginable size so she’d have heaps of presents to give away once they got to Fiji. Kesh’s dad was glad that Kesh was finally of ‘legal’ age. (Even though she had officially turned eighteen two years ago, Abhay didn’t condone the taking of alcohol until at least twenty.) This meant that instead of only two, they now had three people buying duty-free alcohol. And the result of the first time Kesh’s parents actively encouraged their daughter to purchase alcohol? They arrived at Nadi Airport with six bottles of spirits between them. Two Johnny Walker Black Label (Dad), one each Bombay Sapphire and Baileys (Mum) and one Bacardi and one last Johnny Walker (Kesh, on instruction from Dad). Her parents were obviously anticipating a crazy five weeks.
Mausi and Mausa, Kesh’s aunt and uncle and the parents of her cousin Rupa, were hosting the bulk of holiday happenings at their place; and when it wasn’t the venue for the celebrations, it was where everyone was to meet before heading off to their destination in one large, loud group. Including the hosts, there were four families staying at the house for the holidays, plus lots of drop-ins during the day. The four pairs of parents got the bedrooms, and all the kids grabbed couches or bits of floor wherever they felt like it when bedtime finally rolled around.
This year, Rupa was very popular with her Canadian cousins, Lata and Lara, who tagged after her everywhere she went, and mimicked her every action to the point of irritation. Rupa seemed not to mind; she never was one to knock back devoted attention. Kesh didn’t seem to inspire such dedication from the twins. This meant that, unlike Rupa, Kesh got to sleep alone. The twins argued so bitterly the first night they got there about who got to sleep next to Rupa that it was decided they could both sleep either side of her. So Kesh was in no fear of sharing her sleep-space with anyone, and starfished to her heart’s content.
Kesh had a habit of taking lukewarm showers, no matter how hot the weather, although running out of hot water was never a problem here; the pipes from the tank to the house warmed up pretty quickly in the dry heat, acting like a natural hot-water system. As she worked the sweet-smelling coconut soap into a rich lather, she imagined what today had in store.
They’d been preparing for it all week. The inside fridge was stocked with recycled soft-drink bottlefuls of sweet, slightly fizzy coconut water taken from green coconuts they’d gathered from the farm; obscenely luscious bowlfuls of trifle; slabs of plain and fruit-and-nut chocolate set tooth-chippingly hard. The freezer was packed with ice-cream containers – the larger ones containing actual ice-cream, the smaller ones filled to the top with mango puree (instant jumbo ice cubes for the customary holiday mango-lime-mint-leaf punchbowl). The outside fridge, wheeled out of the shed for occasions like this one, was drink station central.
As the big day had drawn closer, Kesh had felt the familiar sense of excitement grow. It wasn’t the same sense of anticipation she’d felt when she was younger. Instead of greedily chewing up the whole of her Christmas holidays, sliding down the sugar-crazed slippery-dip of extra attention from long-lost rellies in the form of melty chocolate and fizzy drinks and lollies, she now savoured every day. The conversations, the general immersion – all the things she missed when she went back to Melbourne, the things that would come back to her in doona-wrapped dreams on cold winter nights. The toe-curling, acid-sour, totally addictive crunch of pale green, unripe mango double-dipped in chilli-salt. The all-night card games and Bollywood movie marathons. Being chased around all day by loud relatives with video cameras. The warm coconut-oil head massages as everyone sat around drinking tea and talking.
A couple of days ago, they’d gone down to the river to collect stones for today’s lovo. They’d floated the whole day away under the shade of the massive trees that reached out and bent their branches over the swimming hole. They’d taken everything – meat and rice, onions and spices and oil, and their parents had lit a fire and balanced a pot on some stones. The smell of fresh chicken curry had floated out to them like an invisible fog creeping over the river’s surface. If there was anything in the world better than sitting on the slick river stones, water up to your knees, eating spicy chicken curry with your hands from a chipped enamel plate, Kesh didn’t really want to know about it.
Showered and changed, Kesh headed out of her room to join everyone else. They were all outside because, in Fiji, Christmas Day meant Lovo Day. Rupa’s dad had dug a huge pit in the backyard in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Her sleep-in meant that Kesh had missed the lighting of the lovo fire, but that was all right – she’d experienced it before at countless family gatherings both here and back in Melbourne. Kesh had been woken just in time to join in the next bit.
