The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

by Farahad Zama


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Bored with retirement, Mr. Ali sets up a desk, puts up a sign, and waits for customers for his new matchmaking business. Some clients are a mystery. Some are a challenge. Mr. Ali's assistant, Aruna, finds it a learning experience. But without a dowry, Aruna has no expectation of a match for herself. Then again, as people go about planning their lives, sometimes fate is making other arrangements.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425234242
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2010
Series: Marriage Bureau for Rich People Series
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 637,226
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Farahad Zama is a British novelist. His first book The Marriage Bureau for Rich People won the Melissa Nathan Prize for best Comedy Romance Novel and was short-listed for Best Published Fiction at the Muslim Writers Awards. Zama was short-listed for Best New Writer of the Year at the British Book Awards. His other books include The Many Conditions of Love, The Wedding Wallah, Mrs. Ali’s Road to Happiness, and Abacus. Zama lives in South London with his wife and two sons.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A charming novel, fascinating in its depiction of a rich and exotic culture, yet filled with characters as familiar as your next-door neighbors."
-Ann B. Ross, author of the Miss Julia novels

"Farahad Zama's thoroughly entertaining debut novel captivates and delights. In marrying a uniquely Indian tale of culture and tradition to a universal story of family bonds tested and love triumphant, Zama has arranged a perfect match."
-Jennifer Chiaverini, author of the Elm Creek Quilts novels

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The Marriage Bureau for Rich People 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
SavyLeArtist More than 1 year ago
A face paced story that' so descriptive you can nearly taste and smell India. It's a light story of how different people can be happy in different ways whether it's finding a simple companion for life, r falling in love. Not as meaty or as deep as Shobhan Bantwal, but still a happy and funny read that will keep you turning pages until the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved all the characters and their intersting lives and personalities. It was great feeling like a fly on the wall and being able to evesdrop on all these charcters' inner workings and ordeals. The setting was wonderfully described and believable without being overwhelmingly sad. I feel that I not only was entertained but learned a lot about India and its people. I cried at the end because I had to say good-bye to my new friends. I look forward to this author's next book!
faith_ali More than 1 year ago
It's a cute book with little glimpses into Indian life but the writing style is just so painfully juvenline. It reads like a First-Grade reader. I couldn't put my finger on the familiarity of the writing style but it hit me on page 167...Calliou! (A PBS television program for pre-school age children). I could imagine the same narrator's voice reading the sentences in this book. Another flaw is that the characters are given language incongruous with how an Indian, especially one from an older generation, might speak. Even so, what I missed the most was character development. The reader is not given a chance to know the main characters' pasts, to know why they are the way they are, and what may drive these characters. There is a superficiality, a sort of fluffiness. I suppose I have been greatly spoiled with the likes of Lahiri, Umrigar, and Divakaruni.
amodini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Farahad Zama¿s debut novel, ¿The Marriage Burueau for rich people¿ is a simple story, set in coastal Andhra Pradesh. I was drawn to it by comparisons of it to the ¿The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency¿ books, and Jane Austen¿s works. Unfortunately while neither of those claims stand (very) tall, this is still an entertaining read.The story, told with a minimum of fuss and lots of detail, is centered around a Marriage Bureau and the people who run it. Mr. Hyder Ali, a retired government clerk, decides to open up a Marriage Bureau. As the business thrives, Mr. Ali hires an assistant, Aruna, a poor but well-educated girl. As the two go about sorting through client¿s wants and problems regarding potential matches, Aruna must resolve a problem of her own . . .Zama creates sympathetic, well-etched characters in his book. Mr. Ali is retired, and now he¿s at home, ¿disturbing his wife¿s routine¿ (so says his wife). Both Mr. and Mrs. Ali are good, middle-class people, helpful and kind. While Mr. Ali goes about finding potential life-partners for the rest of the world, he frets about his own social worker son, who has devoted his life to advocating on behalf of the poor and repressed. Aruna is a mild-mannered, dutiful girl, very conscious of societal proprieties, and the author manages to give us a feel for what¿s going on in her head, when she must step out of her self-prescribed bounds.As for comparisons with