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Mrs Dutta Writes a Letter is a short story about a mother going to stay in her son’s house on the other side of the world from where she was born. There are three multicultural references around her arrival in the story which give us clues as to the native land of the mother. Her name (Dutta) a reference to the copra ticking mattress she left behind at ‘home’ and the advice given to her by her own mother ‘A good wife wakes before the rest of the household,’ which suggests that it is a culture where a woman’s main role is to sublimate her needs to the needs of other ‘more important’ members of the household. We then find out that after many long years of marriage she has only just learned to love her own husband, suggesting that she may not have chosen her own life partner. References to ‘roasted cumin’ and the Goddesss Durga confirm that the lady has an Indian origin and although noting her references to her past, the reader cannot help but reflect that she seems to have happiness now - a nice large family who tell her that the days have gone where she can now sleep in. But it is hard to break the habits of a lifetime even now that she can rest at her ease in her son’s house in America, thus her thoughts turn to home. This is a classic multicultural dilemma, so celebrated by writers of many nationalities from Ireland to India -the homesick cry of the emigre. The dilemma is that once you leave your native land, even though you think it’s your heart’s desire and you crave to be with a loved one, you can’t seem to have both and often a different kind of misery ensues - one of craving the familiar scents, sights and sounds of your native land, even if it is poorer and harsher. It appears to be this feeling, rather the multicultural differences themselves (the washing, the dishwasher, neighbourly distance, rock bands and Power Rangers) that spurs Mrs Dutta to self-realisation and honesty when she rewrites her letter about thoughts of going home to the friend who actually misses her presence.
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