I recently read a couple of books by Indian authors.
This book is about a ‘good Hindu girl’ from India who gets married to this ‘good Hindu boy’ (arranged marriage style) who was born and brought up in the US. They live with his parents and sister. She is asked to get a job in the US — something ‘decent’ and she settles for a receptionist role at a fashion magazine. Through fate, she is promoted to the role of a journalist and has to conduct interviews with the rich and famous of Hollywood. But she can’t let her in-laws or husband (who is a mamma’s boy) know about this as they would freak out. She can’t let them see the clothes she wears — formal western clothes — because no ‘good Hindu girl’ would do that. So she keeps them in a locker at the gym where she changes before and after work. She is treated like a servant at home because she has to cook and clean in addition to her work. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the family finds out about her ‘secret’ and what’s more appalling to the husband is that she earns more than him. (God forbid!) She separates from her husband, goes back to India. He comes back for her promising to change and apparently all is well.
This one has a girl who does something ‘scandalous’ with her older sister’s ex-boyfriend. And is then forced to marry him. His family is not as well off as hers. Her father is a bit more open-minded but her mother is not. Her father doesn’t believe in religious rituals, believes that Hindus and Muslims should be equal unlike her in-laws and her mother. Anyway, her father and husband force her to have an abortion and play it out as a miscarriage in the first year of her marriage because her husband wants to make it big in the music industry in Bombay and her father agrees to help them move. The husband doesn’t get much work. She goes to college because her father forces her but she doesn’t want to be there. Fails her first year. But finally passes her B.A. Works in places she doesn’t want to. Ends up earning more than her husband. Gives up the job because he is unhappy she is earning more. She gives birth to her first child — a son (of course!) who she dotes on. Her life is fulfilled. The relationship between her and her son borders on incest. Finally, the son, after years of being smothered by her, decides to go to boarding school in Year 11. And then her life is empty. She decides to commit suicide because her life is no longer worth living as her son is grown up and will no longer need her.
Anyway, if I were to review these – they were both easy reads and interesting. In the latter, I got a hint that the author was being critical of the way Indian society functions, the hypocrisy that exists as depicted by her father’s behaviour.
However, the entire time I read the books, all I could think of was this: Why are the women portrayed as being so weak????
In ‘Everything happens for a reason‘, for instance, when she separated from her husband, I couldn’t fathom why she had to go back to India back to a life where her parents would not let her work when she had a high paying job in the US which she enjoyed! It portrayed that the only way she was to keep the job was if she had a husband by her side.
In ‘The Age of Shiva’ — who the fuck commits suicide when their kids move on in life??? Are you that worthless? Having said that, all I could see was the woman having a personality disorder. She was so jealous when her son got close to anyone — even his own father. She didn’t let him have friends when he was young. She was extremely possessive of him.
I understand that Indian society still has a long way to go when it comes to the equality of women but you would think that authors could try and lead the way than conform with the views out there.
Why don’t we have women that are career-oriented but not unhappy? Not always looking for a husband to complete her. Or a child to complete her. Then again, if I had to re-think that, it’s not just Indian women I know that think that way. Other women do too. (as a generalisation)
And it is unfortunate.