Jane Austen¿s works, there aren¿t any, except for the fact that this book is about match-making, and Mrs. Bennett excelled at it. It is a little galling, from the feminist point of view, that modern day Indian films and books (Bride and Prejudice, A suitable boy, A marriage bureau for rich people), can still be inspired from a ¿historical¿ romance, wherein the only objective and occupation of people in above said dramas is matrimony. Not that it in itself is a bad thing, but the fixation of ¿marriage¿ as being the resounding (and only ?) answer to all female problems, is detrimental to the health of most girls.Mr. and Mrs. Ali are older folk, who have seen the world and are wiser for it. Through the interactions between them, Mr. Ali¿s clients, and Aruna and her family, we get to see different points of view, interspersed with home-spun morality and advice : ¿What stories you tell,¿ said Mrs. Ali, laughing for the first time since the day before. ¿How can you compare human beings and animals? It doesn¿t make sense.¿ Mr. Ali shook his head and said, ¿It is true, though. Many men think that their daughters will only be happy if their son-in-law is a rich officer or a software engineer in California. That¿s not necessarily true. You need a man with a good character who will respect his wife. If you have that, any woman will be happy, even if money is tight.¿The author also brings out the caste and class-ridden culture, and the plight of folks in difficult financial binds. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of people in this story ¿ rich, poor, beautiful, plain, boorish, sensible, haughty and greedy ¿ the marriage bureau being the perfect place to meet all of them. Plus it was interesting getting a look-see into the marriage market : Mr. Venkat¿s demands for his son¿s bride were not many, thought Mr. Ali ruefully. She had to be fair, slim, tall, educated but not a career-minded girl. Her family had to be wealthy, ideally landowners, and from the same caste as Mr. Venkat. If they were from the same city, that was even better. They had to be willing to pay a large dowry, commensurate with his own family¿s wealth and son¿s earning capacity. Mr. Ali wrote it all down.Now, Mr. Zama is not a word-smith, and I say this kindly. His words are simple and to the point, which gives this book a modest beauty. While he describes events and actions in the book in great detail, this isn¿t lush, lyrical prose which will sweep you off your feet. In fact, sometimes the details feel dry, because he is just chronicling steps, one by one. Here¿s an ex
barlow304 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A delightful romp, an Indian Pride and Prejudice, and a heartwarming if slight novel.
clamairy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is sweet and touching. It's not all that deep, but I didn't care. I learned so much about Indian culture, both Hindu and Muslim, that I have no guilt at all about the time spent reading this 'feel good' novel. Thank you, Farahad Zama. Please keep writing!
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a debut novel, this was a delightful vacation book. Mr. Ali, retired, decides to open a marriage bureau for arranged marriages on the verandah of his home. The business starts slowly but gradually the list of clients grows. With wisdom and finesse, along with comments from his wife, Mr. Ali gives advice to his clients and nudges some of the matches along. However, his relationship with his son is a different matter.
knitgeisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zama does a great job of describing the minutia of Indian culture. His descriptions of everyday life are colorful and absorbing. Unfortunately, the plot gets kind of lost in all of the detail. It's a cute love story but it feels kind of thrown in. I would still recommend this book for anyone interested in Indian culture but as a love story it is a little lacking.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ali is retired and bored. His wife is frustrated with his continual presence disrupting her long-standing routine. So Mr. Ali sets up a small business as a marriage arranger to keep himself busy. He's soon busy and his wife finds him an assistant to help him. The story line is pleasant to read, but not slight. While the emphasis is on the light-hearted joys and tribulations of finding the right matches for his clients, Farahad Zama doesn't shy away from the more difficult aspects of Indian society. Mr. Ali's son is involved in protests around a planned industrial park and his assistant, Aruna, as well as his maid, have problems produced by poverty. Mr. Ali is a stubborn man, more so when he knows he is in the wrong.The best thing about this book is the effortless way that it gives the reader a peak at daily life and marriage customs in India. Zama is Indian, but has lived for sixteen years in Britain. He understands what benefits from a brief description and writes well enough that those explanations flow naturally within the story. He writes vividly of the what, adding bits of why as needed. From a trip to shop for a new sari, to attending both a muslim and a hindi wedding, the reader is given a valuable and entertaining glimpse into another culture.
