Evoking mixed emotions

Evoking mixed emotions

Farahad Zama, with his second installment of The Many Conditions of Love presents The Marriage Bureau of Rich People. Set in Vizag in Andhra Pradesh, Many Conditions Of Love evokes mixed emotions. Myriad issues hit you once you are done with the book.  Let’s begin with the good things. I liked the fact that it can boast of perspicuous language and that the writing creates a vivid imagination of the primary characters of the book.

A melting pot of personas, The Many Conditions... can ideally be compared to a Bollywood flick. It is long, stretched unnecessarily, has a few interesting characters and is sprinkled with poignant moments. The primary plot involves characters such as Mr Ali, the owner of the marriage bureau, who moves with the times rather hesitantly, and his assistant Aruna, a subservient housewife who has teething troubles in her new marriage to Ramanujam. Rehman, Ali’s son, a maverick of sorts, is an engineer by education but social worker at heart. High on ideals, he falls in love with an urbane woman — Usha, a TV reporter.

On the other hand, Pari, a widow, leaves her village and comes to the city for work. In addition, different sub-plots deal with various issues such as farmer suicides, contract farming and superstitions that plague India. In the interactions between Aruna and Ramanujam, Rehman and Usha, Pari and Rehman among others, there seems to be a conspicuous attempt to create an image of what they are wearing, eating, their environment etc, which is required, but maybe not at such length and detail.

At various points, the writing tends to go off track. Also, there are numerous loose ends when it comes to Vasu, Rehman’s friend’s son and the relationship between Rehman and Pari. But there are also momentous occasions in the book, like the tumultuous love story between Rehman and Usha. You empathise with them.

Having said that, Zama fails to flesh out his characters. The author focusses more on the narration of the plot and situations than giving insights into the psyche of book’s characters. One doesn’t understand why Usha decides to marry Rehman or vice versa.
Although Rehman seems to be floored by Usha’s beauty, the author does not offer the reader enough reason to believe that a man so different from her could fall for her. One fails to understand their sensibilities, which in turn makes the characters seem extremely ambiguous.

Also, the book is marred by cliches. Be it the monkey wedding which portrays a superstitious India or the storm that is raised by the probable marriage between Usha, a Hindu and Rehman, a Muslim. Such instances alone cannot be regarded as insights into the Indian culture. The only justification is that perhaps it’s not meant for Indian readers.

It’s not that The Many Conditions of Love is not readable. It does keep you engaged. But after reading it, you are left feeling unfulfilled, with questions resonating in your mind. What next? The third installment of the series? I wouldn’t eagerly wait. Bibliophiles should have no regrets about missing this one.

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