HOME TO INDIA by Jacquelin Singh


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 Former Californian Singh's first US publication is a well- crafted, if somewhat uncomplicated, story describing the adventures of an American woman who surrenders the life she knows to be with her husband--and his other wife--in India. Before 1952, it was legal for Sikhs to have more than one wife (divorce remaining unthinkable), which, here, poses problems for a young couple who fall in love while earning their master's degrees at Berkeley. The handsome, charming Tej convinces Helen to marry him anyway, though, and so she leaves her home to join him in his native Punjabi village, where the newlyweds live in a large family complex without running water or electricity--but with a spare wife. Tej assures Helen that the marriage is a formality: Dilraj Kaur is his dead brother's widow, and the marriage is in name only, the kind of union commonly performed to protect the rights of widows and ensure the inheritance status of their children. It all sounds reasonable enough, but when Helen arrives a domestic power struggle begins. Dilraj Kaur organizes the household tasks, alienating Helen in a world where family service is supreme; further, she attempts to pit Tej's family, his mother, father, two sisters, and brother against Helen, implying that she bewitched the much beloved Tej. Meantime, Tej refuses to believe the situation is anything but cozy, and Helen does try to accommodate Dilraj Kaur, especially since she and Tej are soon to be parents. One accommodation leads to another until Helen feels a shadow of her former self--no longer the adventurous young woman with a passion for photography but a pregnant matron without a voice. She runs away to an ashram, not quite sure whether she wants Tej to follow or not. But of course he does, after sending Dilraj Kaur off to live with her brother, and the future looks rosy. Predictable fare, but Singh nicely depicts her frustrated heroine unraveling the elaborate configurations of domesticity in India.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-877946-85-0
Page count: 217pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


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