kmboyett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book but strangely am not completely sure whyIt was more a glimpse into lives rather than a deeply compelling story - the decriptions painted a very clear picture without being overdone or distracting
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Publishers like to compare the works of their new authors to Alexander McCall Smith's popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. When I've read books that make that comparison, I don't see the connection, and I've attributed the claim to wishful thinking. Not in this case. Farahad Zama's debut feels very much like McCall Smith's. It's not the physical setting, because obviously the physical geography of the east coast of India is very different from that of Botswana. It's the characters that have the same feel. Mr. Ali, proprietor of the Marriage Bureau for Rich People, is as wise and kind as Mma Ramotswe, and the cast of supporting characters equals that of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books.Zama's affection for the city of his birth is evident in the descriptions of place and customs. Since he has included both Muslims and Hindus in the central cast of characters, the reader learns of the customs of people of both religions and some of the differences between them. As the business grows and clients find matches through Mr. Ali's services, the Alis attend both a traditional Muslim and a traditional Hindu wedding. Since the central characters each have unmarried relatives, the author has plenty of material for future installments in the series. This is a promising debut, and I look forward to getting to know the characters better in future books in the series. Recommended for all who enjoy gentle reads.
dulcibelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ali is retired, and is driving his wife crazy. To keep busy, he opens a marriage bureau. Thus begins this sweet story set in India. This book reminds me of Jan Karon's Mitford stories or The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (without the mystery). The book is mainly a series of vignettes of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Ali and the others around them. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I caught myself thinking how much this simple narrative writing style resembles that of A.McCall Smith's (in his "N0.1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series). Same simplicity that at first is deceivingly plain but gradually engages the reader with its sincerity. Also, how refreshing it is to see Hindus and Muslims living peacefully side by side as neighbors. And no - it's not an illusion, I've seen plenty examples of it being true; it's just that we are so used to media's shocking portrayal of animosity between people of these two religions - while in real everyday life it is often like this: families coexisting, friendships flourishing, people helping each other, respecting each others' beliefs. I say "thank you" to the author for bringing this to life.... Why didn't I give this book a higher rating? Simply because some of the dialogues seemed a bit artificial - though, I must admit that the idea behind always shone through.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I heard this book described as a cross between Jane Austen and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency set in India, I could hardly contain myself. Just how many things that I love reading could one author load into one book? And really, how well could an author incorporate all of these disparate elements? Color me thrilled to be able to tell you that Zama incorporated them all beautifully. I really did love this book.Mr. Ali has been rather at loose ends since his retirement so he and his wife think that a marriage bureau will provide the perfect solution to his boredom. However, it is not long before his agency is awash in more work than he can handle, becoming more than the hobby it was intended. Mrs. Ali finds Aruna, a young woman who seems to be the perfect employee, despite the slight air of melancholy surrounding her. The novel weaves shorter stories about the people who come to Mr. Ali to find them their perfect match with the more involved stories of the Alis' son and the mystery in Aruna's life that accounts for her sadness. While seemingly simple in scope: connecting like-minded people in arranged marriages, there is more depth here than one originally suspects. But Zama doesn't dwell on the heavier subjects like the caste system, the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, reverence for and obedience towards parents, and the practice of corporate land grabbing. Instead, he touches on them lightly, acknowledging their importance in Indian life, but keeping this charming book less about the politics in India and more about the politics of marriage.The episodic feel of the marriages Mr. Ali arranges lend credence to the comparison to The No. One Ladies' Detective Agency and the thwarted romance between Aruna and one of the wealthy clients of the agency is his nod to Austen. But this novel is pure India and these pages will transport the reader to the sights and sound and people of the subcontinent. The cultural side notes and evocation of place were authentic and fascinating, reminding me of our own visit there a couple years ago. The characters were endearing and delightful and completely real. And the descriptions were vivid, colorful, and completely enticing. I hope that other readers find the joy in reading it that I did.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You can't very well read this without thinking of Alexander McCall Smith's writing style, as numerous readers have already alluded to. If you like his style, you'll undoubtedly like Farahad Zama's as well. The thing is, I thought McCall Smith's books were just "okay" (of the two I've read), and thus I thought the same of this book as well. Very simply written, seeming almost like the author was trying to specifically write for an English-reading audience (which he may well have been), it was almost too simplistic and mundane with its attempts at describing present-day Indian culture. On the other hand, in some ways that made this a refreshing read -- nothing too deep & the storyline was pretty predictable and cookie-cutter sweet. As a light read with some nice insight into Indian cultures & subcultures, this was enjoyable. But if you're looking for something heavier, this might not be for you.
bookmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another great book under the Amy Einhorn imprint, along with The Help and The Postmistress.The novel takes place in southeast India. Mr. Ali is recently retired and decides to start a high class marriage business. Many marriages are arranged and he makes it easier by letting people search for a husband/wife via caste and other criteria. He hires a local girl, Aruni, as his assistant once the business takes off.Aruni has her own issues as she is of marriageable age, but her father can not afford for her to be married and lose her income. The Ali's have a son, Rehman, who is a protester of a large development company that wants to tear down villages.The novel takes us through a few months of their review: I enjoyed this book as I have other Einhorn books. It gives an interesting look at marriage in India, whether it be Muslim, Christian, or Hindu, and the customs and parameters that go along with this. The atmosphere was lovely and the characters interesting and likable, especially the long-suffering Mrs. Ali. This wasn't a deep novel as the dialogue was light but it had it's moments, mostly seen through Aruna. Aruna realized in their changed financial circumstances, she didn't have much of a choice, but she sickened of the whole experience and started protesting at being shown off to various people like a prize cow at a cattle mandi....This was the first proposal in almost a year. Aruna hoped it wouldn't start another round like last time, as she didn't want again to feel she was part of a cattle market.This was a quick and enjoyable read and I definitely recommend this rating 4/5
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It meant to be cute, just took too long to get moving.
pennykaplan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ali starts a marriage bureau for contemporary Indians (in India) to keep himself busy in his retirement. He and his wife's common sense insures plenty of successes and true love for his assistant. Lots of fun, and lots to learn about India today.
stonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A new marriage bureau established by retired Mr. Ali serves as the setting to showcase the cultural details of life in India ¿ sometimes with tongue-in-cheek and other times in all seriousness. Caste distinction, political oppression, religious differences and female subjugation are all touched upon, not to mention the strains and demands of arranging and organizing the details of an appropriate marriage within the confusing confines of cultural restrictions. But all of these issues are addressed mostly in a subtle manner that flows just beneath the surface of a basic and simple storyline that gives us insight into the daily lives of the characters. As the business takes off Mr. Ali, a Muslim, hires unassuming and competent Aruna, a Hindu, as his assistant. As they coordinate matches we meet a variety of characters whose needs reflect both the good and bad of their society. Meanwhile Mr. and Mrs. Ali struggle to accept their son¿s involvement in anti-government protests, Aruna¿s father falls ill, and a handsome doctor with demanding sisters who are looking for a rich sister-in-law, becomes attracted to Aruna instead. Marry for love? Inconceivable! This is a sweet and tender story full of enough cultural details to give it an exotic feel.
