Good Indian Daughter by Ruhi Lee

‘Our house was double-brick basket of stone fruit.’

Ruhi knows that she has fallen short of her parents’ expectations. For Ruhi, to be a ‘good Indian daughter’ means being someone completely different, negotiating a minefield of cultural expectations and being able to reconcile a lifetime’s full of conflicting messages. Ruhi has muddled through. But when she marries and becomes pregnant, Ruhi is overwhelmed by the emotional baggage she is carrying. Ruhi decided to face the past before her baby is born.

Ruhi and her parents emigrated from India to Melbourne, Australia when Ruhi was young. Like many other emigrants, Ruhi’s parents have made this momentous decision to provide a better life for their children. But the weight of these expectations combined with cultural differences can be a huge burden for any child, and Ruhi’s self-esteem is shattered.

Can Ruhi find herself if she revisits the past? Can her parents accept her for who she is rather than their idealised view of who she should be and rejecting her differences?

This is a well-written brutally honest account of reclaiming a life battered by the expectations of others. I think many readers from a variety of backgrounds will be able to relate to Ruhi’s journey. Yes, it is complicated by cultural issues but the underlying theme of ‘never feeling good enough’ is one many will understand.

I felt sorry for both Ruhi and her parents. Moving from one country to another can unsettle the strongest of families. Add in cultural differences and expectations, and the picture becomes more complex. I admire Ruhi for undertaking the journey to reclaim her life and hope that her entire family learns (and benefits) from the journey.

Well worth reading.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith