Love Comes Later
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
ASIN: B008I4JJES, $2.99 Kindle edition
This is a story about culture, family, heritage, loyalty, friendship, and love. It centers on Abdulla, a Muslim from Qatar, who suffers the loss of his young wife and unborn child at the beginning of the story. From there, we start to learn about Abdulla and his life as a Qatari male living in Doha. Many intricacies of Muslim culture are explained in vivid detail: the duties of a young man toward his family, the expected roles of women in the household, and the complex rules and traditions regarding arranged marriage and familial ties.
Eventually, Abdulla’s family begins to pressure him to marry again. He still feels guilt over his wife’s death and doesn’t want to remarry, but eventually yields to two families’ wish, and agrees to marry a cousin, Hind, a modern woman who has been educated in the west, and longs to return to London. She doesn’t want to marry either, especially a man she hasn’t seen since childhood. She agrees to the marriage on one condition: that she is allowed one more year in London to complete her Master’s Degree.
We are then taken from Doha to London, where Hind meets Sangita, a British woman of Indian descent. They bond over the many similarities in Arab and South Asian culture and the heavy responsibilities of duty to one’s family. They become close friends and roommates. One day, Sangita’s brother, Ravi, shows up on the doorstep and within a short time, Sangita finds herself alone, as Hind runs off to India on an adventure with Ravi.
Abdulla, who has come to London, wants to talk to Hind about terminating the marriage agreement. Abdulla is a modern thinking man, but he’s also a product of his religion, and he’s shocked at Hind’s actions: in his culture, she’s done an unforgivable thing by running off with a man who is not her husband, much less one who’s not Muslim. However, she’s also given him a legitimate reason to terminate the contract.
As Sangita and Abdulla wait for Hind and Ravi, they spend several days exploring the differences between their cultures, and both enjoy the freedom London has compared to their home lives. They become friends, and then feel a growing attraction to each other. Things grow heated when Ravi and Hind finally show up, and Sangita’s and Hind’s friendship is strained.
Regardless of the worries of her family, Sangita is willing to give up her life in London in order to live by the restrictions imposed on Muslim woman in Qatar, and despite the possible denunciation of Abdulla’s family, they struggle to marry and start a new life together.
I really enjoyed this book. The writing is rich and lovely. Rajakumar, who lives and works in Qatar, describes the daily life in such rich detail, from the embroidery on the abayas (a loose robe worn by women to cover their bodies in front of men while out in public) to the rituals of Khutouba (the engagement ceremony after which the couple is considered legally married). Supporting characters (such as the young sister-in-law) are woven into the story with creativity and brightness. I especially liked the subtle narrative of the grandfather’s lost Indian love, which plays out in a major way for the central couple at the end of the story. Every action is written with purpose, even something as simple as making a cup of tea. The story, about people caught between the modern world and a traditional upbringing, is well crafted and relevant to today’s ever changing society. Love Comes Later is a book that I will enjoy reading again.