Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Shielding Her Modesty

I just finished reading one of the more enjoyable and informative books that I have read in a long time. Shielding Her Modesty, by Sita Bhaskar, is a collection of short fiction that revolves around the often conflicting and sometimes complimentary cultures of life in the US for Indian nationals and life in upper class India. Stories of Indian students studying in the US heartland and facing Western pressures while meeting traditional Indian expectations leads to some very interesting and often humorous situations -- whether it be the $6,000 diamond ring one young man buys for the wife he has yet to meet or the daughter buying Viagra for her father.

Other stories also do a masterful job at capturing the infiltration of Western culture into the traditions of Indian society. The title story revolves around a billboard painter who relishes the prospect of painting a scantily clad blonde haired beauty, yet reviles the lust he sees from passers by on the street. Perhaps my favorite is the story of the children in the Barbie and GI Joe factory who want so much just to have a tiny piece of the culture they are manufacturing for American children.

The author does a splendid job of painting the stories in broad strokes and not over-detailing cultures and scenes. The stories read fast and lightly, though the reader will often finish them to find himself smiling or with a tear in his eye. For a dollar per story, this is truly a wonderful investment in knowledge and enjoyment, not only of Indian/Western culture, but simply of the human condition.


Disclaimer -- I should note that the author is a colleague of mine, thus I may have an inherent bias. However, I went into the book not expecting much (as anyone would with a book that friend had just written), and came away truly delighted. More specifically, if I didn't believe what I wrote, I certainly wouldn't blog it!


Post a Comment

<< Home