I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this novel. It was on my to read list as I had heard that Farahad Zama was a new author to watch with this being his debut novel. For some reason I expected it to be more literary than the gentle read it turned out to be. I do not use the word ‘gentle’ in a derogatory manner but that is how the story comes across. A modern day social commentary about family relationships in India told through the everyday occurrences at Mr Ali’s ‘Marriage Bureau For Rich People’ At times it is very funny and at others tender and touching.
Mr Ali is retired but in search of something to keep him occupied hence the opening of a bureau for setting up arranged marriages. The matchmaking works and his days are soon full, offering advice to people seeking their life partners. Besides the various tales of his clients we also learn about the life of Mr and Mrs Ali’s son who causes them great distress as he is involved in social protests and gets himself arrested. The other protagonist is Aruna, Mr Ali’s assistant, a young girl whose circumstances mean she is unable to afford to marry!
Ok the story is nothing stunning and fairly predictable but I was drawn in by the interesting details about not only the various characters but about Indian life in general and how things are changing there. It was also fascinating for me to learn about both Muslim and Hindu marriages and how they are arranged with love marriages discouraged.
An opportunity to learn about a different culture and way of life, which is something I enjoy in a novel, being transported to another world.
Photo courtesy ofLittle Brown
Farahad Zama was born in 1966 in Vizag on the east coast of India. After finishing his studies as an electrical engineer he moved to Mumbai where he worked in an investment bank, an arranged marriage to a girl from Vizag soon followed. He has travelled the world for his career working in Zurich, New York and has lived and worked in London since 1993.
As I have already mentioned The Marriage Bureau For Rich People is Farahad’s first novel. It is being translated into eight languages, and I believe there is a possibility it may be made into a film. If you are interested in reading the first chapter of the book you can do so on the the author’s Official Website which is also where I gleaned the biographical information from for this post.
There is also a video available on YouTube with the author in India to promote his book which he reads an extract from, unfortunately I did not feel the sound was good enough to include here.