The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
By Farahad Zama
File Size: 438 KB
Print Length: 316 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0399155589
Publisher: Berkley; 1 edition (June 11, 2009)
Sometime in November last year (2008), a friend of mine recommended that I read this book. I bought it and finished reading it in a day.
The blurb on the back cover of the book states as follows:
What does somebody with a wealth of common sense do if retirement palls?
Why, open a marriage bureau, of course. And soon Mr. Ali, from beautiful Vizag in South India, sees his new business flourish as the indomitable Mrs. Ali and able assistant Aruna look on with careful eyes.
But although many clients go away happy, problems lurk behind the scenes as Aruna nurses a heart-rending secret; while Mr. Ali cannot see that he rarely follows the sage advice he so freely dishes out to others. And when love comes calling for Aruna, an impossible dilemma looms …
A colourful coastal town and contemporary marriage bureau prove a perfect backdrop for a splendid array of characters making sense of all sorts of pride and prejudice – and the ways in which true love won’t quite let go – in this witty and big-hearted debut novel.
What I enjoyed most about this work of fiction was learning how Mr. Ali collated the information about his clients and cross-referenced them with potential suitors. I also liked learning of his logic about paying Aruna more than necessary:
‘Quarries are difficult places to work and I was expecting a hard taskmaster driving the poor workers. Instead I found a gentle-looking man with round glasses sitting in an office while the workers toiled away in the hot sun. I was surprised and asked him how he got his people to work like that and he told me that he paid his workers piece rates – the stone cutters, the saw operators, the haulers – each worker got a certain amount for every sheet. He said they managed themselves and if somebody was being lazy, they sorted it out themselves because it affected all of them. I don’t want to be sitting here all the time looking over the girl’s shoulder. I want her to work by herself.’
There was a chapter, right at the beginning, entitled, The Requirements of a Perfect Brahmin Wedding. This made it a little easier to understand lots of what was happening in the novel. The extracts from Mrs Ali’s essays on the location of Vizag and the different castes were only placed right at the end. Perhaps, had these extracts from essays been placed at the beginning, it might have been easier to understand the differences between the castes when reading the story.
Of all the characters, I liked Mr. Ali most of all. He is the central character of this tale and what endeared him to me was that, throughout, he was portrayed as this harsh man who had given up hope on his son; he was meticulous in his job, clinical in his dealings with everyone, almost angry with his wife for her support of their son in pursuing his cause. And, yet, he was protective of Aruna. He wanted the very best for her and supported her when she wanted to get married.
On the last page of the book, it is said, The author, Farahad Zama, moved to London in 1990 from Vizag in India, where the novel is set. He is a father of two, and he works for an investment bank. This, therefore, gives the author that element of authenticity for he writes about a place he knows.
The lasting impression I have of this book is that it is a ‘feel-good’ book. There is humour everywhere. Here’s an example from the text:
‘What?’ he asked. ‘Do you think it’s amusing to lose all the flowers from the garden before the sun has even risen fully?’
‘No,’ she said, ‘but you are getting worked up too much over trivial things. After retiring, you’ve been like an unemployed barber who shaves his cat for want of anything better to do. Let’s hope that from today you will be a bit busier and I get some peace,’ she said.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked.
Mrs Ali rolled her eyes. ‘I have been running the house for more than forty years and the last few years since you retired have been the worst. You keep interfering and disturbing my routine,’ she said.
And here’s another sentence under Acknowledgements:
My two boys who think that all writers will be as famous and rich as J. K. Rowling. If only.
Although I am unlikely to read it again, I would certainly recommend this to someone who was feeling depressed, lonely, sad or in any way negative and needs a quick ‘pick-me-up’.
28 January 2009