Nostalgia, Indianness and the love for his native soil have a large impact in Farahad Zama’s first and second novel, writes Sumit Bhattacharjee

Book lovers and seasoned reviewers world over have compared him with Kalamkari artists who uses the traditional Persian ‘kalam’ (pen) to create miniature paintings or to makers of fantasies, but a ‘bourgeoisie’ would match him up to film makers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Shakti Samanta who could portray the reality of life of a common man with subtle undertone of contemporary issues.

Meet Farahad Zama, the author of the successful novel ‘The Marriage Bureau for Rich People’. Sipping hot tea by the bay side; the Visakhapatnam-born-and-bred author, who now lives in London, spoke to The Hindu Metro Plus team on his first book, the book to be released and the future project.

Pointing towards the famous Ramakrishna Beach from the balcony of a star hotel, he says, “This is the place where we used to play cricket after school.”

Nostalgia, Indianness and the love for his native soil (Visakhapatnam) have a large impact in his first and second novel. “I wanted it to be a book for light reading. And that is why the theme revolves round a simple middle class family. My roots are here and I drew inspiration from my father, who at times can be seen in the role of the protagonist of the novel,” says Farahad.

‘The Marriage Bureau for Rich People’ is the story of one Mr. Ali, a retired government clerk from the coastal city of Vizag, or Visakhapatnam, of Andhra Pradesh who has been forced to reinvent himself by setting up a marriage bureau in the verandah of his modest home. The author has distinctively used the descriptive and narrative style to make the reading light and has added a few characters to subtly touch certain contemporary issues concerning modernity, religion, caste and civil rights. He also admits that his arranged marriage to a Vizag girl and the subsequent curious interpretation of his marriage by his English friends in London, germinated the seed for his first book.

About the author

Farahad Zama was born in Vizag in 1966. And after obtaining a master’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT- Kharagpur, he moved to Mumbai to work for an investment bank. His career took him to New York, Zurich and Luxembourg and finally brought him to London, where he currently serves as one of the directors of Merrill Lynch. He now lives in South London with his Vizag girl and his two boys.

Farahad writes on his commute and at weekends. His first book ‘The Marriage Bureau for Rich People’ tasted success, as it was selected by Richard & Judy and Daily Mail as book of the month, short listed for Best New Writer of the Year at the British Book Awards, Best Published Fiction at the Muslim Writers Awards and Melissa Nathan Awards for Comedy and Romance. The book is being translated into eight major European languages and has so far sold over one lakh copies world over. Hachette Publications published it.

Talking of his second book he says, “The Many Conditions of Love; is a sequel to the first one. It was released in UK by Hachette in July this year and it is likely to be released in India in November. In this book one of the characters from the first, Rehaman, son of Mr. Ali, who is a civil rights activist, takes the centre stage and the others follow.

In both the books I have deliberately kept politics away, but the issue of contract farming forms the backdrop in the second book.” Farahad is currently working on his third book, Not All Marriages Are Made In Heaven, and it is likely to be released by 2010 end.

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