A new book penned by Dubai-based author Amandeep Ahuja offers readers a light-hearted and relatable take on the challenges and conflicts of life as a female millennial expat. The novel, The Frustrated Women’s Club, provides a humorous yet insightful description of the struggle to balance traditional expectations and modern aspirations through the eyes of a 20-something woman of Indian origin, lifetime UAE resident, with some years in the UK as a student.

The story will resonate with many South Asians in similar situations: tasting the freedom of student life in the West and coming home to expectations of an arranged marriage, and until then, living with the family. The conflict between the education, exposure and familial expectations that the book’s protagonist Alia experiences is one shared by many female millennials of similar backgrounds.

The publication is the debut novel for Amandeep, a lifetime UAE resident of Indian origin like Alia, though she says, “I like to think of Alia as someone I’m not but someone I would like to be.”

A political economist by education, fitness professional by qualification and writer by passion, Amandeep describes her book as “an account of the confused state of mind of her generation.” Charting the trials and tribulations of Alia Arora, the book reveals the complexities of the multicultural upbringing experienced by many young expat women who spend their formative years in the UAE.

Speaking about the writing process, Amandeep revealed, “The story started as a series of quite raw diary entries, gradually evolving into a series of blog posts, and from there, the idea of a book was born. The stories reflect many things my friends and I were experiencing in everyday life, trying to navigate the path between cultural traditions and the realities of the modern world.”

Amid the entertaining accounts of “arranged marriage dates” accompanied by parents, unappealing suitors, and unsavoury experiences with dating apps, the novel tackles the struggles faced by the millennial generation in balancing family expectations and personal aspirations. It also sheds light on the app-based dating scene, from the perspective of a single woman in the UAE looking for a partner.

The book will resonate with many South Asians in similar situations: tasting the freedom of student life in the West and coming home to expectations of an arranged marriage, and until then, living with the family
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Quick-witted and sassy, Alia is very much her own woman while at the same time wanting to be accepted in society.

Described by reviewer Yashika Doshi as “equally poignant and relatable”, The Frustrated Women’s Club will also resonate with expats of any nationality who are confused or conflicted about their cultural identity. As Doshi concludes, “This book is a light read, and I recommend it to all readers who are looking for something in an easy-to-follow language and are interested in finding cultural traces in contemporary literature.”

Published by UAE-based The Dreamwork Collective, The Frustrated Women’s Club is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble US and other online booksellers as well at Kinokuniya and other local bookshops.

Synopsis

Escaping meddling Punjabi family and first dates with both sets of parents present, Alia Arora is excited to reclaim her London-bred independence with a move to Dubai, the heart of the expat world.

But Indian parents rarely back down, and Alia finds that the pursuit of the idealised version of herself — an effortless career and a banging social life — isn’t quite as easy as she’d hoped. From unappealing arranged marriage suitors to managing accusations of having become a ‘coconut’, Alia navigates it all with her trademark grace, irreverent wit and colourful language.

Book excerpts

On arranged marriage dating:

Now, at age twenty-four, I am going on a first date after a long time with a man selected for me by my parents.

It is a date at the local Italian restaurant, a stone’s throw from my parents’ house. Strangely, the idea of my parents waiting at home, desperate to hear how the date went, is not the most effective mood-setter for a first date.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I would like nothing more than to watch something on the telly and doze off. Instead, I am being made to socialise for romantic purposes.

My parents want me to date Samar because they perceive this to be the right time for me to settle down. And why do they think so? Because that’s what’s been happening for generations.

“We can’t ignore the norms set by society,” my mother says. “The norms that have come to be, established themselves because they make sense,” my father says. Sure, they make sense, but does that mean we can’t experiment with other ways of life?

Like staying single for as long as I need to? Not venturing out into the romantic world until I’m sure that my professional life is sorted? Surely these aren’t the most radical ideas anyone has ever come up with.

On matrimonial apps:

In the dating game, there are several ways you can meet your “person.” Here is what it looks like, in decreasing order of acceptability:

1 – Organically (e.g., in a coffee shop, pub, bookstore, etc.)

2 – On a dating app

3 – On a hook-up app

4 – On matrimonial apps

Indianrishtaa.com isn’t even an app for the bride and the groom. It’s an app for the parents of the bride and the groom. If I match with someone on this app, the notification goes through to my phone and the groom’s phone and also to the parents’ phones. It’s like an adult version of a parent-teacher conference where the parents are going to sit with the teacher, i.e., IndianRishtaa.com creators, and ask them how their kids are performing. How is this not horrific? I am confused. Does this mean I am now going to be going out with men who have already received an approval rating from my parents? Can I trust their rating?

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