“A Good Indian Wife” by Anne Cherian

Yesterday, I checked out from the library “A Good Indian Wife” by Anne Cherian.  At the moment, I’ve only read a few pages, but it is very readable.

Neel (real name Suneel) went to medical school in the U.S. and became an anesthesiologist in California.  He has a girlfriend of three years, a blonde secretary named Caroline.  Neel’s feelings for her seem to be straight out of the modern dating classic, He’s just not that into you.  For example, he forgets their 3rd anniversary.  Neel is 35 and his family is growing tired of him remaining unmarried.  His family gets him to return to India to visit his grandfather-Neel is told he is very sick and near death.  His mother and aunt, however, plan to get him to India to marry him off.

I admit I don’t like his character much at the moment, but hopefully that will change.

Leila seems more likable.  She is 30 years old, teaches literature, and loves to write stories.  She has two younger sisters, Kila who is 8 years old, and Indy who is in her mid-20s.  Leila has seen many suitors come and go.  She had one indiscretion around age 20, but gets passed over because her family cannot offer a dowry.  

The book does touch a lot on the theme of family.  Early on, Cherian writes from Neel’s perspective, “In India it was always family above self, with no one considering his difficulties”. 

On the trip back to India, Neel sits near a mixed couple.  The husband is Indian and the wife is Italian, although at first Neel thinks the wife is also Indian.  He overhears the husband saying, “It is difficult to be neither fish nor fowl in America, and I told Lisa our daughter would be more accepted back home.  I mean, when the British came, our kings greeted them with open arms.  America is not such a welcoming country.” Mr. Rolex agreed, but Neel thought the man was a simpleton.” 

I’m curious to find out what happens once Neel and Leila meet.  What are their first impressions?  How will Caroline deal with it all?  What kind of marriage do Neel and Leila create for themselves? 

Article by Dinesh Ramde  about the book.  Ramde rates the book a B+.

Birth Order and Marriage

Yesterday my mother-in-law told me more about some traditional Lingayat beliefs surrounding marriage.

She told me that traditionally, birth order was strictly followed.  This was especially true for girls.  If a younger sister got married before the older, people would ask, “What is wrong with the older sister?” The older sister’s chances at marriage decreased.  For men, this was followed more loosely. 

Another belief is that it is not good for the last child to remain unmarried for long after the older siblings are married.  Often, parents would wait until siblings could be married together or shortly after each other.  This is so that if anything happens to the parents, none of the grown children would be left alone in life.

After all the grown children are married, the parents relax more.  They believe their children will be more secure and less lonely. This last view isn’t so very different from beliefs in the U.S.  Most parents do want their children to settle down with a family.

This all emphasized to me again the importance of family.