Happy February! After a rough year of university, I decided to take January off from blogging. Thank you so much to all the readers that came back regularly to check the blog – there are soooo many exciting posts coming up!
I’d like to start off 2012 with a book that is close to my heart for a few reasons. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is a simply told story about the complex and often baffling world of arranged marriages. I love that it shows so many aspects of marriage in the Indian community. It is set in the southern beachside city of Visakhapatnam (Vizag), which is my father’s hometown and the setting of many of my childhood summers.
Farahad Zama is a Vizag native who returned to India after years in the USA. His first novel is a delightful blend of innate knowledge of the workings of Indian society with dashes of Western cynicism and Indian optimism.
Mr. Ali is a retiree with too much free time on his hands. Blessed with a wealth of sagacity and real life experience, he decides to open a marriage bureau in his verandah. From there he deals in the business of finding suitable spouses and uniting families. Through the ups and downs of the marriage business, he butts heads with his social activist son Rehman about what each believes is the right thing to do.
Mr Ali’s secretary Aruna – a poor high-caste Hindu – finds her hidden talent through the marriage bureau. She can cut through clients’ bluster and find the perfect match in the unlikeliest circumstance. Despite her smiling exterior, Aruna hides a painful secret and despairs of ever finding happiness for herself.
Farahad Zama has the gift of description. While reading The Marriage Bureau, I really enjoyed the detailed description of Vizag’s streets, the taste of green mangos and the sights and sounds of the beach (not the same as Cottesloe Beach, I assure you).
If you’re expecting The Marriage Bureau to be like Midnight’s Children or A Suitable Boy, you will be disappointed. Nor is it a freaky pseudofantasy like The Mistress of Spices. Zama’s book is a sweet narrative based on great characters and the charming idiosyncrasies of modern Indian life. Despite the simplicity of the story, it does address many social issues and does an adequate job of dealing with the ultimate Indian social conflict: respecting tradition vs. following your heart.
Zama has written two sequels to The Marriage Bureau – ‘The Many Conditions of Love’ and ‘The Marriage Wallah’.