In Praise of the Little Woman
Murty’s Mridula is the hardworking, yet unsung, wife behind the empire builder
There are the flashy, look- at- me novels set against sweeping historic events. And then there are stories of the little people, the everydayers, who go through their lives performing the tasks assigned to them by fate. Sudha Murty, despite breathing the rarefied air of a millionaire’s life, has remained rooted to the little woman. And in Mridula, the heroine of House of Cards, she has created yet another deeply affecting character: The successful man’s hardworking but unsung wife.
Mridula is Amma’s girl and Appa’s world, a bright student from a north Karnataka village who marries Sanjay. He builds an empire, she builds his home. It is tempting to think the story is Murty’s own, but that would be taking away credit from the author’s fertile imagination. The tensions of too much money and sudden success are beautifully written and gently realised. Mridula’s quiet sacrifices are quietly sketched: The loan from her parents, the mortgage of wedding jewellery, the happy slaving away at a government job while her husband puts together an increasingly successful nursing home. As Sanjay moves from the life of a doctor at a government hospital to that of a hospital magnate, a character sums it up wisely: “Money is a useful tool. It’s like a knife— you can either kill a person with it or you can cut an apple.”
As Sanjay makes more money, the family changes. They have separate computers, televisions, friends. Material success doesn’t change Mridula, but it does alter the dynamics of her relationship with Sanjay. Their only child Sishir grows distant. The family meets only in the evenings. Money and everything it can buy become a constant source of friction. It’s an affliction that every upwardly mobile middle class home faces. Mridula negotiates it with grace and dignity, keeping her old- style values in tact.
Think of it not just as a novel but also a self help manual. Murty’s acknowledgement reads: “To all the Mridulas who suffer silently.” Indeed, this one is
HOUSE OF CARDS
by Sudha Murty Penguin Price: RS 250 Pages: 232