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Fali Madon was looking for a bride. A boyish twenty-seven-year-old with twin passions for physical fitness and expensive cars, Fali was the chief priest of a Parsi fire temple in the Colaba district of Mumbai. For six years he’d been searching for a wife from within his tiny, tight-knit community — the Parsis, Indian practitioners of the ancient Zoroastrian faith, number some 60,000 in a country of 1.2 billion — but so far he’d had no luck. To help his chances, Fali visited a bar on a Sunday evening last summer for a karaoke night organized by a Parsi youth group. He showed up in stylish rectangular glasses and a tight-fitting Michael Jackson T-shirt. The lights were low and the bartenders did a brisk business as pop songs reverberated off the stone walls and beamed ceiling. While Fali chatted with friends, the crowd sang the chorus of John Denver’s “Country Roads.” He mentioned that he was planning to attend a rain dance in August, at the height of the monsoon season, where — if it wasn’t raining already — participants would dance under jets of water. When the first chords of Jackson’s “Black or White” came over the sound system, the crowd whistled and the emcee called Fali’s name; it was his turn to sing.

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is the author, most recently, of The Newlyweds (Knopf), a novel. Her work on this article was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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