Intimate portraits of three marriages reveal family life in Mumbai.
Flock, a reporter for PBS NewsHour and former investigative reporter for Forbes India Magazine, makes her literary debut with an absorbing, candid look at three couples as they confront life in a changing India. While families prefer marriages to be arranged, young couples imbibe notions about love and romance from Bollywood movies. One young husband worries about not having a car: in films, he reflects, “men took women out on long drives in their car or on their motorcycle. It was how they fell in love.” Parents hire matchmakers, while single men and women try to find true love from dating sites and events. Fathers exert draconian control over daughters who yearn for autonomy. Flock lived with the couples for a while, observing their interactions; her journalistic style pays off. One couple shared their online chats with her; others kept in touch by email for nearly a decade. Each marriage faced problems. For Veer and Maya, their relationship was fraught from the beginning because Veer had been in love with another woman, who rejected him; and Maya, frustrated and volatile—and, it emerges, a victim of sexual abuse as a child—had attempted suicide. Her restlessness and Veer’s obsession with work strained their marriage. Maya considered divorce, but her reasons for unhappiness did not come under the stipulations of the Hindu Marriage Act; instead, she has affairs. Shahzad and Sabeena faced Shahzad’s sterility; in a culture that expects marriages to grow into families, Shahzad felt desperate to prove his manhood, consulting medical doctors as well as fortunetellers, herbalists, and quacks. Ashok and Parvati, both Tamil Brahmins, felt pressure to marry within their caste and religion, although Parvati had been in love with a Christian man, inciting her father’s rage, and Ashok had not yet found a companion. Brought together by a matchmaking site and affirmed by astrologers, they agreed to marry after meeting in person only briefly.
An eye-opening exploration of how tradition and star-studded dreams shape love in modern India.