Study Guide to “The Death of Vishnu”

Facts about the text ”The Death of Vishnu”

Author: Manil Suri
Title: The Death of Vishnu
Year of publication: 2001
Main characters: Vinod Taneja og Sheetal

Background

Arranged marriages

”The Death of Vishnu” depicts a traditional arranged marriage in India. It
is common practice in India that the parents select a suitable spouse for
their son or daughter. Marriage is a matter between the families of the
paired couple, not between the bride and groom themselves. The future
newlyweds have no actual choice, even though they might not know each
other.

Trousseau

An important tradition related to arranged marriages is the trousseau. A
trousseau is a gift which the bride’s family gives to the groom’s family as a
necessary part of the wedding preparations (e.g., jewelry or even a car).
This gift can also come in the form of money, in which case it is called a
dowry. It is then for the groom’s family to decide whether the gift is worthy, and a trousseau or dowry can easily amount to a smaller fortune.

Future parents wish for boys

Since the trousseau is given by the bride’s family, there is a clear financial
benefit in having boys over girls. Also, the trousseau indicates that men
are of more value than women in that a trousseau is required in order to
make a woman match a man.

Vishnu

The title, “The Death of Vishnu”, refers to the all-powerful Indian god
Vishnu who is a central figure in the religious tradition of Hinduism. See
the item The title for an interpretation.

Summary of the text

Manil Suri’s ”The Death of Vishnu” takes place in Mumbai, India, and is
about Vinod Taneja, a young newly educated banker. Vinod has agreed to
merry Sheetal, the niece of his uncle’s wife, mainly because it is what his
family wants. Vinod only has a vague recollection of Sheetal, but he has
never spoken to her. When Sheetal’s mother presents the trousseau,
some sets of jewelry, to the groom’s family, Sheetal looks at Vinod with keen contempt. The next time he sees her is at the engagement ceremony
and this time they neither exchange words or glances. In the following
period of time, Vinod spends his days at his new job in the bank and he
suppresses the thought of the forthcoming wedding as well as his future
life with Sheetal.

It is not until the very wedding that he comes to realize that he is going to
get married – and his bride to-be is basically a stranger to him. Later, in
the wedding-night room, he looks clearly into Sheela’s eyes for the first
time, and he is relieved to find neither defiance nor dislike, but calm curiosity. This is also the first time the two are alone and the silence is difficult
to handle.

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Study Guide to “The Death of Vishnu”

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