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The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Marriage Bureau New Art.indd

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama 

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, a first novel by Farahad Zama, is the perfect book to start your summer reading. It will appeal to fans of the Number One Detective Agency series – on a hot day on the dock, in the sun, you will be transported to India where you will find Mr. Ali in his garden.

Recently retired, within no time at all, Mr. Ali is driving his wife crazy, and decides he needs a little business to keep himself occupied. As marriages are commonly “arranged “in India it would seem that a Marriage Bureau, a match-making service, would have a good chance at success. It is in fact so successful that Mr. Ali is neglecting his chores and the telephone is so busy that his wife has difficulty making or receiving a call. Mrs. Ali is also concerned that Mr. Ali is working too much for a retired man of his age; she tells him he must hire an assistant. A young neighbor, Aruna, takes a chance on the opportunity to work close to home and finds that she is ideally suited to the job.

Mr. Ali is a lovely man; his own marriage – arranged of course – is a happy one. He and his wife live a tranquil life, enjoying their home and garden. The only concern in their lives is the welfare of their only child, their son Rehman. Rehman has become involved in the protest against a company that will displace local farmers – as the protests increase the danger of arrest and beating by the police becomes a very serious concern. There is no compromise, as father and son argue, much to the distress of Mrs. Ali, caught between two stubborn men.

Mr. Ali loses himself in his work – he has become very busy indeed, with all sorts of families looking for suitable partners for their children. Mr. Ali will accommodate every religion and caste, and levels of affluence, all of which are very important to the applicants.  Some of the requirements are quite humorous – the desire for the potential bride or grooms family to be small – the fewer sisters to be supported or married off the better. It is also a great advantage for the bride-to-be if the mother of groom has “passed on” so that she has no mother-in-law competing for the grooms affections.

Mr. Ali is both wise and practical. He believes that a careful match will result in a good marriage. There are many issues to be considered in India – there are many religions and castes, and Mr. Ali and Aruna consider them all when recommending a match. It is their insight and attention to detail that make the business so successful, and rewarding. As Mr. Ali proclaims “ Many men think that their daughters will only be happy if their son-in-law is a rich officer or a software engineer in California. That’s not necessarily true. You need a man with good character who will respect his wife. If you have that, any woman will be happy, even if money is tight. If a husband comes home drunk or chases after other females, it doesn’t matter if they live in a big house with lots of servants, she will be miserable.”

To a young woman with a busy job, who is considering marriage to a man with a difficult mother, he advises that she try to “ignore any snide remarks” and make sure that she has time to devote to her husband.

As Aruna’s father says “Money is not important only when you have enough of it.” He certainly does not have enough of it, and bad luck and ill health have used up the money put aside for Aruna’s dowry. Aruna herself is determined to help her family, to keep her younger sister in University, and to accept that she may never marry. But she does not hesitate to give advice to one potential groom “ If you want a happy married life, you should notice what your wife is wearing and you should compliment her…. even when you think what she is wearing doesn’t suit her.” They both laugh but know it is true.

Aruna firmly believes in the tradition of arranged marriages – when she is confronted with a love match, she hotly responds “ Love is supposed to follow marriage, not the other way around. A marriage is not just two people. It is about two families.”

The characters in this novel are delightful; their culture is fascinating, as we relax into the warmth of India and the home of Mr. Ali. This book is the perfect one to start your summer reading.

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