Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Mango Season

Mango Season is a novel which explores the culture clash a young India born woman experiences when she returns home for a visit after living for seven years in the United States. Priya Rao is a database programmer who comes back to her home town of Hyderabad to visit her family and relatives. She dreads the visit because she knows that at age 27, her family will, sooner or later, attempt in earnest to marry her off.
"I had escaped arranged marriage by coming to the United States to do a master's in Computer Sciences at Texas A&M, by conveniently finding a job in Silicon Valley, and then by inventing several excuses to not go to India."
As it turns out, Priya's concerns are well founded. The culture shock Priya endures makes it increasingly difficult to relate to her family, particularly her mother. She is now viewing her family through the lens of a Westerner. She learns that her family's focus has been on finding her cousin Sowmya a husband. Sowmya, unattractive and uneducated, has endured 64 "bride-seeing ceremonies". She finds her family insensitive and bigoted towards Westerners, whom she was cautioned to never get involved with. Her family's attitudes towards Westerners, and their intent on finding her an Indian husband begin to cause her great distress. Especially since Priya's family doesn't know she is engaged to a Westerner, Nick Collins!

Priya can't bring herself to tell her family because she fears her family will no longer love her and will disown her. At the same time she also feels that if she doesn't tell her family the truth before she returns to America, her fiance, Nick, will stop loving her. These paralyzing fears and her resulting procrastination bring about a family crisis of epic proportions when she is set up to meet a prospective husband.

I found myself irritated with Priya, the educated, liberated woman, who was seemingly unable to deal with her parents, especially her mother. It is Sowmya, who seeing her chance at happiness slipping away, takes charge of her life and in doing so, helps Priya to find the courage to tell her secret.

I enjoy reading about the cultural aspects of India and the role of women in traditional Indian society. Often I find fiction set in India full of rich descriptions of life, often focusing on tastes and smells, rituals and traditions. This book gave me sweet doses of all of these. The end was satisfyingly predictable but nonetheless, enjoyable.

Well recommended.

Book Details:
The Season of Mangoes by Amulya Malladi
New York: Ballantine Books 2003

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