The narrator, Anju, and her cousin, Arundhati (Runu for short) are both young married Indian women who are pregnant for the first time, due to give birth within a few days of each other. The difference is that Anju lives in the United States and Runu in India. They write letters to each other, and when the story begins, Anju is planning a special telephone call to Runu because this is the day they are both due to get the results of their amniocentesis.

As Anju anticipates the phone call, she provides information about both women. She grew up in a relatively affluent family in Calcutta, went to college, and moved to San Diego with her husband, Sunil. Runu was less wealthy, and married into a large and traditional Brahmin family in the provinces. Runu is strictly controlled by her mother-in-law.

Anju receives her test results: her baby, a boy, is healthy. But Runu is expecting a girl, and because of this her family decides that she should have an abortion. She is devastated, and is planning to run away. Anju encourages her, but Anju's husband becomes angry, arguing that perhaps Runu should be obedient and have the abortion.

They argue, but then Anju remembers the ultrasound earlier that day, when she saw her son for the first time, and realizes that Runu must have had the same experience, and like her would do anything to protect the fetus. The story ends with her planning to help Runu to come to America, and imagining, almost certainly unrealistically, the future of their children together.


As well as providing a vivid basis for thinking about prenatal testing and the ethics of abortion (particularly as a form of sex-selection), this story explores the effects of traditional, and not exclusively Indian, culture on the lives of women. In the differences between Anju's and Runu's lives, and more subtly, but more tellingly, in the similarities--their shared terror of infertility, the difficulty of self-assertion--we are led to consider the ways in which reproduction lies at the center of a set of social structures more powerful than the main character at first can imagine. The story's uncertain ending provides an excellent starting point for discussion.

Primary Source

Arranged Marriage



Place Published

New York



Page Count