Layla is torn between clashing identities - the dutiful Muslim daughter her immigrant parents raised her to be, the Indian she fantasizes she is, and the free, independent woman America has awakened in her. At nineteen, her parents inform Layla that a marriage has been arranged for her. Her wedding will be in India, to Sameer, a handsome, ambitious Indian engineer, who knows nothing of Layla's American self and who has some potent secrets of his own. A stunned Layla submits reluctantly, but not before she commits a dangerous, final act of defiance. In the heat and noise of Hyderabad, as her wedding looms, her behaviour becomes more erratic. Her mother, fearing demonic possession, takes Layla on a series of visits to alims - Muslim faith healers - hoping to exorcise all traces of rebellion. To Layla's surprise, the ancient and elaborate wedding rituals, her groom's physical beauty, and the warm welcome of her new family fill her with a sense of belonging she has never known before.
Yet on her honeymoon in Madras, with the monsoon rains drumming ceaselessly outside, the full horror of the devil's bargain she has made is revealed, forcing her to make painful decisions about her roles as a Muslim, a wife and a woman. Set against the backdrop of the ancient walled city of Hyderabad and mounting Hindu-Muslim tensions, MADRAS ON RAINY DAYS, lyrically evokes the complexities of life behind the chador. It is a gorgeously written novel by an original new voice in international fiction.
Samina Ali was born in Hyderabad, India, and was raised in both India and the United States.