Megha Ramnath, twenty-one years old and married but a year, personifies the dilemma of the dowry bride in modern-day middle-class India. Wed to her husband with the promise of a substantial dowry, when her family fails to give the agreed amount to the new in-laws, Megha finds herself the victim of a heinous scheme.
Waking in the night, Megha realizes that her husband is not in bed, nor is his mother in hers; hearing whispers, she creeps outside to the woodshed, where her husband and mother-in-law are discussing their plan to immolate someone on a kerosene-soaked platform. Shocked, she realizes she is the unfortunate person. Barely able to overcome her terror, Megha runs from the scene.
Although her husband is not an evil man, he is easily overpowered by his mother, Chandramma, a large, homely woman increasingly aware of the contrast between herself and her beautiful daughter-in-law. Fueled with rage at the lack of the promised dowry, not only does Chandramma consider murder, but she is devious enough to mislead authorities and bribe anyone willing to aid her cause. Against such a formidable opponent, Mehga is virtually helpless.
Racing through the city streets just before dawn, Megha barely escapes an attack by a stranger, crouching beside a wall to gather her thoughts and decide where to go. She is left with only one destination, one person the family might not consider when predicting her actions. A financially-secure family member, Megha’s savior welcomes the frightened girl and offers his help in escaping the family.
A few days pass without discovery and Megha, grown brave, visits her best friend. Thinking herself unobserved, the visits continue regularly, but eventually, Megha is discovered by a persevering mother-in-law who wants this girl out of her way so a new dowry bride can be found.
Filled with drama, romance, humor and tragedy, Bantwal has targeted a specific audience. Acknowledging that most literary novels are not read by the general public, Bantwal has written of Megha’s plight with attention to the very dramatic events that shape her flight from her in-laws, a romantic, but chaste attraction to the man who gives her shelter and an urgency to discover her own strengths so she will never fall victim to such a scheme again.
It is important to remember that this is a real and serious issue, grounded in reality, albeit spiced with romance and mystery, dowry brides often the unacknowledged victims of a social convention that turns a blind eye to their plight. Although Megha finds deliverance from those who would harm her in the arms of a good man, the reason for this protagonist’s dilemma is based in uncomfortable reality.