A critically acclaimed writer of the 20th century, Anita Desai is well-known for her novels relating to the lives and experiences of Indian men and women.
The gender and political issues are finely entwined into her works. The short story of Desai was published at the age of twenty-two. She was also a member of the Advisory Board of English at Sahitya Akademi in New Delhi from 1975 to 1980.
Major works include; Cry, the Peacock (1963), Voices in the City(1965), Where Shall We Go This Summer? (1975).
She has also been awarded Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi, Neil Gunn Prize, National Academy of Letters Award and many more.
It has been confessed by Anita Desai that while she ‘feels about an Indian as an Indian’, she thinks about it ‘as an outsider.’
The splendid novel spectacles how the Indian family is restricted by the eastern tradition. Short-listed for the 1999 Booker Prize, the novel is separated into two parts.
The first part displays the Indian family with Uma being the eldest daughter and their cosseted parents. Uma gives up her school and looks after her brother and parents.
The younger sister of Uma escapes the same fate, but somewhere looks doomed. The story expressions how the privileges are held in reserve for boys.
Uma is asked to leave school and take care of her brother and also help in everyday work.
The second part of the novel talks about the privileged son Arun who goes to the University of Massachusetts.
He stays with the Patton’s, the American family and with this Desai relates the western family with the Indians and their domestic routine.
She also reveals the American through Indian eyes. Thus the novel tells the lack of ability of the families in both the culture to raise their children.
Also, the difference between Indian and western culture is put on focus.
Uma, the eldest daughter
Aruna, the younger son
Aruna, the younger sister
Patton’s, the American family The theme of alienation.
In America, much liberty and license are offered to the children. Still, there arises a problem in parenting. The relation of Mr Patton is limited to barbeques, baseball and criticism.
The family passes their meal and leisure time mostly apart. Melanie brawls with her feelings and stays isolated, just like Uma.
The loneliness in both the family goes unnoticed by the parents. Uma in spite of being with the family and other members feels secluded. On the other hand, Arun is isolated within his family, held back with studies. Conclusion.
The theme of gender unfairness and parental expectation is engrossed in the novel, also themes like solitude, constancy and unfaithfulness are touched upon.
The story might be miserable and gloomy to few, but it gives a nearby look on the predominant condition of the women.
It looks at how society is constrained by wrong views and raises important questions. The novel is worth a read.