I had heard a lot of good things about Farahad Zama’s The Marriage Bureau For Rich People on a lot of book blogs, and so, did not hesitate in picking up a copy when I saw it on discount in Landmark recently. Plus, I loved the name of the book, and the garish colours of the cover. I read it over the course of a week, in between a lot of chaos in my work life, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Mr. Ali has retired from service, and does not want to spend his life idly. He wants to make a difference, keeping himself busy at the same time. He decides to start a marriage bureau within the premises of his own home to achieve this – The Marriage Bureau For Rich People. The book is about Mr. and Mrs. Ali, the marriage bureau, the lives that the couple touch through the marriage bureau, and changing times in India. The story is set in the small port city of Vizag in South India.
The Marriage Bureau For Rich People is no great literary masterpiece. It is quite a simple story, told in very simple language (typical Indian-English, to be accurate), and it is quite predictable as to how the twists and turns in the story will pan out. That said, the simplicity of the story is its charm, and that is what makes the book rather endearing. It gives the reader a feel of how life is in Vizag, and of how things are rapidly changing. The Alis are innately good people, as are the various people they come in touch with in the course of running the marriage bureau, and it is a refreshing change to read about them vis-a-vis complex plots with lots of dark characters.
There are two main sub-plots in the story: the life of Aruna, who starts working as Mr. Ali’s assistant at the marriage bureau, and the life of Rehman, the Alis’s son. The sub-plots add to the overall story of the workings of the marriage bureau, and enrich it.
Certain characters in the book did get my goat, with their regressive thinking about caste and marriages and divorces, but I could quite easily relate them to people I have seen actually think like that in real life. So, I would say, the characters are quite realistic, and sketched out beautifully. I loved how the author has brought out Mr. and Mrs. Ali’s, as well as Aruna’s, good-naturedness through little incidents.
At places, the book reads like a cooking manual – with detailed recipes running to paragraphs – but I felt that this does not take away from the reading of the book in any way. Rather, I felt that this added to the overall feel of the small town.
When I was just about to finish the book, I felt I would love to know more about how Aruna’s and Rehman’s lives (and those of some other characters in the book) turned out. I was happy to note, after a bit of research, that the author has written quite a few sequels to this one! I am definitely going to pick them up, one by one.
Go for this book if you are looking for a read with a soul, something that is not spectacular but homely and charming, and something that you can relate to.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts about it?