majorbabs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book, and if it hadn't been so much like the Alexander McCall Smith #1 Ladies Detective Agency books -- and yet so far -- I probably would have. In other words, an independent reading of it would have benefited the author. That said, however, I found it interesting and well-written but without the charm and insight of the #1 books. A retired gentleman decides to set up a marriage bureau for, well, yes, rich people, and much of the book has to do with the ups and downs of that business. There are also local social issues, as well as familial issues, which was quite interesting, and I liked the characters. I just wanted it to be less like the #1 series and more like its own book. I will try to read it again in another year and see if I still agree with this assessment.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This light book set in Vizag, India skirts perilously close to the edge of boredom, but just manages to avoid falling off because of the character of Aruna. Aruna is the office assistant in the Marriage Bureau, a venture set up by Mr. Ali so he would have something to do in his retirement. Aruna is also the only character with any complexity in a book full of cardboard people.As the story progresses we meet various clients who come into the Marriage Bureau and interact with Mr. Ali and Aruna. We get a very detailed accounting of how the time passes in the business, what the weather is like, and what some of the customs are in Southern India.Many of these customs revolve around class and economic status. Being rich is obviously very important, enough so that a separate marriage bureau is a necessity. A critical part of the equation is the bride¿s dowry. For the parents of a potential bride or groom, marriage is a means of transferring wealth. The bride is the barter, and the dowry can include, besides the wedding costs, large stipends, and in one case, even the promise of a scooter. Most clients are particular as to caste and to religion. (For example, there are four main castes among Hindus and then a variety of subcastes. It is important to keep matches within them. Muslims do not have a caste system but prefer other Muslims.) Once those prerequisites are met, clients are a bit more flexible as to location, occupation, looks, and so on. Traditionally, the bride and groom go to live with the groom¿s parents. If something happens to the son after the wedding, his parents can drive the daughter-in-law out without a nickel, and often do. Getting along with the mother-in-law is probably the new bride¿s biggest hurdle.There is a small amount of dialogue in the book about the evils of focusing on money, and the danger of losing your soul in the pursuit of wealth. Other mini-sermons touch on the importance of families, and the reasonableness of religious tolerance. But these themes appear so quietly and unobtrusively, if you blink while reading, you might miss them.The level of prose tends to lack sophistication. There is an almost stilted, robotic quality to some of the dialogue. Most characters are not well fleshed out. In sum, the book does have a bit to offer, particularly on Indian culture, but I think the author needs to develop more as a writer.
Miela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, especially as a look at marriage customs in India, which I knew little about. It was a very enjoyable, light read, which I was looking for when I read it.
awriterspen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most uplifting books I've read this summer. Unlike so many books I've read that take place in India, this book was for the most part cheerful. The author effortlessly tells the story of Mr. Ali, a retired government clerk who sets up a matchmaking service in his home office. Mr. Ali confronts issues head on with wisdom and help from his wife. The characters were lovable, and I enjoyed learning more about arranged marriages, caste, and other Indian traditions that more often than not are cast in a negative light in Western literature. This light read made me smile and I hope to read more by this author in the future.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd like to see a complete review of this book. Snippets of a review? That doesn't cut it. There's no doubt in my mind that I have positive things to say about it. I loved the way the author put me inside life in India today. Little conversations between people in India. Little trips to weddings. Little visits with people seeking a husband or a wife. I loved that.But there is also, for me, the negative things I must say about it. Most of the negative things can be summed up in one sentence: I think this book needed an editor. Here's the last paragraph of the first chapter, for example: "The business took off slowly, as expected. A few people became members and Mr. Ali advertised on their behalf. He forwarded the replies to his members but also kept their details, and as the weeks passed, his files steadily grew." Do we need any of this? Whatever happened to show, not tell? Did Zama get an involved editor? Or were the publishers satisfied to throw together a pretty cover, a few comparisons to No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on the back, and the rough text? I liked this book. Parts of it were exceptional. I just wish it had been edited into a much stronger book.Here's a bit from parts I liked: '"I don't need a full fruit. How much for half?" asked Mr. Ali.The man replied, "Eight rupees. Fresh, sir."Mr. Ali said, "Five rupees.""You are joking, sir. Just cut today on the slopes of Simhachalam. Came straight from the sacred town," said the vendor....The temple town of Simhachalam is home to a famous Hindu temple and Mr. Ali wondered if the man would have tried quite the same sales pitch if he had known that his customer was a Muslim.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A tale of true love