Next stop on my journey around the world is India. It surprise me how easy it was to find a book; for many countries you will see countless books set in them by Englishmen or Americans who have traveled there, rather than books by people actually from the country. Before starting this blog I hadn’t really thought about how much better it could be to get the local insight into a place, rather than the outsider, or tourist, viewpoint.
Just going to one second hand book sale I found multiple options for India. A quick google search tells me that this is likely because India has a huge publishing industry- with various sites/years ranking it as the 2-3rd largest English language book market, and the 5-6th largest overall.
I have actually bought a few Indian books, so you may hear about a few more in the future, but the first one I read was The Many Conditions of Love, by Farahad Zama. It is actually the second in the Marriage Bureau for Rich People series, which follows the lives of several couple and families which loosely intersect around the Marriage Bureau Mr Ali set up in his retirement. Although the title of the series makes you think a Hollywood romance is likely, the book is more like a reflection of various aspects of relationships. It follows the difficulties in a newly married couple, and those of a blossoming romance between two people of different religious, cultural and economic backgrounds. You are never sure until the end if things will work out for either couple.
The most interesting parts of this book for me, were the cultural factors that were woven into every page. We hear about the dhotis and saris the people wear, and the pakodi, muruku, samosa, boorulu and any number of other Indian foods that they eat. There are comments about the weather, the plants, the ceremonies, the different types of people who make up the fabric of the city, and of course throughout you see the views people have on what their role is in society and in different relationships. The characters learn lessons about life and relationships, which are not quite what would happen in a Hollywood version, but do make sense in their own way. And that, I suppose is the whole point of this exercise.