- Virginia Johnson
Mr. Ali is a bored gentleman, a bit of a perfectionist, and—much to his wife’s chagrin—recently retired and constantly underfoot. Mr. Ali clearly needs something to do with his cleverness. His rather small house with carefully tended garden and comfortable veranda is a beautiful, small haven in the heart of a busy Indian city, but it is not enough to hold the interest of a man so distinguished and wise. And so, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People began in the Alis’ front room.
It is a city filled with Muslims, Hindus, and Christians, a changing city in some ways but still one where arranged marriages are perfectly normal along with dowries, amazingly expensive weddings, and interfering relatives. Author Farahad Zama keeps the tone light while infusing the overlapping stories with details of the customs and cultures from the many people who make up India. For a straight-up, 500-rupee fee, Mr. Ali will keep his clients well-supplied with other compatible clients’ contact information until a match is found. But his services extend beyond address exchanges. A salesman who has no luck with prospective in-laws gets some personal guidance to sell himself. A lovely and clever divorcee who has been disowned by nearly all her family receives advice that will serve her well in coming to terms with marriage and love.
But these people who come to see Mr. Ali are, if not rich, at least comfortably well off. Good matches will eventually be found for most all of them, even if they are in surprising places. It’s another matter for Aruna, his pretty, hard-working, and well-educated assistant whose Brahmin family has fallen on hard times. There is no money for a dowry and a high-caste girl can not look too far into other possibilities. Aruna is stuck… until a wealthy, handsome client with no personal interest in being matched fills out an application under the stern guidance of his extremely particular mother and sister.
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is an enjoyable, light read for a summer day, filled as it is with the sights, sounds, and people of a foreign city which though intriguingly exotic are still heart-familiar to readers the world over.