Passing through the dining room, Kesh noticed the dining table’s usually elegant turned legs looking more like they were bent at the knees, struggling to support the weight of its load. Several trays of bulging shapes sat on the table. Dalo, cassava and sweet potatoes made up the smaller shapes; the larger parcels contained whole chickens and fish, legs of lamb and sides of pork. They were all wrapped like Christmas presents, shiny and snug in multiple layers of alfoil. Smoke from the lovo fire snuck in through the screen door, making Kesh’s stomach rumble with the promise of the feast to come.
‘Ah, good morning, beti!’
‘Morning, Mausa.’ Kesh stuck her neck out to accept good-morning kisses from her uncle. ‘Merry Christmas.’
Mausa winked. ‘Meri, teri, sub ke Christmas!’
Rupa’s dad was a fan of the English-to-Hindi pun, and he waited till Christmas each year to crack the same joke: ‘Mine, yours, everybody’s Christmas!’ Kesh smiled despite herself, even though she knew she shouldn’t encourage him. Soon the Scotch would be flowing, and he’d just think he was funnier and funnier until finally, full of food and good spirits, he’d promptly fall asleep straight after lunch.
Outside, everyone sat around talking. The kids had formed a circle of mats on the ground, squabbling over who was cheating in the current round of cards; the adults lounged either on benches, or chairs dragged out from the dining room. Several conversations were on the go at once over a never-ending loop of songs from classic Hindi films, the memories of the songs mingling with the reminiscing of recently reunited family members. Kesh joined her cousins on the mat, choosing to sit out the current round of seven-hand to soak in the familiar sound of her family. Australian, Canadian and New Zealand accents didn’t seem at all odd in the heat of this Fijian Christmas morning; for as long as Kesh could remember, gatherings of her extended family had sounded more like some sort of jovial UN conference, anyway.
Grazing was the thing to do on Christmas morning; no one actually sat down to breakfast, opting instead to start the buffet theme early by having a wide selection of tasty treats constantly on offer. Plates of bhajia and vada left over from a cooking frenzy earlier in the week seemed to be the most popular choices this morning, seeing as they went just as well with a cup of tea as they did with a cold stubbie. Spongy diamonds of dhokra sat around bowls of coconut chutney, just begging for a dunking. Piles of sugar-frosted lakdi mithai lurked by the bowlful, hoping to tempt tastebuds away from the spicy savouries.
As Kesh sat contemplating what she would ingest first, the kitchen door swung open to reveal Rupa dressed in a light-blue cotton salwaar kameez. She paused on the step, framed in shot, as all attention focused on her. Kesh felt that old shrinking feeling: Rupa had always been the star of the show. Her long, shower-damp tresses even seemed to dry elegantly – the ends had begun to separate into gently spiralling tendrils. Wispy fringe-bits framed Rupa’s face perfectly, giving her an almost angelic visage. In comparison, Kesh’s hair looked disgraceful. If Kesh didn’t use any product, her hair had a tendency to stick straight out at odd angles, and she wasn’t in the habit of moussing up for a day spent at home. Rupa was wearing tiny embroidered house slippers that Kesh’s mum picked up in her pre-holiday shopping spree. When Mamta had shown them to Kesh, she thought they looked daggy, but on Rupa’s feet, they looked almost delicate. While Kesh’s appearance didn’t pretend any forward planning (she was barefoot, and she’d chucked on the same shorts she’d worn yesterday and some random T-shirt that quite possibly belonged to her father), Rupa was concertedly coordinated. She had lined her eyes with kajol to enhance their almondy-ness, and wore a light-blue, teardrop-shaped tikka on her forehead. She breezed onto the back balcony, bearing a stack of enamel bowls in one hand and a large aluminium kettle in the other.
Sounds of approval followed in her wake as she placed the kettle on the already lit outside stove, and set the bowls down on the table next to it. Trust her to start the day with a good deed, winning the approval of the gathered crowd with spontaneous bowls of tea. While sometimes quite irritatingly so, Kesh thought, the girl was intuitive. Rupa turned to the rest of the group, all smiles.
