The plot unfolds as the couple copes with joint family living, sexual and financial issues, and hostile neighbors. Central to the mystery are the cultural conflicts affecting both men and women negotiating the differences between American society and their own traditional upbringings. A major theme of the book is violence against women as this plays out both within domestic situations and through the gender inequalities of Indian and American society.
Supportive characters such as an anthropology professor, an Indian detective and his American sidekick, a young, assimilated Indian neighbor, and an established family elder reveal various aspects of immigrant life. Through this rich, exciting and ethnographically detailed foray into one particular community, the reader learns about arranging a marriage, Hindu weddings and festivals, and the rich psychological motivations of culturally-patterned behavior of both immigrant men and women.
The main principles of cultural anthropology and ethnographic method are woven into the novel, making it a compelling read in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses. AltaMira Press. Let me start by saying that I loved the manuscript and would most certainly use it in a class of cultural anthropology.
I would also use it in my gender class as well. The authors have written a remarkable work. It works on so many levels that it is hard to adequately express my enthusiasm. The book has many strengths. It presents the field of anthropology in a careful, useful, and interesting manner.
With great relief she entered her building alone and made sure the doors closed tightly behind her.
The Gift of a Bride
Chapter Six The next day, Julie juggled her mailbox key with one hand, the other overloaded as usual with papers she had taken home to grade. Once upstairs, she sat back on her couch and rifled through her mail, mostly junk—Oh, the wasted trees!
Slitting it open, she found an elegant card with a hand-painted border of Indian paisley designs surrounding a silvered Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity that had made a successful transition to America. Opening the card, Julie found an invitation with embossed red writing, the auspicious color for brides, announcing a wedding to be held in Mumbai in December. If Julie could come a few days earlier, she could also attend the engagement ceremony, nowadays held only days before the wedding. Anjeli is a beautiful and lovely girl, and she has no relatives in America, so you will be like her older sister.
It is very important that you come.
Let me know when you have made your reservations. After dinner and the evening news, Julie sat down at the kitchen counter, pulled out a legal pad, sharpened a pencil, and geared herself psychologically to make her travel plans for India. Recent news reports and her own previous trips told her that she was in for a cattle-car experience in coach: nonexistent leg room; long hours in a cramped seat punctuated by thuds from the passenger in front of her leaning his seat back; broken movie audio not that Julie ever watched the fatuous airline films ; long lavatory waits; fewer pillows and blankets—the list went on and on.
She could have gone online to save a few bucks, but experience had taught her that this was more timeconsuming than contacting airlines directly by phone in the off hours. Normally Julie followed the rule of three—call three airlines, three car rental agencies, three hotels, whatever, and then strike a rational balance between price and amenities. She got off to a bad start with an airline representative who sounded like a seventeen-year-old rap wannabe. It had the cheapest fare, but with two stops in mid-winter Russia, combined with her lack of confidence in their maintenance of the planes, she decided against it.
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Hmm, maybe Emirate Airlines is worth a try. They had some cheap flights, the shortest layovers, and their route usually precluded storm delays. But the issues of security and of stops in the Middle East gave her pause. True, these days the Emirates were totally global, cosmopolitan, and even alluring to Western tourists, with fabulous new airports, shopping malls, resorts, and moderate religious aura, but still.
Nope, she decided, Air India was probably the logical choice after all. Their midmorning arrival in Mumbai was convenient, although she knew that her return trip to New York would leave at an ungodly hour in the middle of the night. With her travel dates fixed, Julie contemplated the unpleasant task of informing her department chair, Walter, that she would have to give her final exam in the last class meeting before the official end of the semester three days before the holiday break.
The university frowned on this truncation of the official semester, and Julie herself was reluctant to do it, but the wedding festivities Shakuntala had arranged for her to attend were too important to her research to miss. He scolded her for even hesitating to ask him. Julie had frequently encountered the pressures these kinds of cultural demands put on people as many of her students were from immigrant societies.
They repeatedly had to come late or miss class because they were meeting their relatives at the airport or had other, similar obligations. As an anthropologist and, she hoped, a caring teacher, Julie was more than sensitive to these requests.
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Yet at the same time, she felt it was not a good precedent to accede to them. After she finished her meeting with Kwame, she ruminated, not for the first time, on how important it was to have the support of good friends and colleagues. Americans liked to think of themselves as totally independent folks, but actually things worked here pretty much as they did in India, where one good turn led to another. Despite having lined up Kwame, Julie dreaded seeing Walter.
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She was not disappointed. As Julie seated herself opposite Walter, who, as usual, had barricaded himself behind his desk, she remembered a proverb she had learned in India: If you live in the river, do not fight with the crocodile. So she put on a serious yet pleasant expression as though whatever problem she was going to present to Walter could readily be resolved.
She explained her need to leave New York before the semester officially ended and the importance of the wedding festivities to her research. There was a dead silence. Finally Walter spoke.
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But no need for Walter to know all that. Walter made a tactical retreat, forced to accept that Julie had all her ducks in a row and was going, going, gone.
It will—ultimately—be so important for your promotion to associate professor. As she lifted the window shade to admire the rising sun, her seatmate on the aisle, a young American woman dressed in a North Indian shalwar-kameez, stirred and opened her eyes. So elegant. He said not to buy any jewelry; their family has their own jeweler here.
Imagine, having your own jeweler! I love the idea of those big, close Indian families where everyone helps everyone and looks after each other. I think they call them extended families; is that right, Julie? Grace started digging through her glitzy, oversized purse that seemed to contain enough stuff for a Julie-style two-week holiday. Finally she emerged with an envelope. Would you like to see his photo?
Deplaning together, Julie could see that Grace was a little overwhelmed by the crowds, the kaleidoscope of color, the noise, and the general chaos, a common American response to traveling in India. Unlike what awaited most American travelers in the States, here huge families stood in clusters bearing garlands to welcome home their friends and relatives.
Julie guided Grace through customs and baggage claim and helped her lift her two huge suitcases onto a wheeled cart. Behind her a man grabbed her other suitcase off the cart, then pushed Grace along, apparently headed to an old beat-up car waiting in the terminal parking lot with its trunk lid open.
Another man was standing outside the car by the passenger door. Julie called out to Grace, who turned around and gave her a big wave.
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Julie gave her a thumbs up and a broad smile. She saw the first man usher Grace, somewhat roughly, Julie thought, into the back seat of the car, and they headed out of the airport. Julie looked after them feeling a little uneasy. The man who pulled the luggage along, and was apparently the driver, was wearing a washed out lungi and grimy banian that gave him the look of a goonda from an Indian film. While the other man was more respectably dressed, his flared pants and patterned Western style shirt looked like a throwback to the s.