For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani

For Matrimonial purposesI really cannot describe the story or plot of this book. There really isn’t any. So here’s the blurb from behind the book.

Anju wants a husband. Equally important, her entire family wants Anju to have a husband. Her life in Bombay, where a marriage can be arranged in a matter of hours, is almost solely devoted to this quest, with her anxious mother hauling her from holy site to holy site in order to consult and entreat swamis and astrologers. As Anju’s twenties slip away, she’s fast becoming a spinster by her culture’s standards.

Only then is she able to persuade her parents to allow her to move to New York, where, she hopes, she will not be viewed as a failure. Making a new life, alone, will be hard, but if the stars align, she may even find love-on her own terms.

Anju is born in a family in Bombay-India, where girls are supposed to get married the moment they cross their teens. Or at least the search for a prospective bridegroom should begin. She is hauled to many get-togethers, be it a marriage, a sangeet, a post-marriage party or an engagement, for this is where Indian girls and their parents supposedly HUNT for grooms.

The perfect boy is the one who has a good job, good family, does not have any bad habits, is rich and yes, is obviously an Indian. All the girls want to marry her handsome brothers because they are rich and good looking. It’s basically an endless parade of arranged marriage meetings for Anju and her family.

As Anju turns 26 and is still un-unmarried, she decides to go to New York to study. And she stays on after studies to work and finally becomes a fashion publicist. But still behind all that success is her failure of finding a suitable boy and fulfilling her parent’s wishes. She tries all sorts of things, putting herself out there, trying on-line sites and so on without any positive outcome.

Okay, I guess my tone is a little sarcastic here, that’s not because I did not like the book. I did. In fact I think Kavita Daswani is a good writer with a good sense of humour. The endless efforts that her parents make to get her married are hilarious. And her mother’s worries about her growing age are equally funny. In fact, I liked the sense of humour in the book quite a bit.

‘But beti, look at your age! You’re not twenty-two anymore. You’re not going to get proposals like Nina and Namrata. There aren’t so many boys still unmarried who are older than you. Maybe he’s not perfect, but atleast he’s like you. Elderly type.”

What I didn’t like about the book? It was the carpet statements that suggested that all Indian girls get married when they turn 20. All Indian girls look for rich and handsome husbands. Nobody marries out of love. All the married Indian girls do not work and the only worry they have is from where to hire the third maid. That all Indian husbands do not passionately love their wives. And so on.

I mean hello? What century were you living in? I actually checked back to see what year this book was written in. 2003. That’s not quite old is it? And for God’s sake she lived in Mumbai. If it was a story set in a village I wouldn’t have disagreed. But this was a little too over the top.

I am not denying that arranged marriages are still prevalent in India. I am just denying the fact that all marriages are arranged. Not that there is anything wrong in an arranged marriage. I know perfectly and totally happy couples whose marriages are arranged.

She doesn’t say all these things directly, but the way she has described all the people in the book certainly suggests that. I wouldn’t have been so irritated if she would have kept this specifically related to her circle of friends. But statements that start with ‘All Indian girls…’ made me cringe.

That I have to say spoiled most of the book for me. BUT…it’s a good book. People who know nothing about Indian culture or who don’t care what image she has created will like the book. It’s hilarious with fun adventures of her arranged marriage efforts. And yes, also how in the end she manages to kind of live in the moment and finally finds happiness in a man and a marriage…apparently on her own terms.

By the way, I think that’s a pretty book cover.

12 thoughts on “For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani

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  1. This does sound like an interesting book and one I might like to read, although I can see why you found fault with certain aspects of it. I probably would to and I’m not as familiar with Indian culture as you are. 🙂

    I had a roommate/classmate during my graduate studies who was Indian-American. Her mother was always trying to push her towards marriage and even had selected men that she thought were most suitable for her. My roommate was dating someone at the time, but it was a big secret because her mother did not approve of him. She ended up marrying one of the men here mother chose for her. Another roommate of mine, also an Indian-American, but from my earlier college years, took a completely different path, marrying for love. Her family supported her decision without any qualms. These two very intelligent women chose different paths and both seem happy with the choices that they made.


  2. I think I’ve read one book by this author, but I couldn’t recall the title. Yikes! (Me and my short memory)

    This book sounds interesting to me, since I’ve always love reading the history/cultures of other countries. I totally understand how you feel about the implications though. And I think the cover is pretty too.


  3. Nancy: It’s great that you understand. I just hope the author had presented a much broader view of the situation.

    Melody: Was it Salaam Paris? That is one more book i have read by the same author and did not like much for some different reasons.


  4. Yes, nice cover!

    My first love was called Anju! We were both young, innocent, naive and 4 years old, in the same class in primary school…! I was totally smitten and she broke my heart – in a 4-year old kind of way! 🙂


  5. As someone who puts no stock in marriage at all I sometimes get curious about those who put so much effort into it. You make it sound interesting even if it plays to stereotypes a bit.

    I’m a bit dubious about being mistaken for a foot fetishist while reading this on the train though.


  6. Haha Poor Huwie, I bet she didn’t know what a handsome musician you’ll grow up to be 🙂

    Hover: I guess even for me it would have looked like a foot fetish if there was no Mehendi on it, but yes, I get your point.

    Ramya: Read it at your own risk. But then maybe i am overreacting. You might like it 🙂

    Melody: I don’t think I have read that one and i don’t think I want to either but thanks for getting back with the name…


  7. Nice review. I do agree about the “all Indian girls” arranged thing though – heck, my parents’ marriage wasn’t arranged and my dad is from a VERY small Indian village.


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