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Indian Streams Research Journal

Vol - I , ISSUE - VI [ July 2011 ] : English ISSN:-2230-7850

Article : The Corrupt Urban Culture in Shobha Des Sisters

Author : Chintan Ambalal Mahida [ Dr. Jivraj Mehta Institute of Technology,

Mogar ]


The works of feminist writers of India in 1990s mirror a realistic picture of the
contemporary educated, urban Indian women. At a glance, their novels appear to
be a product of feminism. On the other side, they satirize modern urban culture in
the frame of feminism. To project urban culture, they have changed tradition
picture of enduring, submissive and self-sacrificing women with a new picture of
bold and liberated urban women. Shobha De is renowned for bold and frank style
of writing. She explored the lives of bored housewives and their loveless rich
husband and family. Her novels mirror the life styles of the elite and the middle
classes of urban world.
Shobha Des Sister is a story of corrupt urban culture where human relationship
has lost its all values. At the same time, it is a tale about emotional bond between
two sisters, Mallika and Alisha. They are the daughters, one legitimate and the
other illegitimate, of big time business man Hiralal who dies at the beginning. The
story revolves around the corrupt urban world of business in Bombay. It is full
of sex, betrayal, hatred, intrigue and corruption. Shobha De successfully depicts
evils of corrupt urban culture and salvation of main characters form these evils.
Ultimately, it is not a salvation or an escape , but an acceptance of reality.
Indian Streams Research Journal
Vol - I , ISSUE - VI [ July 2011 ] : English ISSN:-2230-7850

The Corrupt Urban Culture in Shobha Des Sisters

Chintan Mahida
Assitant Professor in English ,
Dr. Jivraj Mehta Institute of Technology, Mogar, Dist. Anand, Gujarat.

A typical Indian feminist novel records the suffering of urban middle class
women in the patriarchal set up. This type of novel generally includes growth of a
girl in the Indian middle class family with her male siblings to focus on gender
discrimination; later on it focuses on the challenges of her married life where she is
unheard, neglected and suppressed. And finally this suppressed volcano of woman
protagonist results into liberty, self-respect and struggle for self-identity. Women
writers like Shashi Deshpande, Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai, Shobha De in India
have changed traditional picture of enduring, self-sacrificing women with new bold
and liberated urban female characters in their fiction.

Shobha De is renowned for bold and frank style of writing. She explored the
lives of bored housewives and their loveless rich husband and family. Her novels
mirror the life styles of the elite and the middle classes of urban world. Her style of
discussing womans issue in her novel is quite challenging and untraditional. She
does not hesitate to deal with sex. Accodring to B.J.Geetha, Shobha Des Sisters
is miniature of the messy life and moral chaos of the urban culture. Sisters deals
with the psychic conflict of woman protagonist who is caught between a personal
self and a societal self. Sisters is a story of the life of young men and women of the
urban world where love and virtues are dead.

The story of Sisters revolves around Mikki (Mallika) Hira Lal who returns
home from U.S.A to attend the funeral of her parents who were killed. According
to newspapers, Hira Lals involvement in multi core scandal and his financial debt
of 80 crores caused the death of him. Mikki becomes the sole owner of her fathers
vast property. Mikki takes hold of the industries of her father , which requires a lot
of attention. Mikki is least affected emotionally by her dead parents. She
remembers her mother never put sindoor. The reason behind this thing is the
Indian Streams Research Journal
Vol - I , ISSUE - VI [ July 2011 ] : English ISSN:-2230-7850

parental indifference which she felt in her childhood. Here, De mirrors modern
urban culture where family lost its all values and children witness the parental
indifference and seems least connected to family. Mikki is a very matured and
decisive woman character. Shobha De always tries to give her female characters
their own identity in the society by making them bold, confident and professional
in urban atmosphere. K.K. Sinha rightly
states, Shobha De stands for equal and normal treatment to the woman in this
hurly-burly world of ours.She stand for the New Woman casual looking but
ambitious, professional focused and in control. Mikki seems bold and confident
in business world, following the pattern of Shobha Des typical female characters.
Anjanaben call her , a difficult girl. She has confidence, ambition, lust, greed and
hate which makes her untraditional woman. Shobha De only put Indian names and
setting in Sisters, the novel is much inspired by western culture.

Apart from being just a professional woman, Mikkis second main task is to
win the heart of her step-sister Alisha from her fathers kept, Leelaben. This secret
is known to Ramanbhai, a trusted employee of Hiralal. Alisha hates her and
mistrusts her. It is difficult for Mikki to handle both of these tasks due to her
inexperience. Alisha is outraged by the column that the Seth was Survived by his
only child, a daughter, Mallika, studying in the US. Alisha appears as an angry
young woman. The main problem of her character is her conflict about her identity.
She questions, and what about me ? What am I? A puppy ? A kitten ? She
regards Mikki as her enemy number one. For Alisha, wealth is more valuable than
relation but for Mikki, relations are more important than money. Alisha addresses
Mallika with abusive words like fucking charity and bitch. The contrast
between these two sisters makes this novel worth reading.

Miikki represents an urban rich class woman. Shobha De portrays her

character as an urban old woman by narrating her interest in parties and in her
contact with young and middle aged persons. Mikki trusts Ramanbhai, an old
associate of her father. She says, the corporate world is full of sharks,
Ramankaka. I am glad that I have you on my side. But in reality, Ramanbhai is a
tricky man. He just wants to increase her dependence upon him. Many young
characters are interested in her. Navin, her friend Shanay, Anjanabens sons, and
industrialist Binny Malhotra are interested in her. Shanay is a cousin of Mikki.
Anjanaben strongly desires that Shanay is married to Mikki. But Shanay is afraid
and fearful of Mikki. Shanay is inducted into Hiralal Industries by Mikki. His
Indian Streams Research Journal
Vol - I , ISSUE - VI [ July 2011 ] : English ISSN:-2230-7850

induction is not liked by most of the workers and particularly by Ramanbhai.

Mikki asks him to keep a close watch over the activities of people. Sanay works
very sincerely for Mikki. Sanay finds the cause of her fathers murder. Mikki does
not accept this report. Her sharpness of character is clearly reflected by the fact that
she does not trust in the surface reality. She wants to go deeper into the matter. She
advices Sanay to go deeper into the report of her fathers death.

Mikki is very tactful in selection of a life partner. She finds Navin as not
suitable for husband. Mikki is attracted to Binny. Binny, being a master of love
making and being a womanizer enjoys sex with Mikki. Her friend Amy also warns
her against Binny. Mikki decides to marry middle-aged Binny despite oppostition
from Amy, Shanay and Ramanbhai. Binny shows real charcter of his character
after marriage. He continues to enjoy with other ladies. Before marriage, Binny
addresses Mikki as my princess but after marriage , he orders her Be my slave.
Being a part of patriarchal system, Binny does not allow Mikki to be an active
partner both in life and business. He wants her to keep inside his house. Here,
Shobha De satirizes the institution of marriage and patriarchal society. Befort
marriage, all the males behave like slaves to their wives. Mikkis marriage is
failure. Mikki is beaten and forced to leave the house by Binny. She comes back to
her parents place and seeks the help of Alisha. Alisha enjoys sex with Navin as
she knows that Navin has relationship with Mikki in the past. It is an act of
revenge, not an act of love or sex. Her relationship for Dr. Kurien who attends her
in hospital is purely physical as the doctor has his wife and children. Alisha
represents the authors own desire for liberation for women in sexual matters.
According to Shobha De, All people need sex. It is something special, something
beautiful, something shared. To a questions by a woman, sexwho need
? Shobha De answers, Everybody, darling everybody. [Sing, K. p.208] Shobha
De does not ignore the subject of sex. The sex is considered a a taboo subject.
De confess, It is important for women to talk about it. Our mother endured it
silently because it was a taboo subject. Nobody was interested in womens view
on sexIt is a kind of catharsis. [Survival Tactics] Sex for Shobha Des
female characters is a life reality. They accept it as an inseparable part of life. They
think and discuss about it openly. Here, both female characters of Sisters considers
sex as reality of their lives. Mikki and Alisha cross the boundary of a typical
traditional Indian Woman.
Indian Streams Research Journal
Vol - I , ISSUE - VI [ July 2011 ] : English ISSN:-2230-7850

Alishas life is saved by Mikki, who gives her blood during her critical
situation in hospital. This incident brings them closer and they unite with each
other. Alishas passion for sex continues till the end of novel. She continues to
enjoy sex with males. Binny dies in car accident only days before his divorce with
Mikki. She inherits all of her husbands property too. Ramanbhai wants to kill her
but Shanay rescues her. The novel ends with an epilogue. Both the sisters decide to
depart to London. It is not a departure, but a salvation or an escape from the evils
of corrupt business world. The last scene is a warning by Alisha to the bachelors
who pays no attention to her and Mikki. Both Alisha and Mikki establish
themselves as libereated, bold and sexully frank ladies of urban culture throughout

Shobha De depicts the urban world where man and woman do not become
one in marriage, they merely act as partners in love. Freedom of urban culture,
uncontrolled passion for sex and lust destroys the beautiful lives of men and
women and finally they get frustration of life. The high flying modern urban
culture is destroying Indian culture and tradition. Money has taken place of human
affection. Materialistic success of urban world has wiped out all human values.
Shobha Des Sisters is a mirror of vulture like urban culture where all human
relationships have lost its values.
Reference :
1. De, Shobha. Sisters. New Delhi: Penguin Books,1992. (All the parenthetical
references are extracted from the same publication)
2. Sinha, K.K. The Current Agenda of the New Women : Femininism in
Novels of Shobha De. The Fiction of Shobha. De. Ed. Jaydipsing Dodiya.
New Delhi : Prestige Books, 2000.
3. Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago : University of Chicago
4. Das, Bijay Kumar. Critical Essays of Post -Colonial Literature. New Delhi
: Atlantic Publishers, 2007.
5. Geetha, B.J. The Wacky World of Spurious Affinity an Appraisal with
Reference to Shobha Des Sisters.
6. Hudge, Dattatraya and Dr. Rajkumar M. Lakhadive. Love-Hate
Relationship in Shobha Des Sisters. International Research
Journal. (2009) Vol. I, Issue-5.
7. Karekatti, Tripti. Theme of Sisterhood in Shanta Gokhales Rita Welinkar,
Shashi Deshpandes A Matter of Sisters and Shobha Des Sisters. Indian
Indian Streams Research Journal
Vol - I , ISSUE - VI [ July 2011 ] : English ISSN:-2230-7850

women writing in English: New perspectives. Ed. Sathupati Prasanna Sree.

New Delhi: Sarup & Sons,2005.