Dollar Bahu by Sudha Murty: A Brilliant Tale of Emotions and the True Mirror of Today’s Societal Mindsets

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Book review of Dollar Bahu by Sudha Murty

Dollar Bahu by Sudha Murty is a homecoming and a stark reminder of the pitiful state of our society’s material mentalities. It examines the Indian diaspora of all those who seek to choose money over happiness, giving more importance to affluence over simpler facets of life such as peace and contentment, eventually suffering insolently, not having even the spine to accept and own this sad state of affairs.

“Abroad return.” This tag apparently seems to hold some sort of Midas touch as far as our Indian mentalities are concerned, especially their perception of a prospective spouse. It acts more like some sort of additional degree a person holds than simply an arrangement. 

Yes, I have always personally noticed this in my own circles too. A prospective bride or groom who has just returned from abroad having completed his education or, even better, having landed a great job is a so-called “prize catch” as far as the matchmaker “shark” aunties are concerned. 

It baffles me why a tag like this has to be an afterthought rather than more important factors like character, morale, ethics, and family values. Anyways, in case you guys are wondering what led me to this whole discussion today, Dollar Bahu by Sudha Murty, a book I have always loved and adored for the stark yet startlingly simple message it manages to convey, decided to make its way to me from the depths of my bookshelf, from the place where I have all my favourites stashed away.

Yes, Sudha Murty ma’am’s Dollar Bahu has always been one of my favourites. Subtly and coyly, but surely interweaving multiple ideas and thought processes, here is a tale created with so much heart and attention that I have to say that young, upcoming authors should surely mull upon this one and take lessons from it. 

Dollar Bahu, the story of how our minds are often preoccupied with money, social status, and material aspects of life rather than the more profound aspects of life such as happiness and contentment, is not only a harsh reflection of society; it also serves as a sad, pitiful reminder of how we always choose the wrong option, both as individuals and as a group collectively. 

The story, which revolves around Chandru, Gouramma, Vinuta, Jamuna, Shamanna, Girish, and other characters, explores poignantly how the dollar, the US currency, is not only relatively considered to be a symbol of wealth, but also has become the benchmark of a class divider, separating people as well as families too. 

When Chandru, Gouramma’s elder son who has settled in the United States (and is considered a prize catch), decides to marry, it is Vinuta, his younger brother Girish’s wife, who has to bear the brunt of all the constant comparison because she is not the “Dollar Bahu” whose husband has earned the family the name, fame, and affluence, but the “other” one. Jamuna, who gets married to Chandru, on the other hand, is the darling, the adored one, upon whom Gouramma bestows all the love, affection, and attention. Labelling her as “her beloved” bahu, she surreptitiously even ignores the love and affection that Vinuta gives the family unfalteringly, making her more and more deprived of love and respect with every passing day.

Jamuna, the elder, on the other hand, has a different hue to her window-dressed obnoxious lifestyle; when Gouramma visits her beloved bahu, that is when she realises what she has been considering “diamonds” all this time is actually mere “glass,” simply reflecting light but no radiance. Having finally experienced the true underside of “America,” the hindsighted matriarch finally realises what she has lost. Whether the realisation comes in time for her to be able to mend her mistakes, well, read the book about it, you guys.

For me, this one was a coy yet strong mirror, showing me the sad travesty of Indian societal mindsets and also the isolated state of the Indian diaspora in a foreign land. Yes, life does attain freedom; liberation is something we all look up to when there is an affluential switch. But, at times, staying grounded in your roots and within the strict framework of the Indian middle-class mentality is exactly what we all need to be content with. Ultimately, happiness and peace of mind trump money, luxuries, and a hundred other comforts and material possessions. Respect, care, and compassion are the pivots of life, not a green card, riches, or a successful career stint in a foreign land. It is a wake-up call of sorts, and I personally feel the book sets a brilliant example of fiction with great social significance, also making it a best seller.

Related: Book Review of Delhi via Lucknow: Once, Love Travelled This Route by Ashwini Rudra

So, I hope you guys liked my thoughts on “Dollar Bahu by Sudha Murty.” A tidbit I want to confide in before I sign off Given that her spouse owns and runs one of India’s largest firms, Infosys Technologies, I used to believe that Sudha Ji’s writing was her way of giving back to society, a sort of CSR to society. Please accept my apologies for my error in classifying her work based on her spouse’s social standing and class rather than her own. The second and more significant point here is that having read Sudha Ji’s work over the years, I have come to realise that Sudha ji is an institution unto herself, and she has so much to share by way of wisdom and education with us, millennials especially, that I now want to proudly address her as the one leading to be the torch bearer of the new, sensible India, an India whose individuals are grounded, wise, and who understand the importance of every priority of their lives. Salute to you, Sudha Ji, for your profundity and your valuable giveaways.

Dollar Bahu

Rekha Bhagtani
Author: Sudha Murty


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