IT Professional is First Man to Win Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance

Posted on June 12, 2009

An IT professional has shocked his colleagues by winning the Melissa Nathan award for comedy romance for his novel, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People. Farahad Zama wrote the novel on the train on his way to work. The book is set in the world of Indian arranged marriages. The award carries a 5,000 pound prize.

Zama is the first man to win the award, and was the only male author on a shortlist of six. His debut, written in 300-word chunks on his laptop during his 40-minute commute to work, traces the travails of Mr Ali who, bored with his retirement, sets up a marriage bureau in the Indian coastal town of Vizag. "It's a little bit unusual that a man is writing in this genre," said Zama, who grew up in Vizag, moving to London in 1990. "But my book is not a typical chick lit book. It's set in India, and deals with reasonably serious topics - but at heart it is a romantic novel."

His co-workers were surprised, to say the least, to discover his sideline in novel writing - he's already written a second book, and is onto a third. "My boss and his boss are very supportive," said Zama, who is a director in the investment bank's technology division. "But all my colleagues are amazed - they'd expect me to write a C++ guide, not a romance novel."

The Melissa Nathan prize is the only one in the UK for comedy romance writing, and was set up as a tribute to bestselling author Melissa Nathan, who died of cancer in 2006 having already drawn up the criteria for the award.

Zama has not announced any plans to give up programming for the life of a romance novelist, but he very well may have that option. Judge Sophie Kinsella described Zama's winning novel as "a lilting, funny, warm-hearted book" which "charmed the judges with its quirky humour, romantic heart and unforgettable characters."

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