The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

A light and colourful read about marriage in India
The book is about a retired Indian businessman who sets up a marriage bureau, to give him something to do and keep him out of his wife’s hair. With detailed descriptions of what the ideal bride and groom should be, which only really differ across the classes by the amount of dowry offered, it’s a fabulous pretext for exploring certain social issues in a much more lighthearted way than, say, Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger.

If I’m honest, I enjoyed this book because it brought me something of the colours and warmth of India, where I’ve never been but would love to go, and because it contained that other essential ingredient for an enjoyable read: likable, believable characters.

What I should be saying, of course, is that it gave me fresh perspective on what we generally understand in the West as being a Bad Thing, the arranged marriage. True, I did spend a few moments wondering how my husband’s or my relatives would have fared if they had signed up for Mr Ali’s marriage bureau services, but not for very long. After all, even Mr and Mrs Ali recognise that a love marriage is not necessarily a recipe for disaster, provided that certain conditions are met, such as partners willing to compromise (surely a good idea in any culture) and an appropriate ceremony (I loved the description of the Hindu and Muslim weddings).

So, however much I enjoyed the book, I’m sticking to the idea that choosing the right partner is a matter for the two people involved. And of course, if our daughters end up with someone we can’t stand (never mind Someone Unsuitable), my beloved and I will only have ourselves and each other to blame!

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