Monday, January 30, 2012

Marrying Anita by Anita Jain

Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India by Anita Jain

A few months ago, I mentioned receiving Marrying Anita as a gift for my birthday (see post). Marrying Anita is a memoir in which the author recounts what happened when she, a 32-year-old Indian-American, grew tired of the New York dating scene decided to return to move to New Delhi to find a husband. Just to be clear, the book is not about arranged marriage despite the phrase-dropping in the synopsis and press coverage. Arranged marriage is discussed because it is an integral part of Indian culture, but the author's personal experience with arranged marriage is limited to her father managing profiles on online marriage sites for her.

I'd heard Jain interviewed on NPR when the book first came out, which is how Marrying Anita ended up on my wishlist. I have to admit that while I was intrigued by the premise, I was a bit reticent about reading it because of the baggage I carry from my first-hand experience1 with India's marriage culture. I did read Marrying Anita though and I'm none worse for the wear.

Marrying Anita really wasn't what I expected. A full explanation would require including some spoilers and I don't like to do that. I'll stick with the things that I can mention without ruining things for future readers of the memoir. I was surprised at how open Jain is about her liaisons (and drinking and drug use). I imagine her parents being horrified and their more conservative friends and relatives (who no doubt read the book as soon as it was released) significantly more so. Jain makes much of this New India, but what's deemed acceptable among the nation's young urbanites is not necessarily indicative of culture-wide acquiescence.

I had a hard time relating to the author-narrator. I found Jain's need to pepper her narrative with SAT words (plangency2 appears in the second paragraph of her prologue) a bit irritating, but I was able to ignore that as I became accustomed to her writing style. More significantly, her actions and the harshness with which she describes individuals was off-putting. It seemed like every time I warmed up to Jain, she went ahead and did or said something that made me dislike her again. I do wonder though how the book's publication has affected her life and her love life.

Marrying Anita's synopsis mentions "disarming candor" and "refreshingly honest". The author is honest and candid, often disarmingly so, but unfortunately I didn't find Marrying Anita refreshing.
  1. as an inappropriate potential bride
  2. plangency - n. resonance (possibly deep resonance or mournful resonance)

1 comment:

  1. agreed! I also know her in one way or the other so I know more about her than I should have known. Actually, she made baited people for her story