After my last dispiriting blog of Sudeep Nagakar’s That’s The Way We Met, I bring to you an organic, gracious and prudent story – Marriage Material – written by an extremely talented and exhilarating writer; Sathnam Sanghera.
Every single reader would know that sometimes we – as readers – tire of reading the same sort of stuff every day. Our reading habits become monotonous. We start to lose the creative outlook at differentiating good books that belong to a certain category from bad. Everything we read starts getting repetitive. We crave change. We want to dive into a new book. Something different. Something relatable. And the only way we can do that is by changing the category of books that we read.
And that’s exactly what I did with this one. I was reading romance constantly. Every single day. Day in day out. Night in night out. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. I just delved into romance novels and didn’t consider anything else. And then I opened the first few crisp pages of Marriage Material and realised how important it is to change one’s reading habits and experiment with new things.
Now to start!
I cannot begin to express my fervent anxiety of books written by Asian authors (by Asian, I mean South-Asian, not Chinese). This anxiety arose because of my previous unpleasant experiences of reading poorly-written books by inadequate writers such as Nagarkar. But alas! Sanghera fuelled my conversion from a prejudiced critic of Asian writers to an unbiased, accepting reader who can finally appreciate the wealthy culture-laden novels written by individuals from my ‘community’ – as they say.
Okay, so firstly let’s speak a little bit about Sathnam Sanghera. Sathnam was born in Wolverhampton, England in 1976, nearly 10 years after his parents immigrated from Punjab, India. Now as you guys may have guessed, being brought up in the UK as a Sikh boy came with its hurdles; some difficult, some humorous and some confounding. And all of these hurdles fabricate the very being of an Asian-British citizen.
Sathnam’s experiences propelled the extent to which he involved a British-Asian blend in his books. Consequently, Sathnam allowed his cultural heritage and western upbringing to help him write Marriage Material; a story that is quick-witted, endearing and a realistic reflection of the contrast between the two cultures Sathnam – and every other South-Asian brought up in the UK – has been compounded with.
Essentially, Marriage Material is a story about a family that spans over three generations. It initiates with Arjan Banga, the narrator who starts off by identifying the key stereotypes associated with Asian shopkeepers – a quintessential occupation of Asians living in the UK – and from this follows a story of his grandfather, father, mother, aunt and – most importantly – him. From the onset, the reader is given an overview of Sikh culture within the UK and the impediments of this society on their heritage. From the inception, the reader can envision the theme of contrasting identities being a driving force of the story.
Each chapter is a transition from one phase of the family’s journey to another. First we are told about his grandfather – Mr Bains – and his commitment to running Bains Stores. We then move onto his aunt Surinder and his mother Kamaljit and their polar opposite personalities as well as their respective marriages; one traditional, one rebellious. We move onto the story of Arjan who is also struggling to balance two diverse cultures; his Punjabi ethnicity and British upbringing. We learn about biases and prejudices, two-way racism, arranged marriages, the Indian cast-system, the repercussions of being in an interracial relationship, family values, character dilemmas and, most importantly, we learn about the importance of positively integrating in a multi-ethnic society.
Sanghera is an exceptional writer. His literary form is simple and raw and flows throughout the book. He doesn’t use mind-blowing vocabulary but still he doesn’t falter in his ability to teach everyone (especially untalented Indian writers) a little bit about artistic literature. Sanghera sets out to etch his own niche through a characteristically pecunious prose and he conquers.
It is a different sort of book altogether, one stuffed with family, cultural identity, politics and the harsh reality of crumbling relationships that build us up and break us down. It’s definitely not a romance novel, so whoever is fed up of my constant romance novel appreciation posts – this is something fresh and minty!
So for those of you who constantly read the same sort of genre – Romance, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Historical novels or anything else of that sort; start experimenting and start with a different genre. If you constantly read Romance, then take it slowly and read Marriage Material and open yourself to the world of opportunities for different types of stories in the story realm.
And if you want to read a real story by an incredibly talented Asian-British writer then I highly recommend this wonderful book by Sanghera!