A slight frown furrowed Mamta’s brow.
‘Keshini? Why don’t you help your cousin?’
Rupa smiled benevolently. ‘It’s okay, Mausi, I’ll do it. Anyway, Kesh just woke up.’
Mamta snorted, nodding scornfully. ‘What kind of time is this to wake up? You missed all the fun this morning.’
‘Ma, I’m on holiday too, you know,’ Kesh mumbled, shifting uncomfortably on the mat. As always, her mother had steered conversation towards her favourite topic: how lazy Kesh was in comparison to her angelic cousin Rupa.
‘Haah, leave it! Let the girl be!’ Mausa came to her defence, sending an exaggerated wink Kesh’s way. She knew that she’d made the right move, laughing at his Christmas joke again this morning. ‘Bechari!’
Kesh cringed. Bechari. Poor girl. She shot Vir a warning glance; he usually liked to jump in around this point somewhere, making it look like he was agreeing with Mausa and siding with Kesh, when all he actually wanted to do was milk the ‘poor baby’ moment for as long as he could. Vir chuckled and ducked back into his card game.
‘Anyway, she will come in handy now … I think the lovo is ready. Ladkan!’ Mausa clapped. ‘Time for lovo-loading!’
Kesh hoiked herself back up again, following Vir, Rupa, Lata and Lara into the dining room. The trays were too big and heavy for the younger kids, who stationed themselves just outside the screen door, poised to fling it open as their older cousins re-emerged. Back and forth, back and forth between the dining table and the outside table, till all the trays were lined up and waiting, their fiery fate now in full view.
Smoke rose from the lovo pit; fuel consumed, the flames had now died down. All the men half stood, half crouched around the pit, eyes squinted against the smoke and the waves of heat emanating from the glowing stones. Kesh joined the other four to form a chain gang. They passed the securely alfoiled parcels of food piece by piece off their trays and into the arms of the men, who in turn placed them directly onto the hot stones. When all the parcels had been delivered and the men were happy with how they’d been positioned, Kesh and Vir fetched banana leaves from a pile that had been collected earlier that morning. Under the supervision of their fathers and uncles (who were now seated, directing the action with their left hands and swigging beers from their right), Kesh and Vir layered banana leaves over the parcels. Rupa, Lata and Lara had retreated to the shade of the balcony, declaring the combined heat of the lovo and the morning sun too much for their delicate complexions. Kesh didn’t mind; she’d rather do this than be stuck making everyone tea.
Next, they grabbed the drowned hessian sacks, pre-soaked in halved forty-four gallon drums. After a few feeble attempts at swinging the heavy sacks at each other, Vir and Kesh layered them over the banana leaves from edge to edge of the pit, and checked that the slivers of smoke that snuck out between them weren’t too sizeable. They then stood back and congratulated each other on their efficient handiwork. Their satisfaction was short-lived, though, as Vir’s dad, Vijay, handed them a shovel each.
‘You might as well finish it off, na?’
The men laughed as Vir and Kesh stood in the burning sun, gobsmacked, clutching a shovel each. Kesh shielded her eyes with her free hand and peered at Vijay Kaka. ‘Are you serious?’
‘Of course, beti! What good is half a job?’ The men clinked their stubbies in agreement.
Their laughter had attracted Mamta’s attention, who rushed over in a huff, stopping short where the shade of the balcony roof ended, as if stepping out into the sun would be akin to jumping off a cliff.
‘Ar-reh! Keshini! What are you doing, standing there in the sun with a shovel like a labourer? Come back under the shelter or you will be as black as a burned eggplant!’
Kesh’s expression fixed in a stubborn glare; her grubby, sweaty face burned anew from anger and embarrassment. Kesh tuned out as Mamta and Vijay squabbled over whether she should be doing what she was doing. Vir turned, his back toward the adults in the shelter. Kesh rolled her eyes as he spoke to her out of the corner of his mouth in an exaggerated Indian accent, just loud enough for Kesh to hear him.
‘Go, go! If you stay out here any longer, you’ll be too dark to find a decent husband. Then what will become of you? Go now, while you still have a chance!’
