The Marriage Bureau for Rich People - Farahad Zama

What does an Indian man with a wealth of common sense do when his retirement becomes too monotonous for him to stand? Open a marriage bureau of course!

With a steady stream of clients to keep him busy, Mr. Ali sees his new business flourish as the indomitable Mrs. Ali and his careful assistant, Aruna, look on with vigilant eyes. There's the man who wants a tall son-in-law because his daughter is short; the divorced woman who ends up back with her ex-husband; a salesman who can't seem to sell himself; and a wealthy, young doctor for whom no match is ever perfect. But although his clients go away happy, little does Mr. Ali know that his esteemed Aruna hides a tragedy in her past-a misfortune that the bureau, as luck would have it, serendipitously undoes.





This is another one I picked up recently, being inspired by my recent wedding anniversary. And it worked out SO much better than Lily Tuck's I Married You For Happiness!


Mr. Ali retires from working for the city and in a fit of frustration and annoyance, Mrs. Ali insists on him finding something to do already! She's flustered that he's all up in her space all the time suddenly and just wants him out from underfoot. So he gets the idea to start up a matchmaking service on his covered front porch! But it's not just a matchmaking service for dates, these are straight-to-marriage matches, so he's gotta be on it with comparing people's personal info.


This is not just a fluffy novel about matchmaking though. It's got other topics that bring a lot of heart and bittersweet realities to the table that I think nearly any reader will be able to relate to, at least on some level. For example:


** Mr Ali has a strained relationship with his son, Rehman, because Mr Ali desperately wants Rehman to have financial stability in his work, while Rehman feels there is more importance in doing noble work that really means something to the world, even if it means a high level of danger to his life. I was torn with this part of the story, because I could see both of their sides, have been in both ways of thinking myself at different times in my life. 


The fear that a family member might fall ill and require expensive treatment was the reason they {the Alis} had saved so fanatically through the years. It was also why her husband was anxious that Rehman start a career. But how can poor people save, she thought, when every broken cowrie shell they earned was necessary just to survive?


** Leela, the Ali's maid, has her own home struggles that, once they bleed into her work, seem to bring even more light to the tension between the Alis and their son. One of Leela's grandsons, barely out of his toddler years, is battling a deadly brain tumor. Surgery is required to save his life but the kind of medical bills that will surely come from performing the surgery (not to mention recovery needs) will pretty much bankrupt the family. But they still brainstorm on how to get him the surgery he needs. The desperation to find an answer is heartbreaking, but who wouldn't go to those lengths for an ailing family member?


** There's also the side story of Aruna, Mr. Ali's assistant at the Marriage Bureau. Ali and her sister were born to later-in-life parents -- Aruna's mother had her at 35, 5 years later had Aruna's sister. Now grown young women, Aruna and her sister now find themselves discussing caretaker roles & options for their parents much earlier in life than one normally has to find answers for those questions (something I'm dealing with in my own life right now, so I especially identified with this part of the story). Aruna's father, now a few years retired, just got news that his pension -- the main income for the family and just enough for all of them to get by on -- is getting cut in half, thanks to a government oversight -- a "yeah, hey, sorry but we just realized we've accidentally been overpaying you all these years so we're gonna take some of that back now" notice. Naturally, this devastates the family and Aruna has to leave college to take up a job to make up the loss. Though she somewhat pities Aruna for having to do this, Aruna's mother has such pride in her daughter being able to make her own income. This part of the story reminded me a lot of what so many families are going through here in the States with surprise lay-offs and families scrambling to find their footing again. 


So there's a good bit here that so many can relate to. If you read this book and are curious how the story might have continued, I discovered just yesterday that Farahad Zama did in fact continue with these characters:


#2 The Many Conditions of Love (a story focusing on Rehman)

#3 The Wedding Wallah (a story of the Alis and Pari, a widowed mother they take into their       home)

#4  Mrs. Ali's Road To Happiness