This is the first book I have read written by an Indian author for an Indian audience still living in India. Chetan Bhagat is quite a famous writer in India. Aside from selling many copies of his novels, two of them were made into Bollywood (Indian Hollywood) movies. One of those movies – 3 Idiots – had cross cultural success, with Indian-Americans going to theaters in droves to watch it. I would actually recommend it to non-Indian-American audiences as well. It is a wonderfully directed/written movie, the actors are good, and the songs are entertaining. Did I mention that all Bollywood movies have songs and dance routines? Yea, they do.
Anyway, back to the book. Me thinks this may be based on Chetan Bhagat’s life. I mean, aside from the title saying “the story of my marriage,” the characters bear a striking resemblance to people in his own life. Before I can really get into the story told in this novel, it is important to have an understanding of arranged marriages. And I don’t mean the superficial understanding that leads people to say stuff like, “How can you get married without loving somebody?” or “You’re letting someone else choose your life partner for you?” I’m not saying these aren’t valid questions. I just want to give you a fuller picture of the concept. At one end of the marriage spectrum is the historical context of two people getting together in matrimony. Marriage often served a political purpose. People exchanged heirs to maintain peaceful relationships with foreign powers or tribes. Many people are involved and the two people in the center of this exchange aren’t so much consulted as told of the impending match. Two people coming together for love is on the complete other end of the spectrum. Here, nobody except the two people involved consult about the match. Arranged marriages are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. These marriages involve the coming together of two families that share common beliefs, cultural practices, languages, etc. The bride and groom are consulted, but everything is seen through a familial lens: how will this person fit in with my family?