Kesh hoisted her shovel and pushed it into the mound of dirt next to the lovo pit with more force than was probably required. She flung the first shovelful of dirt back into the pit and watched as it exploded on impact, mud flying to all corners of the pit, as if a water balloon had been thrown with great force from a very high place.
‘What good is half a job?’ she mumbled back.
After the lovo had been going for an hour, they all decided that the sun was too hot and headed back into the house. All except Kesh; she had wandered away, saying she was going for a walk, and had disappeared before Mamta had time to work herself into the usual frenzy. Vir’s father had distracted Mamta with some very involved story and bundled her towards the house while, with a frown and a jerk of the head, wordlessly urging Vir to go after Keshini.
Vir was used to his parents trying to throw him and Keshini together. Their fathers had forged a connection years ago in Melbourne; they had become each other’s family while they were stuck there, separated from their own. Kesh’s parents got married shortly after Vir’s, and Vir arrived shortly before Kesh. They’d played together as children, avoided each other as pre-teens, poked fun at each other through adolescence. Now entering adulthood, they found each other from time to time to talk, to nut it all out, to admit to each other that most of the time they really had no idea what they were expected to do. They bonded in private and sparred in public, keen to protect the occasional closeness of their relationship without their parents jumping in and trying to re-define it.
Vir finally found Kesh out the front of the house. Sitting cross-legged under a tree, she looked pensive and just a little pathetic. As he walked toward her, he imagined the expression on her face – forehead creased in a frown, bottom lip jutting out slightly, all pouty and stubborn. He couldn’t help smiling when, sitting down next to her, he saw that he’d been spot on.
‘What are you so smug about?’
Vir laughed. ‘What do you mean? You haven’t even looked at me!’
‘I don’t need to. I can feel it.’
‘I’m not smug. I’m just … Oh, I don’t know. You’re exactly like your mother.’
Kesh swung around and punched Vir in the arm. ‘Oh, piss off! I am not!’
‘What? You’re both as stubborn as little kids.’ Vir rubbed his arm where Kesh had punched it. ‘Anyway, Dad’s taken her inside, and they’re all probably into their first Scotches by now.’
Kesh chewed on the tip of her tongue, determined not to let it loose. She knew that would only make things worse; she also knew it was precisely what Vir was expecting her to do.
‘Come back inside. We’re all playing cards.’
Kesh kept her mouth shut. She pulled at blades of grass, plucking them out one by one.
‘And if you really feel like some gardening, I would recommend the use of a lawnmower, or you’ll be here till next Christmas.’
Kesh groaned. ‘It’s bad enough we have to put up with Mausa’s shocking sense of humour …’
‘Well, come on then.’
Rupa had already started dealing the cards. Lata and Lara sat beside her, and two sizeable piles of cards sat face down where Kesh and Vir were to join them. They sat on the lounge-room floor; all the furniture had been pushed back against the walls to clear some space for the meal later.
‘Okay, lovely ladies! What are we playing?’
Kesh rolled her eyes as Rupa, Lata and Lara giggled. ‘Bluff, with two decks.’
‘Oh, excellent. I always win. You girls are hopeless liars.’
Kesh swatted Vir on the knee. ‘We are not. You’re just a cheat.’
Rupa smiled. ‘I don’t mind if I lose. Maybe I always lose because I hate to lie anyway.’
Kesh groaned. ‘Oh, Jesus …’
‘Hey, hey.’ Vir waggled his finger at Kesh. ‘No blasphemy. It’s his birthday! There’s no need to play bluff if you’d rather not, Rupa?’
‘No, no, it’s fine. Let’s play.’
Kesh rolled her eyes. ‘Okay then! I’m glad we sorted all those nagging moral objections out. I’ll go first.’ She threw two cards into the middle of the circle, face down. ‘Two jokers.’
Vir pulled a face. ‘Bluff.’ He flipped the cards face up to reveal that Kesh had been telling the truth.
‘Ah, beautiful! Jokers for a joker!’ Kesh thumped him on the back. ‘Nice start, champ!’
Vir picked the jokers up and added them to his own hand. ‘Okay, Kariya. We’ll see who comes out on top in the end.’
Kesh frowned. ‘Don’t call me that. You know I hate it. Two queens.’
