AN interesting commentary on the institution of marriage and the various forms of love, specially in the Indian context. The book is light hearted but with an undercurrent of a thought provoking message.
The message? That marriage here in India is not “follow your heart”. It is based on the realities of life-prosperity and the family status of the boy in question, and the looks and family status of the bride-to-be. And almost as important, in this caste-ridden society – the caste and the religion of the two parties concerned!
Mr Ali runs a marriage bureau (something that is unique to India and probably to some other countries also in the Asian sub continent) called Marriage Bureau for Rich People. Why rich? Because he wants “to restrict it to wealthy people so as to keep the riff-raff away”. All varieties of people get themselves registered here, bride and groom seekers, and all want the best boy and the best girl. This would probably be unimaginable to the western mind. There are no feelings of love or any emotion involved, marriage is pure business-the boy must have the best attributes and so must the girl.
Take the case of Aruna, a simple girl from a poor family married into a rich family. All is not well here. Her husband’s sister does not let a moment go to make Aruna feel small. And, to top it all, Aruna is childless, so she has to be taken to a doctor by her sister-in-law’s mother-in-law and her own mother-in-law, where she is asked very personal questions in front of the two women-Aruna’s embarrassment and humiliation not withstanding.
Then there is Pari, a young widow, but a person who refuses to bow to societal norms. In her village she is expected to live in mourning all her life, not wear jewellery, and no bright clothes. But this girl has spunk. She wants “to start all over again-get a job and be among people again. I have to keep busy. I’ve done my mourning,” she declares. And surprisingly gets the support of Smt Ali. But, only within limits. Smt Ali is not able to stand up for her when her brother Azhar leaves Pari out of a function which is “only for married women”. “… Sentiments, bad luck, …afraid…”, he says about inviting a widow.
So when Usha and Rehman meet and fall in love it comes as a breath of fresh air. Here are two people (one Hindu, the other Muslim) who are attracted to each other, regardless. They have not consulted anybody. One feels hopeful of the world around.
But social norms, expectations take over again. Although Usha is a journalist, an independent thinking person, questions set norms, rebels, but ultimately societal expectations win over. Rehman cannot provide “steady job, nice flat, car……” realises Usha. And, as her grandmother puts it candidly, “you should never marry a man who cannot look after you.”
Sad but that’s how society looks at it.
(Abacus Original, C/o-Hachette Book Publishing Pvt Ltd., 612/614 (6th floor), Time Tower, M.G. Road, Sector-28, Gurgaon (Haryana), [email protected])