Uma is her parent's oldest child and as a girl, she is expected to tend to her parent's every wish Uma needs to catch a break. She is a slave in her own home. It is the Indian way. Uma stays busy with hardly a moment to herself catering to her parents. Her younger sister Aruna is being groomed to the same tasks as her big sister.
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Uma's mother had a late life pregnancy and it was not a happy time. Her father was embarrassed and she carried the guilt for them both. Until the baby came, a son, Arun. Uma's father couldn't have been more proud. Differences were made between the sisters and the lone brother. It would be Arun who was groomed for school and studies abroad. Uma was forced to end her studies even though she was a good student. With a son, her mother viewed the education of a girl child as unnecessary. Uma learned to suck up her disappointment. Her mother didn't understand because she didn't have an education where her father did. No one came to Uma's aid.
Upon finishing school in India, Arun is sent to study in America. As a male he gets the perks like his parents. Even though they are thousands of miles apart Uma has to do his bidding.
Her parents rush her to wrap a package to send to Arun. The shawl inside, Uma had to select and purchase. As she is busily wrapping the shawl they interrupt her to make sure the cook knows they want tea and sweets immediately. When she tries to complain that she has only two hands they regress into stories of their childhood, berating her for not being thankful enough for their generosity and bent towards liberalism. She was able to eat sweets as a girl, her mother was not. Any tasty treat that came into the family house went to the boys. Understandably, Uma is extremely frustrated.
She sees her parents as a single complaining unit instead of two people. The only time she sees her mother happy is when she plays rummy across the fence at her friends home. Her father despises gambling, and watches his wife head towards the fence with a scowl on his face.
Her father is a tax preparer and is as grim with his staff at work as he tends to be with his family at home. His one source of pride is his son.
Uma's parent's try and find a suitor for her, it is the only way she can leave the family home. People are inquiring instead about Aruna. Tradition rules and Uma has to marry first. Finally there is a young man her parents are okay with. It is his family that turns down the invitations extended by Uma's parents. The young man's father is a merchant and speaks for his son. He shares that the young man has been accepted to university and that will come first. In addition, the dowry is gone he has already built a house. One Uma won't live in without a husband.
Aruna is racking up proposals and it doesn't marry. Their mother starts a campaign to anyone who will look at Uma's picture. A response comes from a man many years Uma's senior. During the ceremony the groom interrupts the priest and tells him to cut it short. Uma is outdone, if he can't respect their vows she knows what kind of marriage this will be. Sheer hell.
Her groom leaves her alone for weeks. Her father gets wind and comes to collect Uma, while delivering the sad news that Harrish is already married. They have been fooled again. The wedding was simply annulled.
Aruna gets her marriage to a guy she loves and who loves her. Arvind's family likes to keep her to themselves and Aruna turns her back on her own family after having two children. She considers them very backwards and country.
Uma volunteers at a convent and the nuns love her. Her parents are not thrilled to have her out of their sight. They take it even harder when a nursing school is proposed and Uma gets a job offer to run it. The doctor tells her parents that Uma has been organizing and running their house hold for years and while they know it is true, the thought of Uma earning money of her own strikes them as outrageous and offensive.
The doctor asks Uma what she wants. No matter. Her mother has spoken for her she needs Uma home to care for her she is suddenly ill. Uma sneaks into her father's home office while her parents are out and calls the doctor. She wants the job and the thought of living in a dormitory instead of at home is more than she can stand. The doctor tells her to get her mother in for tests and if nothing is wrong he will continue to push for her to get the job. Uma forgets to lock up the phone when they end the phone conversation. Her father comes home and sees the doctor's number on his desk and the phone out, and curses Uma for making him spend money on her dowry. He shouts that she is trying to make him a broke man.
The parcel Uma packed makes it to Arun and he gifts it to Mrs. Patton whom he is staying with after the dorms closed for the semester. The rent is cheap and she has a nice family. He was damned if he was going back to India before he absolutely had to.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the story because it showed how much sexism still exists in the world.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Uma found the courage to call the doctor about a job that would take her away from her parent's home.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked that Uma never found the courage to tell her parents that she deserved a life of her own. The poor woman was going to die taking care of people and never once enjoying life.