A Role of Socio-cultural Issues in Indian Fiction with Special Reference to Sudha Murthy’s Fiction


Dr. Rajesh Dattatray Zankar

Assistant Professor

Department of English

MVP’s Arts, Commerce & Science College,





Socio-cultural issues hold a significant place in Indian fiction as they provide a lens to understand the diverse social and cultural dynamics within the country. This abstract explores the socio-cultural issues depicted in the works of renowned Indian author Sudha Murthy, with a special reference to her fiction, specifically "Dollar Bahu" and "Wise and Otherwise." Sudha Murthy's writing reflects her keen observation and portrayal of the complexities of Indian society, addressing various themes such as caste-based discrimination, gender inequality, communal harmony, social disparities, and women's empowerment. Sudha Murthy's works also advocate for women's empowerment, addressing gender inequality and women's agency in Indian society. By examining these socio-cultural issues in Sudha Murthy's fiction, this abstract underscores the author's role in illuminating and fostering dialogue around the multifaceted aspects of Indian culture, identity, and social dynamics.


Keywords: Relativism, inequality, globalization, cast discrimination



Socio-cultural issues refer to concerns, challenges, or conflicts that arise from the intersection of social and cultural factors within a society. These issues arise from the ways in which individuals and communities interact, relate, and are influenced by the broader social and cultural context in which they exist. 

They encompass a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:


Diversity and inclusion: Socio-cultural issues encompass matters related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other dimensions of diversity. These issues involve addressing discrimination, promoting equal rights, and ensuring that all individuals have access to opportunities regardless of their backgrounds.


Cultural relativism: Socio-cultural issues arise when different cultural values, beliefs, and practices clash or come into conflict. Balancing cultural relativism (the idea that different cultures have their own internal logic and should be understood within their own context) with universal human rights can be a complex challenge.


Intercultural communication: Cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings, stereotypes, and communication barriers between individuals from different cultural backgrounds. These issues involve fostering effective communication, promoting cultural sensitivity, and encouraging intercultural dialogue.


Globalization and cultural identity: As the world becomes more interconnected, sociocultural issues emerge around the preservation of cultural traditions and identities in the face of globalization. These issues involve navigating the tension between cultural homogenization and the desire to maintain diverse cultural heritages.


Social inequality: Socio-cultural issues encompass issues of social justice, economic disparities, and access to resources and opportunities. They involve addressing poverty, education gaps, healthcare disparities, and other systemic factors that contribute to social inequality.


Social norms and values: Socio-cultural issues involve questioning and challenging existing social norms, values, and practices. These issues may pertain to changing attitudes toward gender roles, family structures, marriage, and other societal expectations.


The role of socio-cultural issues in Indian fiction

Socio-cultural issues play a significant role in Indian fiction as they provide a framework for exploring and reflecting upon the diverse social, cultural, and historical contexts of the country. Indian fiction often delves into various socio-cultural themes, shedding light on the complexities, challenges, and nuances of Indian society. Here are some ways in which socio-cultural issues contribute to Indian fiction:

  1. Representation and Identity: Indian fiction addresses issues of representation and identity, capturing the experiences of different social groups within the Indian context. It explores the struggles, aspirations, and perspectives of marginalized communities, women, religious minorities, and other underrepresented groups. This representation helps in understanding the social dynamics and cultural nuances prevalent in India.
  2. Social Hierarchies and Caste System: The Indian caste system is a longstanding socio-cultural structure that continues to influence society. Indian fiction often explores caste-based discrimination, social hierarchies, and the impact of caste on individuals' lives. By portraying characters from various caste backgrounds and examining their experiences, Indian authors shed light on the complexities and challenges associated with the caste system.
  3. Gender and Patriarchy: Gender dynamics and patriarchy are recurring themes in Indian fiction. Authors often explore issues related to gender inequality, women's empowerment, traditional gender roles, and the impact of patriarchy on women's lives. Such narratives contribute to discussions on feminism, women's rights, and societal expectations placed upon women.
  4. Religion and Communalism: India is a diverse country with a rich tapestry of religions and faiths. Indian fiction often delves into the complexities of religious diversity, interfaith relationships, communal tensions, and the consequences of religious extremism. These narratives provide insights into the social and cultural fabric of the country, exploring the interplay between religion, identity, and communal harmony.
  5. Cultural Traditions and Modernity: Indian fiction frequently juxtaposes traditional cultural values and practices with the forces of modernity and globalization. It explores the tension between preserving cultural heritage and embracing societal changes. This examination helps in understanding the evolving nature of Indian society and the challenges faced in navigating tradition and modernity.
  6. Socioeconomic Disparities: Indian fiction often reflects the vast socioeconomic disparities prevalent in the country. It highlights issues such as poverty, rural-urban divide, class struggles, and access to education and opportunities. By depicting characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds, Indian authors shed light on the impact of such disparities on individuals' lives and the need for social and economic reforms.


