Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For Matrimonial Purposes

Kavita Daswani's initial novel made Bad4's shidduch lit list, and I do trust Bad4's recommendations following To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Seven Blessings
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Within the first few pages of For Matrimonial Purposes, I found myself sliding onto the floor with the glee that the name "Anju" could have been easily replaced with "Rivky," "sari" with "layering tee," and "chapatis" with "challah." That is how close to identical the Indian style of dating is to our own. They even have shadchanus and "Im yertz Hashem by you." 

Although, they seem to be a big fan of the b'sho, as opposed to the yeshivish and left onwards method of the coke in the lobby. Oh, a lobby story is in there, except her father and brothers tag along. 

Now, you may find this odd, but I have to admit the book gave me a lot of chizuk. No, really. See, the main character is very relatable; she's an Indian girl like any other, from a good background, with an energetic mother chatting up a storm on her behalf, but for whatever reasons cannot seem to find a groom. 
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Gurus and yogis and the stars are consulted and bribed for blessings. She takes on a holy fast weekly. Charms are donned. Prayers are recited. 

Nothing doing.

She follows every single neurotic scrap of advice tossed her way. She behaves meekly in the presence of every potential suitor, even if she would like to rip his face off. She applies stinging face masks since "men only want light-skinned girls." 

Bupkis. 

She stays as open as humanly possible. She even tries online dating, despite her qualms. She overlooks quite a lot, character-wise, in the bachelors that cross her path. 

Nada.  

Anju, the protagonist (who is probably Daswani's alter-ego in what is surely her real-life tale), decides to move a little way away from the life she grew up with, but she still wants to date in the only system she knows how to. She doesn't want to defy or rebel against her upbringing. She longs for the same thing that her friends found in their teens and twenties; a husband, children, a home of her own.

That is the concept I reveled in. Comparably, I may complain about dating, sure, but I don't know how nor do I want to date any other way. This shidduch system is the method I know. It's not like my parents or grandparents met on their own, the way many of my contemporaries' did. 

Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Shidduch dating is my personal "democracy"; it may not be the best, but for me, everything else seems a lot worse by comparison.

Then another point: Sometimes people are single not because they are necessarily doing anything "wrong," it's just not yet meant to be.

Reviewers online were claiming that the character of Anju was contradictory, that a traveling, socializing fashionista who wants an arranged marriage is not believable. As a frummie, it was believable to me. Heck, aren't a lot of us like that?  
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Kavita Daswani
Daswani is adept at keeping her reader's attention; I polished off the book within three hours on a Shabbos afternoon, without my usual needed breaks. Chick-lit yes (with smarmy poetry at the end that kinda pushed it), but a fun, harmless, feel-good read.    

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