Sister of My Heart Questions and Answers
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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Describe Anju and Sudha's schooling and how they get married in "Sister of My Heart." What are the differences between their fates in marriage?

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In the story, Sudha and Anju live with their mothers, Nalini and Gouri, and their aunt Pishi. The girls attend a convent school together and consider themselves sisters even though they are really second cousins. In due time, the nuns notice the unusual relationship the girls share; to Anju and Sudha's consternation, the nuns decide to separate the girls into different classrooms because they consider such closeness unbecoming for girls. Both girls end up planning and carrying out afternoon escapades so that they can be together. They return when the school bell rings, in time to be picked up by the family driver, Singhji. The girls are put back into the same classroom eventually when Anju's mother, Gouri, intervenes and speaks to the principal on their behalf.

As for marriage, Sudha's mother, Nalini threatens Sudha with an early marriage when both girls are discovered to have skipped afternoon classes to go to the cinema. Nalini is further incensed when she discovers that both girls have put on make-up and worn sexually alluring clothing on their escapade. To make matters worse, a young man, Ashok, sits next to Sudha during the movie, and the self-righteous Nalini immediately decides that her daughter is a loose woman and should be married as soon as she finishes high school.

Anju is incensed on Sudha's behalf and tries to persuade her to fight for her right to attend college. However, Sudha does not want to hurt her mother's feelings; she would rather just do what her mother wants. Besides, Ashok belongs to a lower caste, and Sudha knows that her mother will never consent to their marriage. So, despite her attraction to Ashok, she decides to humor her mother by marrying Ramesh.

Meanwhile, Anju's mother, Gouri has a heart attack. To make matters worse, the family bookstore is struggling financially. Gouri finally comes to the conclusion that the only way to provide for Anju would be to marry her off. She decides that Sunil, a computer programmer who works in the United States, would be a good match for Anju. In the meantime, Gouri tries to find a buyer for the bookstore.

With events spiraling out of control, both girls find themselves marrying on the same day. Despite this, both girls are not entirely happy. Although Anju is pleasantly surprised at her attraction to Sunil, she soon discovers that Sunil is deeply attracted to Sudha, and this distresses her. Meanwhile, Sudha is miserable after turning down Ashok's offer to elope; she knows that she doesn't love Ramesh but will have to go through with the marriage anyway.

After marriage, both girls find that their problems have not entirely disappeared. Sunil and Anju eventually leave for America, and Anju finds herself missing Sudha terribly. Both women become pregnant in due time. Sunil is not initially happy with Anju's pregnancy but soon warms up to the idea of having a son. Meanwhile, Sudha's mother-in-law is angry when she finds out that her grandchild will be a girl. She orders Sudha to have an abortion, but Sudha refuses. Her mother-in-law's misogyny causes Sudha to agree to a divorce from Ramesh, who refuses to fight for the right to keep the baby.

Anju decides to bring Sudha and the baby, Dayita, to America. She secretly works at the college library to earn enough money for Sudha's airfare. However, Sunil is furious when he finds out; he is not especially enthusiastic about Sudha coming to America, as he realizes that his attraction for Sudha has never really gone away. Also, he worries that Anju is taking on too much during the pregnancy. In the end, when Anju loses the baby she is carrying, she blames herself; however, Sunil refuses to let her continue on such a destructive path. Eventually, Sunil comes to accept that Sudha and Dayita will be coming to America.

At the airport, a stranger mistakes Sudha for Sunil's wife and exclaims how lucky Sunil is to have such a beautiful wife. Sunil does not correct the stranger, and this creates a pang in Anju's heart. So, in the marital area, Sudha never really finds happiness with the man she loves. Instead, she is forced to agree to a divorce just to keep her daughter. On the other hand, Anju finds that, although she is deeply attracted to her husband, she must endure her husband's attraction for Sudha, the sister of her heart. What a difficult trial! Interestingly, the author does not tell us what happens after the three return to Anju and Sunil's home; instead we are left to imagine for ourselves what ultimate fate these two women, closer than sisters, will face.

 

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