[Review] When Dimple met Rishi

We are familiar with the loose structure of a romantic comedy: the meet-cute, a “big reveal” that strengthens the connection between the two characters, a moment that changes everything (and increases the momentum of the relationship), the breakdown that very nearly causes the end of the relationship, the Big Romantic Gesture ™ leading to the reunion, and then the happily ever after, or they eventually get it together for a few good years, whichever comes first.
If you have a quirky name for your romcom, or you create characters who deal with issues that are current or – even better – underrepresented, then you get extra points.

Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple met Rishi ticks all the romcom boxes. The play on Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s iconic film immediately lets you know two things: the two main characters will be from different worlds and will hate each other; at the end of it all, they will be together and they will be happy. In this way, then, reading Menon’s book is not about seeing whether Dimple and Rishi will fall in love as it is about watching how they get there. You also find yourself asking: what happens if these two don’t get together?

Menon’s is a story about two teenagers at crucial points in their lives who have to do a lot of growing up in a short space of time. And isn’t that a time-honoured tradition – the big love that happens to two people and forces them into the next phase of their lives in the most chaotic way?

Menon’s writing shines in the descriptions of how this big love comes to be. She uses beautiful similes to lay out the small moments in which Dimple or Rishi learns something new about their object of affection, loading them with so much energy that reading the scenes feels like standing in the same room as Dimple and Rishi and feeling them fall in love. When she describes how Rishi feels when Dimple smiles, or how Dimple becomes convinced that Rishi has a really good soul, it is pure and believable. It feels like there is very little that can stand in the way of Dimple and Rishi’s love.

Romcom heroes always have sidekicks; they are the ones who temporarily pull the main characters out of the romantic haze and force them to deal with real-life issues. While Rishi doesn’t have one (except in the moments when he is being compared to his younger brother), Dimple has Celia. Celia and Dimple reluctantly become friends and Celia guides Dimple through the beginning of stages of her relationship with Dimple by giving her mini makeovers and arranging casual dates to help their love along. It helps, of course, that she is charmed by Rishi right from the start. Celia also gives Dimple an opportunity to practice empathy and, by being a little less selfish, Dimple gains some perspective on her own life.

A major theme throughout the book is that of fate, or destiny. Rishi believes that he has been fated to be with Dimple and treats destiny like something his ancestors laid out for him long before he was born. Dimple resists anything that looks like a template for her life and chooses to rely on her own dreams and ambitions to direct her path. Dimple leads with passion while Rishi is afraid of being consumed by it. This is the primary source of conflict between the two and, coupled with their stubbornness, it becomes a threat to their budding relationship.

Menon carefully marshalls all the moving parts into delightfully witty dialogue that makes When Dimple met Rishi fun to read. It's a great book for a number of different kinds of people: teenagers wanting to know what falling in love is like, young adults who want to take a trip down memory lane, parents of teenagers who might want a bit of insight into their kids' minds, hopeless romantics of any age and cynics who want to explore romance in a low-stakes environment.


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