In Praise of the Lit­tle Woman

Murty’s Mridula is the hard­work­ing, yet un­sung, wife be­hind the em­pire builder

India Today - - LEISURE - By Kaveree Bamzai

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

for you.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

HOUSE OF CARDS

by Sudha Murty Pen­guin Price: RS 250 Pages: 232

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