Rummanah Aasi
  My sisters are a fan of Jane Austen, whether it's reading her novels or watching movie adaptations. As a teen, I didn't understand all the hoopla that surrounded Austen. One of my sisters tried to get me to read Pride and Prejudice when I was a freshman. I couldn't get through the book. The witty dialogue and the interesting characters didn't do anything for me. I was irritated and fixed on the heroines of the novel. How could two highly intelligent, good mannered women of the middle class just sit home and wait for some guy (of noble class of course) come along and marry them? Figuring this was just one plot to one of Austen's novel, I tried another and then another, and finally gave up.
     It was not until my sophomore year of college that I appreciated Austen's novels after learning about the historical context in which she was writing or in my opinion, critiquing, and her own biography. I was fascinated by the notion that this author who is known for her romances and the happily ever after is a marriage never married herself. If you do a close examination of her books, you'll notice that the hero and the heroine don't connect unless there is a financial problem. Of course women at that time didn't have economic security or heck, independence of any kind really. To this day, I'm not entirely convinced that Elizabeth and Darcy truly loved one another. I think Elizabeth married him because she had no choice. Darcy did her family a huge favor and as a payback, she was married. Case closed.
     Marriage in this light is not about a happy union between two people as we like to define it. Marriage is more like a necessity or a profession that women have been trained to want since their birth. Have you noticed that in a slew of romantic comedies a highly successful and professional woman is seen to have everything except a man in her life? Have we really come far since Austen's time? No, this blog post is not a rant on marriage or Jane Austen, but these were the thoughts that I had in my head when I picked up Kavita Daswani's aptly titled novel For Matrimonial Purposes.

Description: Anju is thirty four years old and single. In the eyes of her family, there must be something wrong with her. Her mother desperately seeks answers from spiritual guides and matchmakers to find a suitable match for her daughter. Once all the potential suitors turn out to be duds, Anju decides she wants a different life for herself. She applies to a New York university and convinces her parents to study abroad in hopes of finding a husband. Will Anju finally be married and more importantly, will he be Indian?

Review: I found For Matrimonial Purposes to be a funny, warm, and a very accurate of how Southeast Asians, in this case India, view the institute of marriage. There were many moments where I laugh out loud at Anju's ridiculous suitors and other moments where I nodded my head at Anju's introspective notions of 'Indian dating' and how being an independent, working woman who lived in New York was seen as 'ruining her reputation' or 'too modern' by the people back home. As Anju keenly observes, the wedding is much more important than the marriage. As long as someone is married, whether they are happy or not does not matter in the eyes of the community. Marriage in the eyes of a Southeast Asian is a requirement, an identity, because a woman is not given anything else. Anju is allowed to go to America or 'Umerica' as her parents calls it, not because she will advance in her college degree but because she will have a higher probability rate in finding a husband.
   I had two problems with this novel. First, I was at times confused with the timeline. The first part of the book explores Anju's return to Mumbai after living in New York for a cousin's wedding. The second and third half jumps back and forth from Anju's initial plight in going to New York and the happy ending. It was a bit too jumpy for me and thought it could have been smoother. Second, I think it's very important to point out that Anju comes from a very well off family. Coming to America for a couple of courses and living in New York of all places is not cheap. The plausibility of Anju's growth process is a bit unbelievable. Overall, a great light read that made me think.  
 
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language. I think teens might find this interesting, but I think it would appeal much more for adults.

If you like this book try: The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
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