Visa Wives: Emigration Experiences of Indian Women in the USA
By Radhika M. B. Gurgaon: Penguin Random House India, 2016, pp. 332 + xxv
Reviewed by H. L. Richard
This book seems to be for and about Indian women but is very highly recommended reading for Americans who are interested to befriend Indian women in the USA. Many different women are briefly introduced in the book, but rather than telling a few stories in detail the book develops according to issues that arise for Indian women in the USA, and multiple incidents from different women about the various phases and aspects of their experiences are shared in each chapter.
The first chapter is “Outlining Dreams” and looks at various aspects, good and bad, of the fixation with getting to America that drives many in India. “Facing the Interview” is next; all the drama and trauma of the process of making it to America. Third is “Are We Going or Not,” many stories of uncertainties to the last minute for varying reasons. “Baggage and All That” follows; how to pack and how to get rid of most of one’s Indian belongings. And on it goes up to chapter 22, the longest chapter in the book being chapter 21 on domestic violence experienced by Indian women in the USA.
A great deal of pain is expressed in this book, and on occasion there is reference to how oblivious most Americans are to the often severe pain that is masked by Indian women in America. There is also an interesting comment late in the book about how the pains of the early years of adjustment are completely forgotten or suppressed once acclimatization has been successfully achieved by the many thousands of Indian American women who now thrive in this at-first-alien environment. The prime purpose of the book is to help new-to-America Indian women more successfully handle the transition.
There is a great deal to learn about culture in this book, but it is learned through empathetic listening to many different voices. Insights into both Indian and American cultures are vivid and helpful. There are some Indianisms that American readers will not understand; a good opportunity to ask an Indian friend to explain the meaning! But mostly it is a simple and clear anecdotal book that will raise awareness of the difficulties faced by Indian women in the USA.
Within the Marg network this is a clarion call to reach out the hand of agenda-less friendship to thousands of Indian women in our midst. No training for this is needed, just a loving and willing heart. Reading this book will open many avenues of interaction, and it can be considered as a training manual for those who feel too overwhelmed to take a first step.
Please leave any comments from your experiences walking alongside or being a ‘visa wife’.