Vir laughed. ‘Arreh, we only call you that because we know it gets to you. Another queen.’
Lata hesitated. ‘Pass. Why do they call you Kariya, Kesh jiji?’
‘Apart from the obvious reasons, you mean? Two more queens!’ Lara cackled at her own joke.
‘That’s not nice, Lara. Kesh may be dark, but she’s not exactly black!’ Rupa beamed at Kesh, hoping to find appreciation for her attempted defence. Kesh scowled at her cards.
‘It’s your turn, Rupa.’
‘Ah, yes, of course. Two … more … queens.’
Kesh studied Rupa. Her eyes were glued to her cards, and a slight flush crept across her cheek. ‘Bluff.’ She reached out and flipped over two cards to reveal Rupa’s bluffed hand before pushing the whole pile of cards toward her. ‘You were right. You are pretty crap at this game.’
Smiling benignly, Rupa leaned in to collect the cards. ‘You know, Lata, my father made that nickname up for Kesh when she was little. He used to call her “Kariya Mem” because she was so dark from running around in the sun all the time, and she couldn’t speak Hindi properly. It was really cute.’
‘And,’ Vir continued, ‘she was so proud of the nickname right up until she learned what it meant.’
Rupa smiled at Vir. ‘That’s right. “Little black white girl”!’
Kesh fought the urge to scream. ‘Ha ha. Very funny.’
‘But it was! You sounded so funny when you used to try and speak Hindi. You sounded like a little Aussie!’
‘Maybe that’s because I was a little Aussie?’
Vir scoffed. ‘You’re Indian, yaar.’
‘No. Like you, I was born in Australia. So like you, I’m Australian.’
Vir rolled his eyes.
‘And Rupa was born in Fiji. So, strictly speaking, she’s actually Fijian!’
Vir and Kesh pulled faces at each other and Lata and Lara launched into the debate, carrying on about being Canadian, and how there were so many Indians in Canada that it was just like being in India, not that they’d know because they hadn’t actually been to India, but they’d heard about it and that’s what people said, anyway. Rupa began waxing lyrical about how she longed to go to India one day, and how enriching she was sure the experience would be, while Lata and Lara hung off her every word. Vir couldn’t help but laugh when Kesh groaned and dropped her head into her hands and began rocking gently back and forth.
‘Whose go is it? Please, whose go is it?’ she groaned through her fingers.
Rupa’s dad had summoned the whole house to come and behold the lovo, and to help cart the cooked food back into the house. After sufficient ooh-ing and aah-ing, Vir and Kesh were once again left out in the sun while the others retreated to set ‘the table’, which in this instance was actually the lounge-room floor. Woven mats would be laid out in the middle of the floor and cushions taken off the couches and scattered around the edges. They would eat off disposable plates, the use of cutlery purely optional.
After all the food had been brought in, Kesh convinced Vir to finish tidying up outside alone, the promise of a lethal batch of ‘fruit punch’ sealing the deal. A tray of mango-puree ice cubes, a couple of healthy slugs of the Bacardi she’d helped liberate from the stuffy confines of airport duty-free, the spooned-out pulp of one passionfruit and a bottle of orange soft drink later, Kesh had created her Christmas cocktail. She iced the rims of a trayful of assorted glasses with some passionfruit juice and castor sugar before ladling in the mixture; she sprinkled a handful of chopped mint leaves over the top, and slid slices of lemon and orange onto the rim of each glass. She was just about to head to the lounge room when Vir came in out of the sun, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. Surveying the tray in Kesh’s hands, he let out a long, low whistle.
‘You sure mean business, don’t you?’
‘What? It is Christmas, you know.’
Vir shrugged, grinning. With a sweep of his hand, he gestured for Kesh to continue into the lounge room before him. The rest of the party, already seated around the indoor picnic buffet, let out sounds of surprise and approval as Kesh and her tropical cocktail tray came into view. Vir helped hand glasses out to eager recipients before taking a cushion on the floor next to Kesh. As they grabbed plates and began piling them with food, he leaned in close to Kesh’s ear.
‘One point to you, my dear. Spontaneous cocktails beat spontaneous tea any day, I’d say.’
‘One whisky on the rocks, one whisky-wai, one lemonade … and whisky.’
