A Good Indian Wife

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Two cultures and worlds apart

A Good Indian Wife explores the differences between American and Indian culture through numerous identities. The protagonist in the novel is a thirty-year-old Indian girl called Leila, who is married off to an Indian-American boy. When the story begins Leila works as a local teacher in a South Indian village – she teaches English, and because of her age is considered by her family as already too old to ever have a marriage. But then Neel arrives from the United States and although Leila, who has seen too many suitors come an go, thinks that Neel will be just the same, his family propose marrying the two off, which makes Leila’s family very happy because it’s almost as if this is an event they had thought would never come; after the marriage, Leila moves to San Francisco, with her husband.

Neel, meanwhile, comes across as an ideal-type of romantic Indian hero. He’s a handsome young boy, thirty-five-years-old, and works in a hospital as an anesthesiologist – he was actually very psyched about his life, until his marriage to Leila. Neel also has a tall blonde girlfriend, Caroline, in San Francisco, who he continues his romantic relationship with despite his marriage to Leila. Neel had to go back to his hometown because his grandfather was dying but then during the trip he was tricked into a marriage with Leila – Neel’s mother and aunt, during the trip to rural India, seem to be unaware of his relationship with Caroline because they consider him to be single and the only reason he gets married in India is because Neel’s fearful of disappointing his grandfather.

Neel promised himself he would divorce Leila soon after his grandfather had died, but Neel doesn’t. Neel’s trapped inside his traditional Indian identity, despite his character having overarched shades of modernity – Neel knows, all too well, his family would never accept Caroline as his bride. After Leila and Neel’s marriage, Neel does not touch his wife – she spends most nights and weekends by herself.

It makes for a good read to find Leila as a somewhat-independent young woman, with good looks and intelligence to boast, so it’s hardly surprising when Leila portrays that she’s got a vague idea about what her marriage is truly like, what it could really be, on the surface. Leila turns to a support group, as a result, she contemplates studying creative writing at Berkley and even confides in Neel’s best friend’s wife – he’s a Bengali but married to a white woman.

Everything complicates itself when Neel discovers Caroline’s family will never accept him – this kind of propels Neel to piece together another romantic story but with Leila instead. In the course of this, Leila becomes pregnant but Caroline is still waiting for Neel to divorce his wife so that the two can be together, which judging by what Caroline had in mind, is way past due already since this was supposed to happen after Neel’s grandfather had died.

Anne Cherian (the author of the novel) seems to write from her own Indian experiences – she’s originally from Jamshedpur (India), was also brought up there but resides in San Francisco now. The story brilliantly etches out both the Indian-American identity and the kind of experiences an Indian woman can have whilst living in the United States. It’s a superlative and traditional experience of two incompatible young people drowning their incompatibilities, and a good insight into Indian cultures (in the United States).

Turkey’s New Vote

New powers and a new reality, following a coup d’etat

Turkey’s new vote on Tuesday on amending constitutional rights and taking the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential democracy, resulted in a lead for the ‘Yes’ vote. It’s still pretty early stages but soon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could find himself granted with more powers and control over the state than before. Erdogan has been in power in Turkey since 2003 and he has grown into a leader who views opposition as enemies to the state.

Turkey is still fragile and healing from the aftermath of a failed coup – tourism in the country already took a bad dent for it. Rooting out corruption, extremism, ensuring greater security is a very bad need in Turkey, and the message from the referendum is loud and clear: the state is placing a great deal of faith in Erdogan’s power despite his checkered equation with democracy itself.

The campaigns put up by Erdogan’s party in power, the AK Parti, dominated both banners placed in town and the media, preceding the vote. The President likes to make the media bend and obey his every command, rather than offering them absolute freedom, and if his latest victory with constitutional amendment is installed, Erdogan will have full control over the budget, as well as cherry-picking parliament members, who do his bidding entirely. That is too much control for one politician to have and it’s not hard to pluck out authoritarian sentiments lining Erdogan’s latest desire.

It is true that no matter the nature of political ideology that the Turkish President likes to portray, with Erdogan in power, Turkey is taking turtle-steps towards bettering national democratic values. Erdogan and his party had once turned a shanty town inhabited by peasants from rural areas (who came to the locality to look for work) into a town filled with apartments, roads and shops. Erdogan had also promised to provide Kurds with rights and help them find peace, previously, although it’s important to note that since 2015 progress has stalled.

The latest military coup has brought back horrible pasts to Turkey, that it had thought it had said goodbye to. The coup d’etat has left Turkish people feeling trapped in their own country. Turkey is no longer the same republic it had been, when it was founded five years after the first world war. The state is a lot more against the West and more religious, nowadays – Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation. The national atmosphere has been one of defiance following the coup d’etat but there is no denying that the state needs to focus on nation building efforts, again, or nation rebuilding efforts, where the prime focus should be upholding democratic values and it can begin with a vote of confidence in Erdogan once more.

South Korea’s General Elections

Snap elections were announced following Park Geun-hye’s forced removal from office, and the result of that installed Moon Jae-in as the next President of South Korea

Moon Jae-in was recently declared the winner in the South Korean presidential elections, and his win came as a bit of a surprise, given Moon’s past track record of having constantly protested against dynastical rule by Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye. The win for Moon can be regarded as a landslide and it comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the negativity that has been circulating around South Korean politics for quite some time now. Ever since, the last president, Park Geun-hye, was sent to prison following a parliament impeachment because of having taken bribes from large corporations with a friend, as well as both permitting her friend to interfere in policy-making and sharing state secrets with her, the next wise political step for South Korea has been shrouded in confusion.

Moon’s recent electoral victory has largely been about making the Korean state fairer. The gap between the rich and the poor, corruption in South Korean society because of the government’s close connections to big corporations, and the grievous difficulty in securing jobs for the young are major issues, which Moon should use his singular five-year term in power to address. Moon has promised to make his government more kind to the public’s concerns – more than half of his votes came from young people in their twenties and thirties, so over the big question of providing more employment opportunities to young South Koreans, which at the time is tough to get without good connections, Moon has promised job creation, primarily in the public sector, a portion of which will be targeted towards young people in South Korea.

Major challenges also exist for Moon over bettering relations with neighbour states: Japan, China and North Korea. South Korea and North Korea still do not see eye-to-eye on matters very much because of the latter’s constant insistence of ramming up nuclear developments. It’s so tough to imagine a different orientation of matters but Moon has offered to reach out if things improve – at the moment, President Trump is pressing for payment of a US-born missile-defence system (THAAD), which brews concern over South Korea’s relations with China because the communist state is already unhappy about THAAD’s use, leading it to boycott South Korean goods. Meanwhile, Japan’s trouble with South Korea is an entirely different one though – the state is not pleased with a revival of anti-Japan protests in South Korea, over what happened during the second world war.