A Perfect Life
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee
Genre: Short Story
- Wear, Delese
- Date of entry: Jan-24-2000
- Last revised: Jan-08-2007
The narrator, Meera, is an Asian Indian American with a "good life": a beautiful apartment in San Francisco, a challenging job at a bank, and an attractive, attentive, and successful boyfriend Richard. Despite her mother's constant urgings for marriage ("prelude to that all-important, all-consuming event--becoming a mother" ), Meera feels no compulsion to do so. Then one day her life is irreversibly changed when she finds, huddled under a stairwell in her apartment building, a young boy, who she take in and cares for as her own.
Fearful and wordless, the boy adapts to life with Meera, and she to him. Her friends, especially Richard, do not have a clue as to her intense attachment to Krishna, the name she has given him. Worried that she might lose him to child protective services, Meera goes through the process of becoming a foster parent without informing the authorities that she has Krishna living with her. When they find out, he is taken from her, placed in foster care elsewhere, and eventually runs away.
During the following year, Meera looks for him everywhere and grieves as a mother who had lost a child. She briefly considers moving back to India and taking her mother up on some of the men her mother had found for her, "if she could find me a widower with a little boy of about seven. Such a man, I reasoned, would understand about mother-love far more than Richard--or any other American male, for that matter--ever could." (106) But she does not, and eventually marries Richard, on the condition that they not have children.
As well as providing a rich, mysterious portrait of a woman's unplanned attachment to a child not her "own," this story explores the cultural complexities facing Asian Indian Americans who maintain strong family ties with India. But the story's most intense focus is on the mother-child relationship, raising questions about its social construction, its profound emotional component, and the mysteriousness with which it is evoked. Unraveling the nature of the relationship between Meera and Krishna, along with the puzzle at the end when Meera decides to get married on the condition that they not have children, provide intriguing discussions.