The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal focuses on the life of a wife in an orthodox milieu of Indian society. The story in this book shows that a wife in a traditional Indian society is generally given a secondary place. This results into losing all notions of her independence, her individuality, stature and strength. The story revolves around Megha who gets shocked when she comes to know that her own family members (husband and mother in law) are plotting to kill her. She runs away from her husband’s home. She knows that she cannot go back to her parents’ house as they would not take her back. In the end, she lands in Kunal’s apartment, a male relative of her. The rest of the story deals with Megha’s struggles as she tries to give a meaning to her life.
In The Dowry Bride, the character of Megha stands both for change, and for resistance to change. The unfair treatment of women in the Indian society has been presented both subtly and delicately. This, in a way, provides the readers with a completely reasonable picture of women in an orthodox milieu of Indian society. At the same time, this has been done through a series of symbols which also reflects or suggests the inner conflicts of women in the Indian society. This mirrors the bafflement of a traditional society in its face-to-face encounter with new notions of selfhood and particularly of womanhood. The author should be credited for bringing out these aspects of traditional Indian society brilliantly.
However, this is not the first time someone has written a book on this subject. In fact, victimisation of women is one of the universal themes in the world of fiction and ill-treatment of women for dowry is one such topic. So much has already been written on this subject. Books focusing on this issue generally depict women characters as crucial markers of change in a modernising world. Therefore, the book under review is not different. And, this can also be said as a drawback of this novel. The book, in a way, reminds you of old Hindi movies. Additionally, for the purpose of the novel, and because the author wants our sympathy for her central character, other characters do not get due attention and they remain at a superficial level. Characters like Amma should have been given more attention to give a different dimension to the story. Amma, most of the time, has been depicted from outside and we are not given insights into her own notions of her selfhood. Although the author has tried to give some insights about Amma, most of this seemed to be done in a hurried manner.
I am not saying that The Dowry Bride is a bad book. It is not a bad book at all. The book honestly tries to raise the issue of bride burning in India. The book is not only a tightly structured work, but also gives you a definite social message. The author has woven the storyline in a sophisticated way. The novel is all this and much more. However, predictability in the storyline and lack of innovation from author’s side make it just an average read.