I remember whilst growing up in the 90s in India, ‘abroad’ or ‘foreign’ were marks of status. Through some warped sense of perception, anything from the west was better (“obviously”!). I have a peculiar memory of going to school one day only to find out that I wasn’t allowed to borrow some stationery from a classmate as it was ‘from abroad’ and therefore very precious. ‘Dollar Bahu’ serves to challenge this very mind-set that some of us fall prey to.
Sudha Murty is a wonderful narrator and her writing style is akin to listening to your mother or another older female relative narrating an engaging story with the right amount of drama, humour and nostalgia. At the heart of Murthy’s story is Vinuta who is a humble middle class woman who lives with her husband, son and in laws. She is very thoughtful and hardworking. However, she is not as glamorous as her husband’s brother’s wife who lives in the US and makes a grand impression on their mother in law. The constant comparisons and fulfilment of expectations on Vinuta’s part begin to affect her own mental and physical wellbeing.
Then one day, the mother in law is ‘invited’ to go to the US and live with her Dollar Bahu. Is this when reality sinks in? Does Dollar Bahu live up to the mother in law’s grand perception or I dare say misperception? Finally, does she come to terms with the fact that comparisons are worthless and that each individual’s worth is not conditioned upon various material criteria?
At first, I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book only because the title reminded me of a ‘saas – bahu’ spiel waiting to happen. How wrong was I?! So here’s a lesson I learnt – never judge a book by its title.
All in all, this is a heart-warming read and the setting of the book which is in Karnataka was an added plus point as you may have gathered through my previous posts that I am only slightly partial to this place and its people!