Marrying Anita (Bloomsbury, £12.99) by Anita Jain is the story of a woman’s quest to find a husband in the New India and is a reflection on modern Indian society. Anita Jain is an Indian-American journalist who returns to the land of her parents, after having been fatigued and disheartened by the American dating game, to find an old-fashioned
Anita Jain parallels her parents’ emigration from a land of poverty and restricted opportunity with her reverse emigration to an India that is full of foreign businesses, tourists and economic opportunists–a land where the spiritual quest competes with the material.
The product of a happy, loving, arranged marriage, Anita Jain has lived independently in cities around the world as a working journalist. She has had temporary attachments and abortive relationships. She now eschews the dating jungle to fall back on the stability of an Indian marriage, where relatives are engaged in the search for a
The book is wry and engaging, written in an accessible, journalistic style. It is a little self-absorbed at times, but this is perhaps inevitable when the subject of the book is the author, and her experiences and expectations. The dating opportunities ranged from one-night stands to ‘friends with benefits’. “In a type of sexual free-for-all, women threw dozens of men up against their bedroom walls in the hope that one would stick,” writes Jain. Potential boyfriends ended dates with the whispered words, “I’m not looking for anything
After despairing of finding a husband in this environment, Jain decides to go to India to try her luck, despite the assurance of her friend that statistically very few people end up alone.
She was, she says, always interested in getting married. “It would not be a stretch to say that ‘shaadi’, the word for marriage in many Indian languages, is the first word a child in an Indian family understands after mummy and papa.” The India she encounters is not the one that her parents left behind, and that still exists in their minds. Her father is appalled when he learns that she is throwing a party as a single female: “You can’t have parties in India! People will think you’re a whore!” “You don’t know anything about India!” she retorts.
The book is a quest by the author to find her Indian self, to function as an independent woman in India, to speak Hindi, cook Indian food, and discover whether she can find a husband on her own terms. Above all, the book is about marriage as an integral human situation, providing love, stability and life-long companionship. “Why do we have to be ‘perfectly sound’ before we can meet someone?” asks Jain. “Why can’t we be desperately alone and unhappy and become much more balanced or healthy after getting involved with someone?” She compares the West, where the “modern ideal is to be independent, on one’s own, and to be able to make the choice to live with another human being, to welcome someone else as a bonus to one’s existence if and when one is ready” to the Indian system where “marriage is not a choice. It just is. There is simply no concept of living a life alone”.
Marrying Anita is a reflection on marriage and relationships, and an insightful and often funny look at modern India and characters that populate it.
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