Friday, August 22, 2008

Dollar Bahu...

Today the world has changed a lot for desis and Indians in particular. With the declining lustre of dollar in the face of the global economy and business, the US tag or badge doesn't carry as much scintillation as it used to earlier. No doubt, the value is still there, but with the Asian economy offering if not same but similar opportunities, these days the US trump card, is not ranked as it was earlier.

But there were days, when someone settled in the dollar land was looked upon with awe. Now mix, the power of dollar, a mother-in-law, a daughter-in-law, a humble middle class family and other simple ingredients, a plot can be built and that’s what Sudha Murthy did. A couple of years back, she wrote a book, titled 'Dollar Sose' in Kannada and it went on to become a textbook for degree courses in Mysore University, a TV programme on Zee, and was later translated to English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and few other Indian languages.

The English version is named 'Dollar Bahu'. This novel webs on the aspirations, dreams and struggles of traditional middle class Indian families. The crux of the story line rests on the promise of plenty that the US dollar holds for middle class Indian families and the price that people pay for a life in the US. The +ve and the –ve points, and the author has reflected all these aspects through the Gauramma, a lady old enough to be a grandma. She is torn between her roots in Bangalore and the life in the US led by her son Chandru and daughter-in-law, Jamuna.
"Lovers are separated, friends become strangers, and the spell of the dollar has the power to disrupt the harmony in the middle class families left back home."
But then, Gauramma often feels sheepish because it was she who had stood like a wall supporting her son to move to the 'promised land', by cheating employers. Finally the son gets a green card, sacrificing his regular once in a year visits to his hometown. The green card, though not green in color brings more greenery in Gauramma's life. Improvement in societal status ladder because of owner of few hundred dollars, more salability in the marriage market for Chandru because of the 'Green Card' factor, and better life style in a two floored house compared to their previous life in a two room house are important milestones in Gauramma's life.

But once she lands in the land of honey and milk (that's how the author mentions the US, or is it the outcome of translation from the original version), she realizes that 'All that glitters is not gold'. Apart from the skewed perceptions she had about the material life in the US, she is more dumb stricken with the social and the fast track life abroad. Priests imported from India on a five-year visa perform rituals in spic and span temples. But this doesn't offer Gauramma the deeply religious feeling that she used to get after returning from her neighborhood temple in Bangalore.

Coming from a middle class society, in which relationships are not appreciated and respected, she is thunderstruck to realize that in the dollar land, every knot of familial bonding is measured. The initial alchemy between Gauramma and the dollar daughter-in-law (Bahu) slowly starts to ebb.
"Anyone can help in the form of money. But one should not forget those who help with their physical presence and their very real care. Anyone can earn money. But treasures like love and trust cannot be bought."
Gradually Gauramma realizes her nuttiness and her despicable obsession for the dollar that had raised pillars of comparison among her family members. She understands her folly of constantly nagging Vinuta, her Indian based daughter-in-law married to another son of hers, Girish. A stay in the land of dollars for about a year, educates Gauramma about the realities of US life led by Indians there: the callousness, the selfish goals, the hunger for prosperity and status, the crave for green card, etc leaving them very little time for family. She returns disenchanted and corrected, seeing in a new light the sincerity of her family left in India The conversion factor of 40 loses its lustre, and makes way for contentment with the rupee.

The book is written in Sudha Murthy's usual self-righteous style, in a simple and coherent way. I completed the book in 2 sittings straight, but it was not like one of those unputdownable books but is worth a one-time breeze reading. I liked the book because someone has candidly stated a topic that many want to express but that has never oozed out of the societal cauldron.

Now this is a song dedication to Gauramma from RC for recognizing what is what and this is not that. See even I am humming something lyrical.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Mysorean said...

Thanks for reviewing this book. I am surprised that no one else had made any comments. I have no doubt that Mrs Murthy is writing with knowledge and experience. I have personal experience of what she is narrating and have seen many of my students, friends, relatives and colleagues coming to US and only after years through introspection recognise what they have done. I tell you it is not always positive. Up and until late 1960s, those who went to West and to US did so with excellent degrees as their entry certificates. Today , it is not the case. My relative tells me that in our street in Mysore,today, each family has more than one member living in USA and USA and Dollar have lost their shine. So many upheavals in their families and many struggle to cope despite loaded with Dollars.

During the late 1960s,,for the late Padmini's dance presentation in Cincinnati, I had to scour around Ohio and whole of MidWest to get 100 Indian families. Walking down in the Vine St in Cincinnati then, I hardly came across an Indian. Today, with thousands of Indian families living around the county, I could today fill that auditorium ten times over and bump into 2 dozen Indians in Vine St. Going to USA became a status issue. For those young who write to me about coming to the West, my advice has been to think about the changes that will be occurring to them and to their families which are not always positive. The Blue Ash murder case in Cincinnati involving a South Indian family a couple of years ago, graphically illustrates this.
Those with teen age children born in US or West face particular problems.Those with elderly parents at home face different set of problems. Reading your review, Mrs Murthy says pretty much what I would have said.

I know NRN well as my old student quite brilliant and humble in many ways. Those days when there was a single Mysore University in the state, he achieved the highest grades across the board, could have gone to any university in the West but stayed in India, worked hard despite testing times. For Mr and Mrs Murthy it was uphill all the way. I am immensely proud of their achievements. I am glad that Mrs Murthy has written this best seller and has said what is to be said. She herself was no mean achiever, a brilliant engineering student in her days. I commend her and appreciate your review.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Nice review, RC. Makes me want to read the book now

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Amrita said...

I dont know... I've had occasion to read a few pieces penned by Sudha Murthy and I can't say i'm a fan of her work. And maybe this was a novel idea back when it was first published, but right now it sounds really outdated.


Post a Comment

<< Home