Book Review “Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India” by Anita Jain

I was eagerly looking forward to this book, but it disappointed me a lot.  I admire the author’s honesty in recounting her dating and relationship adventures but some aspects of the book got tiresome.  She seemed to be caught in a dating rut or she’d waste her time meeting guys who were completely inappropriate (men who couldn’t speak English well when that is her first language, men who were too young, etc.)  Some reviews note that Jain writes eloquently about the life of a professional, single, urban woman and that she is especially good at detailing the loneliness that sometimes comes with that life.  I can see that point of view.

Book Synopsis:  Her parents moved to the U.S. from Northern India.  She moved around the U.S. with her family.  Eventually, she went to Harvard and became a financial journalist.  She was able to live and work around the world.  She spent some time in NYC and discovered the dating scene there to be soul crushing.  Her parents pressure her to get married so she decides to move to New Delhi to get find a husband.  Unfortunately, her experiences in New Delhi are not that different from her experiences in NYC.  She leaves New Delhi unmarried.

What irritated me?  She seemed to make the same mistake over and over of partying and then ending up drunk and passed out in her bed or someone else’s.  The next day there would be much embarrassment and awkwardness and the man would vanish forever.  This happened more than once in the book.  Or she would fantasize and build imaginary relationships with men who were clearly not available or not interested.  Again, this happened repeatedly.  Men who did match her in education, world experience, and age she did not find attractive.  This begged the question…how serious was she?  It seemed she was more interested in fantasy than reality. 

What I did like: her honesty, her vocabulary, and her relationship with her parents.  Her parents seemed very sympathetic and lovable. 

“The New India”:  Here are some of the interesting facts and anecdotes that Jain includes in her book.

-50% of the population is under age 25

 -Styles of dressing and modesty seem to be the same in New Delhi as New York

-She noted that in some ways, a woman of Indian heritage has more freedom in New Delhi than NYC.  NYC has a lot more expectations about how a woman should act.  It is easier to smoke, drink, party, and smoke marijuana there than in NYC.

-Still it is incredibly difficult for a single, professional woman to find an apartment in New Delhi.  Apparently, landlords consider single women to be of questionable values.  Other Indian cities do not have that view.

-New Delhi is still considered the rape capital of India and generally unsafe for women.  Fortunately, the author does not have to encounter this herself first hand. 

-Cars are common places for sex because young people in India lack privacy. 

-Divorce and premarital sex are no longer so taboo in India among the young and urban.  Still, she meets a surprising number of people in their 20s and 30s who did not date before marrying.

-Acid attacks are not uncommon.  In the book, a friend of a friend gets acid thrown in her face.  Her crime?  Marrying.  Apparently, the girl got married and a married male relative who had always had feelings for her followed her onto a train and threw acid in her face.  Satya says this is mostly a phenomenon of Northern India.  On the bright side he says, shootings are not as common as here.

-In rural areas, time has not changed much.  Her father goes back to his hometown and announced that nothing has changed.  Her cousins who live there live with their kids and husbands in the same house as their in laws.  Her cousins devote themselves to the welfare of their kids, husbands, and in laws.  The mother in law controls such minute things as whether her cousin can take off her bangles and wear a watch or not and decrees that after defecating they must change their clothes completely as they are only supposed to do that once a day upon waking up in the morning and before bathing.  Still, Jain notes that her cousins seem healthy and happy with their lives.

Overall:  I enjoyed the snippets of what life is like in India today.  What I gathered is that there are huge extremes between generations and between urban vs. rural.  I’d recommend this book for skimming, not for savoring.  This is a book to borrow, not to buy.  Also, it also might be useful as a guide on how not to get married. 

What is your opinion?

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vikram
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 01:05:33

    I tend to be very cynical about such books and authors, infact all the flirtations of non-native Indians with their ancestral lands leave a lot to be desired, they are either extremely jingoistic or extremely shallow. The only exception so far was Maximum City by Suketu Mehta (nominated for a Pullitzer Prize).

    Btw, I replied to your comments on my blogs 🙂 .

    Reply

  2. kannadian
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 03:17:56

    This is the first Kannada/ Karnataka and North American related blog I’ve come across. I’m glad I’m not alone. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your posts. =)

    Reply

  3. Andrea
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 04:51:43

    Vikram that’s so interesting, because my husband (born/raised in India) says exactly the same thing as you say – except he HATED Maximum City!

    Everytime he sees me reading something by Jhumpa Lahiri, he rolls his eyes…

    Reply

  4. Andrea
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 04:54:44

    By the way, have you heard of this book called “The Forbidden Daughter,” by Shobhan Bantwal? It’s a new book out, and I’ve thought about buying it because a) the author is coming to our local library later this month and b) I’m interested in learning more about female infanticide…
    http://www.shobhanbantwal.com/

    Reply

  5. minnesotameetskarnataka
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 16:36:37

    @ Vikram: “Maximum City” sounds interesting. I’ll put it on my booklist.

    @Kannadian: Thanks! Hope to hear from you again.

    @Andrea: Never heard of “The Forbidden Daughter”. Let me know what you think of it. I’ve come across some blogs about female infanticide. Here is a great post by Indian Homemaker http://lifeofanindianhomemaker.blogspot.com/2008/03/can-indian-daughter-say-mere-paas-maa.html
    have you checked out the blog Unchaahi? The address is http://unwantedgirlchild.blogspot.com/

    Reply

  6. Vikram
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 19:51:16

    Well he might have his reasons to hate it, but I was born/grew up in Mumbai and it really told me a lot about my own city. It really is an excellent read.

    Reply

  7. Andrea
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 20:46:16

    Yeah, I’ve kept a copy of it because I want to read it for myself – it looks really interesting. I think he just gets annoyed when people who aren’t from there go to “his” city and write about it. I guess I can kind of understand that, but if it’s good book, it’s a good book!

    Reply

  8. Gori Girl
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 21:09:34

    I’ve heard this is a pretty bad book, and so have been avoiding it. From your review, it doesn’t sound like worth picking up.

    Reply

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