A young widow and Indian-American businesswoman rediscovers the magic of love, family, and the complex nature of relationships while she fights to save her failing sari shop in Edison, New Jersey.
Shobhan gives an overview of the book:
The Sari Shop Widow
By Shobhan Bantwal
For the second time in ten years her life was beginning to come apart. Anjali Kapadia stood still for a minute, trying to absorb the news. Could it possibly be a mistake? But it wasn’t; she’d heard it clearly. Despite her best efforts to curb it, the initial shock wave refused to ebb. The seemingly harmless bit of information was all it had taken to shatter the image of a satisfying lifestyle and career.
Her mind in overdrive, she started to pace the length of the tasteful and elegant boutique. Her boutique—her baby—her artistic and inventive skills put to optimum use in creating a fairytale store worthy of movie stars, models, and beauty queens.
Technically the business belonged to her and her parents as equal partners, but it was Anjali’s creativity and vision that had turned it into a classy and successful enterprise—at least until recently. It stood apart like a maharani, a queen amongst the ordinary, plain-vanilla sari and clothing shops of New Jersey’s “Little India.”
The area known as Little India, located in Edison, was crammed with sari shops, jewelry stores, restaurants, grocery markets and souvenir shops. It was a small slice of India buried in central New Jersey, a quaint neighborhood that smelled of pungent curry, fried onions, ripe mangoes, incense, and masala chai. Strong tea laced with spices and oodles of thick, creamy milk.
Even the store’s name was Anjali’s brainstorm. Overrun with ho-hum and even dumpy names and ugly storefronts, Little India was badly in need of some class. So she’d called her store Silk & Sapphires. It had a nice ring to it, and according to Hindu astrology, a sapphire supposedly dispelled the destructive influence of the fiery planet Shanee. Saturn. The store’s window displayed the most elegant mannequins and rare jewelry to give it a boutique flavor rather than just a sari-cum-bauble shop.
The interior was done in soft cream and shimmering blue to fit the name. Tear-drop crystal chandeliers hung from a vaulted ceiling. Strategically placed recessed lights highlighted the displays, mirrored walls created the illusion of space and light, and dense cream carpeting covered the sales floor and fitting rooms. No harsh music with screeching falsetto voices was allowed to tarnish the store’s atmosphere either. Only soft instrumental pieces by both Indian and other masters were piped in through the sound system.
Shopping at Silk & Sapphires was meant to be a unique and indulgent experience.
The boutique also carried jewelry—one-of-a-kind creations of precious and semi precious gems fit for an empress or a blushing bride. It was all custom-made in India by her uncles, Anjali’s mom’s brothers, two of whom were in the jewelry business in the state of Gujarat in northwestern India.
Nearly every piece of clothing the store sold was designed by Anjali, each outfit envisioned, then meticulously planned, cut, sewn, and embellished to her demanding specifications. She took pride in finding the right fabrics, trimmings, and tailors to make her designs evolve from an idea swirling in her brain to divine ensembles. Granted, her clothes and accessories were far more expensive than some, but they were worth the money. Every design was exclusive. Many of them were award winners in fashion shows and competitions.
She glanced at them and exhaled a long sigh. The colorful silks, the clingy chiffons, and the gossamer tissue-crepes were draped in an exquisite array on their pretty satin hangers—row upon row of lush, costly clothes. The pearls, the rainbow of beads, and the jewel-tone sequins lovingly sewn into the borders, sleeves, necklines, and bodices of the sleek garments sparkled and winked at her as she strode up and down the aisles, again and again.
What had gone wrong? How? When?
Could she be kissing her dress design business and her beloved store goodbye? If so, how soon? Catching her reflection in the mirrored wall behind the row of clothes, she realized her eyes were filled with resentment and frustration. Darn it! She rarely let bitterness prevail over her, and she wouldn’t do so now. She was a woman who liked to laugh, although there hadn’t been much to laugh about in the last decade—not since she’d cremated Vikram.
How could her parents have concealed such a significant problem from her for so long? And how could they even dream up something so preposterous to address the problem? How could they jeopardize her career as well as theirs with one phone call?
She wouldn’t stand for it. She couldn’t.
Shobhan Bantwal is an Indian-American fiction author. Her novels include The Dowry Bride, The Forbidden Daughter, and The Sari Shop Widow. She calls her writing "Bollywood in a Book," commercial fiction about India, women’s issues &...