Book Review: Fate, Fraud, And A Friday Wedding

by Ahalya on May 11, 2011

Suman Agarwal was an unremarkable twenty-three year old… Aimless by day and call center executive by night, she had nothing more than the simplest Cinderella dream of marrying a wonderful man and living happily ever after… 

Set mainly in present-day Delhi, Bhavna Rai writes her first novel from a vantage point. Her experience with IT outsourcing projects goes back to the time when India was not yet the world’s back office. In her words – ‘The world changed, and I witnessed it.’ In Fate, Fraud, & A Friday Wedding (published by Cedar Books), Bhavna Rai draws on all the experiences she has gathered through the last 14 years she has spent in the industry. She writes with authority about the way technology firms work and the people who make it all happen.

This is a well-crafted read. Swiftly paced, and populated with several believable characters. The first thing it reminded me of was Arthur Hailey’s authoritative tomes about various industries. I remember the Hailey-marathon I participated in one long summer, several years ago. Fat books, tiny print. The Omniscient Narrator. The action shifted abruptly from one character to another, and as the book would draw to a close, everyone and everything would come together for a final showdown. But, most of all, Arthur Hailey was well known for how well he researched material for each book. He delved deep into the very heart and soul of one industry at a time. Has anyone read Hotel, The Moneychangers, Wheels, Flight into Danger, Detective, or The Evening News?

Well, that’s how Bhavna writes. She delves deep into the soul of India’s IT industry and the people who run it and keep it running. I must add here though, that as the book draws to a close, the reader will find that a couple of the main characters were not who they seemed to be. And this transformation is not completely flawless. This jarred a bit. But, while I ruminated over this, I read again what made me like the characters in the first place. And I found that each one of them had believable motives, and their words reflected their background, their attitudes, and even their thoughts seemed theirs, not the narrator’s. Most books today do not get this multiple-character perspective right; everyone sounds alike, and thinks alike. Rai saves this book from falling into that abyss of homogeneity.

I do have one grouse though. Why the long title? It sounds too much like the badly edited, unreadable books that some publishing houses churn out by the millions. I would have thought this could easilyhave been a one-word title book. The title summarises too much, I think. But overall, a good read. 

For those who are contemplating publishing your own book, here’s an interview with Bhavna. She talks about the writing and publishing process — extremely valuable information for new authors.

 

1. Do you remember when you first started thinking about writing a novel? What came first – the plot or the characters?

Writing a novel was always there in the back of my mind, right from school in fact, as something I’d get to some day. When I finally took the plunge and penned the first line, I didn’t really have any plot in mind. But I was very clear about the people and the environment I wanted to write about. So for me, Fate, Fraud And A Friday Wedding is all about the characters. Its set in a time when India was going through tremendous transformation and I wanted to write about how people’s lives have been transformed as well.

 
2. What was your experience like writing down the first few words, up to the point you were finally ready to send it out to publishers?

It was exhausting. A real labor of love. And it was several years in the making. Along the way, the economy changed, I changed, but somehow (luckily) I still managed to tell the story I wanted to tell. So on one hand it drained me out and on the other hand it fulfilled my dream.

 
3. Once you got started, did the characters lead the book, or did you always know where the plot would take everyone?

The characters were lifelike to me. The plot evolved. The basis of every dialogue and every plot twist was whether Neel or Jenna or Anand would say or do something like that. And that drove the story forward.

 
4. Are you working on something new already?

Some ideas have been taking shape, but I haven’t committed to any of them, yet.

 
5. What has your experience been like getting published in India?

I can’t say it was easy, but Indians are writing like never before and Indian publishers are publishing like never before, so there’s definitely a lot of hope out there for any budding writer.

 
6. Did you design the cover yourself, did you have any say in the design?

My publishers designed the cover based on the outline I had given them. I reviewed several before I approved the final design.

 
7. What advice would you offer writers?

That it’s never over till you give up. You have to believe in yourself and in what you have written. Sheer perseverance. That’s what you need.

 
8. If you could talk directly to your readers, what would you like to tell them, ask them?

I’d like to ask them if they’d like to see another book from me some day soon 🙂 For me the objective was always to write something people would relate to and more importantly, enjoy. I wanted to create a visual image of these people and their lives and how fast the world around us is moving. And I would love to hear from those who read my book whether I achieved that, or not.

 
9. You have lived in several countries, have you formed any opinions about the way writing or publishing is perceived in these countries (in comparison to India).

Not really. I never really considered publishing outside of India. My book is available on amazon.com and I do believe it’s global in many ways, but I think Indians support different generes of writing and I’m glad Fate, Fraud And A Friday Wedding was published in India itself.

 
10.  How did you manage a career, children, and a creative pursuit? Were you very disciplined as a writer? What was your schedule like?

Unfortunately, I have to say that I was an extremely indisciplined writer. I would write fanatically for months (mostly between 9 pm and 2 am) and then not write for months. And then I would restart, delete thousands of words, rewrite chapter after chapter…. It’s very difficult editing and rediting yourself. But when you hold the final result in your hands, it’s priceless. My family was extremely supportive. And my career has always been very important to me, so I would never let either suffer. Interestingly, when you’re passionate about something, you do find the time to do it, somehow or the other. 
 
11. Is there anything you would like to add about the book itself? Any research that you had to undertake, any interesting people you met who became your characters, how you chose the names, any significant experience about the book that  you would like readers to know about?

I did do some reasearch, but most of the story is driven by my experiences, ideas and background. The characters are completely fictitious of course, but all main characters are  some facet of me. I can’t recollect now how I chose the names, but I never changed a single character’s name. All names just stuck from the beginning. Interestingly, the book was initially entitled, “What time is it in Delhi” on my husband’s suggestion, but then I revised it later to the alliterative title it now has, in order to better describe what the book is about.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

manjulika pramod November 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Nice review!!
Btw a nice blog too..

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