October  2007

Vol 7 - No. 4
 

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Letter from U.K. | October 2007

 


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Lord Parekh launches "Brideless in Wembley"

 

The Nehru Centre in London’s West End was packed on September 13 evening for the launch of Sanjay Suri’s book Brideless in Wembley.

 

Lord Bhikhu Parekh, launching the book, commended Suri for his keen eye for detail saying that he could recognise many of the characters as people whom he knew or characteristics in himself.

 

“I found myself saying do we do that?” and then replying “yes we do” said Lord Parekh. He praised Suri for his ‘compassionate’ look at the British Indian community, laughing with them from the inside at their foibles rather than laughing at them.

 

Suri, a senior journalist, who has lived in the UK for the last 16 years regaled the audience with his attempts to find a wife in a shadi sammelan, a bridal bazaar in Wembley, the heart of London’s Gujarati community, that turned out to be only for the Gujarati Lohana community.

 

Another story read out by Suri was about a trip with film czar Yash Chopra to the Midlands. “It just grew out of reporting and I just happened to be there. There was no conscious effort to make the book humorous, that’s the way I think,” he said.

Lord Bagdi, Baroness Sreela Flather, businesswoman Surina Narula and other prominent Indians toasted Suri and hoped that his search for a bride may come to an end among the throng of fans his book has created.

 

The Guardian carried an interview with the author, and the 600,000 circulation Sage magazine took over exclusive rights for publishing its excerpts.

 

The Bookseller, a leading trade publication, called it 'an important book', and Publishing News said the book reveals 'a world of which many of us, on the outside, are barely aware'.

 

The book, which recounts the author's experiences and encounters with a large variety of Indian groups across Britain, has also been winning acclaim in academic circles.

 

'This is a book to read at many levels,' said Judith Brown, professor of history at Oxford University.

 

'At first glance it is a sparkling, funny and at times bitter sweet account of an Indian in London in search of a bride, as he trawls the connections and social gatherings through which Indians (in this case Gujarati Hindus) make their matrimonial choices - no longer 'arranged' in the older sense, but 'managed' by the older generation in various subtle ways.'

 

Brown added: 'Beneath the obvious story there is a keenly observed account of life in the successful Indian diaspora in London. It should be read by anyone who is concerned with understanding something of the social lives of British Indians at a time when multiculturalism is an ambiguous or maligned concept, and when many British citizens are increasingly fearful of the new and complex societies migration has created in our big cities.'

 

Noted academic Meghnad Desai has called the book 'a funny/sad account of what it is like to live in a diaspora where you can neither be a native nor a pucca Brit.' The book, he says, 'tells us a lot about life in Britain not just for the Asian minority but for the larger community as well'.

 

Nisha Minhas, author of 'The Marriage Market', said the book is 'a real eye-opener on how Indians have made their mark in Britain'.

The 400-page collection of non-fiction stories seeks a ground away from the usual projection of Indians. As Suri puts it, 'the way Indians were being Indian, someone had to take notes.

 

'You keep hearing of Asian millionaires in those Asian rich lists, you see the same lords, ladies and gentlemen saying the same thing everywhere, to more or less the same audience of 200 or so. But that is not remotely a picture of the Indian world in Britain.'

 

The book, which Suri says boasts 'no millionaire or celebrity', is an account of everyday interactions of ordinary people. He adds: 'But I found these stories more engaging, more entertaining even, than those Indian cliches that are served up by way of entertainment. Those cliches should really have run their course by now.'

 

"Brideless in Wembley" is a spirited revelation of the exuberant mosaic of life in post-immigration Britain, wrote Sandeep Yadav in The Hindu when the book was launched last year in New Delhi, India.

 

[Source: Agencies]

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