Vir handed out another round of drinks before resuming his position behind the bar. Nominating himself as the barman not only greatly increased discreet spirit-swigging opportunities; it also kept him engaged, and at a safe distance from ‘the dance floor’. Like breakfast, dinner was not really a planned event. They skipped straight from lunch to dessert. Stacks of leftovers from the lunchtime lovo were usually more than enough to cover any dinner cravings.
Entertainment-wise, Christmas night followed a similar pattern every year. As people rose from their post-lunch stupor, looking for distraction, only one thing would suffice: too much Scotch, too-loud music, and spontaneous re-creations of classic Bollywood movie moments. One by one, old songs were requested and pleas were made for individuals to perform them. The younger cousins showed off their budding bharat-natyam moves, learned from weekend classes. Eventually the focus fell on the Canadian contingent; Lata and Lara happily performed a routine to a pop song, but they did nothing to hide their mortification as, after much pleading, their mother made her way to the dance floor.
Lata and Lara’s mum took up her position on the floor. She sat elegantly, like a ballet dancer, one leg folded underneath her and the other extended, her toe daintily pointed out to the side. She arranged the folds of her sari in a circle around her and draped her pallu over her head, pulling its edge so it hung low over her face. As the song began, she mouthed the lyrics, transformed in an instant to the sad, pleading woman in the song. Her face was full of emotion: a flirt here, a heavy sigh there, eyes clasped shut with longing, eyelids slowly opening to reveal a gaze heavy with suggestion. Eventually even Lata and Lara abandoned their doubts and began to clap along to the chorus as their mother twirled and mimed her way through the song. She finished her performance with low bows, accepting the ‘wah-wahs’ and ‘woo-hoos’ her audience flung at her. But she couldn’t maintain the sultry guise for long. She dissolved into a fit of giggles once safely back on the couch, face flushed, refusing any further alcohol, while loudly protesting that Scotch was solely to blame for giving her the courage to do what she’d just done.
Vir watched as Kesh attempted to keep herself out of the action, but her denial was in vain; after securing Lata and Lara’s participation, Rupa pulled Kesh up in front of the stereo. They hammed it up, dancing in pale imitations of song-and-dance moves from the movies before pairing up for some celebratory spinning. They clasped hands crossed at the wrists and leaned back, spinning around and around, the whirl of their dupattas and salwaar kameez blurring faster and faster to the music. Just as Vir thought they should probably wind down, Kesh lost her footing and hurtled straight into Lata and Lara. The four girls fell in a heap on the ground, laughing and nursing bruises, their audience whooping with laughter. Vir shook his head and collected empty glasses. Christmas sure was thirsty work.
The culture-clash showdown between the bold and the dutiful
Kesh: born and bred in Australia, drinks at the pub, studies feminist theory. Considers herself NRI ‘Not Really Indian’.
Rupa: born and bred in Fiji, scared to leave the house, makes own roti. A full-bloom ‘Bollywood Beauty’.
They found it hard enough to get along as kids, but when a grown-up Rupa comes to Melbourne to stay with her cousin Kesh, it’s a complete culture-clash. As Kesh and Rupa’s worlds collide, they each hurtle toward answering the same question are we ever truly what we seem?
In this delicious and highly spiced novel, Shalini Akhil dishes up tears, laughter, music and food, with a truly scary dinner dance thrown in. If you’ve ever found yourself caught between your cultural background and a hard place, this is the read for you.
“… a universally appealing novel about identity, flawed families and the struggle to be yourself … ” The Age
The Bollywood Beauty
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Shalini Akhil is a writer/ humourist /nerd/mad crochet fan. Her first novel, The Bollywood Beauty was first published by Penguin in 2005 and made available by Momentum in 2012. Shalini has been shortlisted in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, made it through to a Raw Comedy National Grand Final, and performed on stage in two Fringe Festival shows. She has had short fiction published in various anthologies including Meanjin, Girls Night In 4, Sleepers Anthology, Silverfish New Writing and Growing Up Asian in Australia. Her non-fiction work has also been published by The Age, and in the Women of Letters and Grandma Magic anthologies.
Shalini was born in Fiji, and lives with her husband in Melbourne. She’s working on her second novel.Find out more