Sudha Murthy, an acclaimed Indian author and philanthropist, often incorporates socio-cultural issues in her fiction to shed light on various aspects of Indian society. Here are a few examples of how socio-cultural issues are reflected in Sudha Murthy's fiction:

  1. Caste-based Discrimination: In her book Dollar Bahu, Sudha Murthy addresses the issue of caste-based discrimination within families. The story revolves around a traditional family where the daughter-in-law, who belongs to a lower caste, faces mistreatment and discrimination from her in-laws. The novel explores the complexities of caste dynamics and the challenges faced by individuals caught in caste-based prejudices.
  2. Gender Inequality and Women's Empowerment: Sudha Murthy often highlights the struggles faced by women in Indian society and their quest for empowerment. In her collection of short stories titled "How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories," she portrays female protagonists who challenge societal norms, fight for their rights, and strive for independence. These stories touch upon issues such as dowry, female education, gender stereotypes, and women's agency.
  3. Social Disparities and Philanthropy: Sudha Murthy's works often emphasize the importance of philanthropy and addressing social inequalities. In her book "Wise and Otherwise," she shares real-life experiences of encounters with people from different socio-economic backgrounds. Through these stories, she highlights the disparities in society and encourages readers to contribute to positive change by helping those in need.
  4. Communal Harmony and Religious Tolerance: Sudha Murthy's writings often promote communal harmony and religious tolerance. In her novel House of Cards, she tells the story of a Hindu-Muslim couple and their struggles to overcome religious biases and societal prejudices. The book addresses the importance of acceptance, understanding, and mutual respect among individuals from different religious backgrounds.
  5. Education and Rural Development: Sudha Murthy's works frequently touch upon the significance of education and rural development in transforming lives. In her book "Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives," she narrates inspiring stories of individuals who have used education as a means to overcome social and economic barriers. These stories highlight the transformative power of education and the need for accessible educational opportunities, especially in rural areas.

Through her storytelling, Sudha Murthy portrays the realities of Indian society, challenges societal norms, and advocates for social change. Her works resonate with readers by addressing socio-cultural issues with empathy, compassion, and a desire to create a more inclusive and equitable society.


In Sudha Murthy's fiction, specifically in Dollar Bahu and Wise and Otherwise, socio-cultural issues are depicted to provide insights into various aspects of Indian society. Here are examples of how these issues are reflected in the mentioned books:

  1. "Dollar Bahu":
    • Caste-based Discrimination: Dollar Bahu explores the issue of caste-based discrimination within families. The story revolves around the daughter-in-law, Vinuta, who belongs to a lower caste and faces mistreatment from her in-laws. Sudha Murthy portrays the complexities of caste dynamics and the challenges faced by individuals caught in caste-based prejudices.
    • Traditional Gender Roles: The book delves into the traditional gender roles and expectations imposed on women in Indian families. Vinuta, the protagonist, struggles to balance her responsibilities as a daughter-in-law, wife, and mother, while also aspiring for personal and professional growth. The narrative sheds light on the limitations imposed on women and the desire for self-fulfillment.
  2. "Wise and Otherwise":
    • Social Disparities: Wise and Otherwise is a collection of real-life experiences that Sudha Murthy encountered while engaging with people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The stories reflect social disparities and the struggles faced by individuals living in poverty, highlighting the need for empathy, compassion, and social change.
    • Communal Harmony and Religious Tolerance: The book promotes communal harmony and religious tolerance through various stories. Sudha Murthy shares instances where individuals, irrespective of their religious backgrounds, display kindness, understanding, and respect for one another. These stories emphasize the importance of acceptance and unity in a diverse society.
    • Women's Empowerment: Sudha Murthy's stories in Wise and Otherwise often feature strong female characters who challenge societal norms and fight for their rights. These narratives explore issues such as gender inequality, dowry, and women's agency. The stories serve as an inspiration for women's empowerment and advocate for equal opportunities and respect.

Both Dollar Bahu and Wise and Otherwise showcase Sudha Murthy's keen observations of socio-cultural issues in Indian society. Through her storytelling, she raises awareness about these issues and encourages readers to reflect on and address them. Her narratives promote empathy, inclusivity, and positive social change.


Addressing socio-cultural issues requires open dialogue, empathy, understanding, and willingness to challenge and change existing social structures and norms. It involves promoting inclusivity, equality, and respect for diverse perspectives and cultures.


Overall, socio-cultural issues in Indian fiction provide a platform for authors to critically engage with the complexities of Indian society, challenge existing norms, and create narratives that promote dialogue, understanding, and social change. They help readers gain insights into the diverse aspects of Indian culture, identity, and social dynamics.



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6.     Murthy, Sudha. Dollar Bahu. Penguin Books, 2007.

7.     ---. Wise and OtherwiseA Salute to Life. Penguin Books, 2002.





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