Portrait of Indian Society and Culture in Bharati Mukherjee’s

“Desirable Daughters”


Debiprasad Dash1, Dr. Shailesh Ku. Mishra2

1PhD Research Scholar (English), S’O’A Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, 751030.

2Associate Professor (English), S’O’A Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, 751030.

*Corresponding Author Email:



This paper aims to capture the main reason about individual positioning of a woman between two worlds. She has played a vital role in pulling out the dilemma of the female protagonists in her writings. The prime focus we can see is the issues faced by women in foreign land. The differences in culture, language, values and societal outlook. The differences in culture, language, values and societal outlook are distinctly visible after having undergone several phases in her life. Where the third wave feminism was focusing on the womanhood, gender, beauty, sexuality, feminisism and identity crisis among other things. Here Bharati Mukherjee who also belongs in this feminism era is dealing with the problems and issues faced by south Asian women specially Indians.


KEYWORDS: Society, Culture, Language, Value, Feminism, Immigrant, Identity.




One of the remarkable women writer, Bharati Mukherjee became a neutralized American citizen. She writes about the experience of Indian Women in diaspora. She is Indian born American writer also has always raised a question about the existence and origin of immigrants. The literature culture is not stagnant and constant it keeps on changing from time to time and it is cynosure on the issues of diaspora, globalization, consumerism, transnationalism, cultural hybridity and identity crisis.


These issues give rise to the identity crisis portrayed in socio-cultural setup which blends our tradition with maturity. Bharati Mukherjee is well known post- colonial contemporary writer. She presents the theme of cultural conflict in different perspective. She has unveiled her own self by the protagonists of her writings.


She has fought to give an identity to the Indian Immigrants in the US or western world. She has developed a keen interest in finding self-identity in cross-culturalism.


Bharati Mukherjee deals with the women’s conflict in search of her identity. The position of new immigrants from India to other countries is usually gets focused in her works. The expatriate’s experiences are vividly depicted there. She mostly takes female protagonists to depict different dimensions.


Through the female protagonist Tara, Bharati Mukherjee in her novel, has illustrated a balance between tradition and modernity that creates the bridge between past and present. Tara is not only motivated by ancient customs and traditions, but she is also rooted to modern customs. She is conscious of her existential crisis: “No one behind, no one ahead the path the ancients cleared has closed. And the other path everyone’s path… goes nowhere, I am alone and find my way.” Tara is distinguished from the society in a way that she acts like pendulum for whom one end is linked to the nostalgic amenities of traditional past and the other end to the romance and adventure of the fascinating present. These exodus qualities of Tara brings clashes but in the same time invites the establishment of the merging of the cultures of ancient and modernity.


Desirable Daughters, by Bharati Mukherjee, immensely depicts the concept of home and migration. It is only because of the sense of migration that brings about a change to the identity of Padma, who has finally finds suitable for New York to be her new home. But despite leaving in America, her sacrosanct attachment to her old home makes her to continue the Bengali Culture at her new place. Even though, the American culture cant stop her preserving her own traditional culture. It only rebuilds and helps at reestablishing her cultural identity. Hence migration plays a crucial role in keeping individual identities, cultural attitudes and perceptions under control.


The novel beautifully illustrates the thoughts and feelings of three Calcutta, India-born Brahmin upper-class sisters, renowned for their beauty, brains, wealth, and respected position in society.


Mukherjee narrates their lives from where they leave their childhood home that was filled with conservative mindset to the place where they are being educated by the Catholic nuns regarding culture, tradition and values. Thereafter, they went to different countries of which two of them immigrate to America and the other again shifted to Bombay, India. Padma, Parvati and Tara are the three sisters who have been named after goddess name in view that they will be blessed with luck and prosperity in her doings. However, they share the same birthday and they have 3 years of age difference among them.

“We are sisters three/as alike as three blossoms on one flowering tree. (But we are not),” says Tara, the protagonist, quoting a poem.


Desirable Daughters is the novel that took a considerable time to uplift itself and the themes that are highlighted here blooms after it releases. It seems to set the characters free from the trapped societal norms. This novel deals with both the modern and ancient Indian culture, it keeps afflicted down in tight little circles of detail that create an atmosphere of constricted inwardness or confined like introverts, even suffocation. Bharati Mukherjee, like in her previous four novels and short stories, tries to bring forward the conditions that enables the women of her culture nailed down in obsequiousness to male desires. As we go through the novel, we can feel the feelings and emotions of traditional Indian society.


The novel is centred around three bewitchingly-beautiful sisters who hails from an affluent Bengali Brahmin family in Calcutta. They are trapped between tradition and freedom and they often falls prey to those expectations that are wildly contradictory. Tara had a arrange marriage with Bishwapriya, who is a Silicon Valley Multimillionaire but later on she opted divorce from him , she’s raising a “quick to respond to” teenaged son on her own. She works as a lowly teacher, a choice which again is unfathomable for her culture.


Tara, narrates her story from her adopted San Francisco home, where she lives with Andy Karolyi, a Hungarian Zen carpenter who makes earthquake-proofs houses. The lifestyle of the protagonist implies, a hassle-free spirited lifestyle, but the truth is well known. The novel cynosures the revolts that involves trappings or reactions against the stereotyped thinking that Tara faced in her childhood.


In such a curious way Tara initiates her tale of regression with a legend about her namesake Tara Lata, also known as the Tree Bride — a prominent figure who became remarkable in the fight for Indian freedom. After making a way for more than twenty pages, Tara then rummaged into telling story of her own, which seems to be disengaging in nature. The absolute lack of romanticism was recalled in her marriage, in which her father told her, “There is a boy and we have found him suitable. Here is his picture. The marriage will be in three weeks.” Tara, not knowing any other way, submitted: “I married a man I had never met, whose picture and biography and bloodlines I approved of, because my father told me it was time to get married and this was the best husband on the market.”



1.      Mukherjee, Bharati.Desirable Daughters. New Delhi: Rupa, 2003.

2.      Lahiri, Sharmista,”where do I come from? Where do I belong? Identity and Alienation in Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters and Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake” South Asian Review 31.1(November 2q010):118-140.Print

3.      Esterbauer, VERNA (2008). The immigrant‘s search for identity in Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters. Saarbrucken; Verlag Dr.Mullar

4.      Agarval, Malti. English Literature voices of the Indian Diaspora. New Delhi; Atlantic Publishers and Distributors,2009





Received on 22.09.2022         Modified on 08.11.2022

Accepted on 16.12.2022      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2022; 13(4):261-262.

DOI: 10.52711/2321-5828.2022.00041