Extended Summary

The story opens with a scene that will also close the story: Anita, the narrator, awakens from a short sleep to find herself, for the first time and the last time, deeply in love with her husband. The narrative voice, which is placed 30 years after this moment, proceeds to relate the events leading up to this pivotal instance of intense emotion.

The story flashes back to seven months before that moment, two days after Anita and Rajinder are married. They are moving into a small flat in Defense Colony, a community outside of New Delhi. Anita feels terror and anxiety at being married to Rajinder, a small, slightly overweight man whom she barely knows. However, her anxiety is also coupled with the compulsion she feels, as an obedient wife, to be pleasing to him, even though she knows she is not physically attractive. Anita’s sharp sense of inadequacy and guiltiness pervades the narrator’s tone throughout the story.

As the furniture is moved into the new flat— which Rajinder selected himself—the only thing that gives Anita a sense of happiness or relief is the sight of the mattress because it represents sleep, and with sleep, her dreams. Throughout the story, sleep and dreams will remain the only thing that Anita looks forward to.

Anita and Rajinder are formal with each other, and Anita does not often speak. Over dinner, she gathers the courage to say she admires the prime minister Indira Gandhi, only to have her courage squelched by Rajinder’s brother Ashok, who ridicules her opinion.

The story flashes back to three months before the wedding, during the matchmaking session between Anita’s family and Rajinder’s family at a restaurant. Ashok, Rajinder, and their widowed mother are present; Anita is present with her mother and her father, whom she calls Pitaji. Conversation between the two parties is stilted at best, and Rajinder and Anita do not speak at all. Rajinder’s mother reveals that he is a banker and, with a master of arts degree, the most educated member of their family. Anita’s mother, with characteristic unthinking cruelty, says that Anita was too lazy to get an education beyond her bachelor of arts degree, but her little sister Asha is obtaining her doctorate. Anita’s feelings are hurt, but she indicates that it was normal for her mother to treat her that way.

Anita is not impressed by Rajinder’s appearance and does not necessarily have the desire to get married. However, she does not express her feelings, expecting that the match with Rajinder will not go through.

Before leaving, Anita summons the courage to ask Rajinder if he enjoys movies. She asserts herself by saying she likes them ‘‘very much.’’

Two days later, Anita agrees to marry Rajinder even though she does not want to. She still believes that something will happen to sabotage their plans. She persists in this denial until the day of the engagement ceremony which she, as tradition dictates, does not attend. As her sister, Asha, relates the details of the ceremony between Pitaji and Rajinder, Anita, feeling disconnected and shocked, realizes that she is truly going to marry Rajinder. She grows sadder at the realization that...

(The entire section is 1308 words.)