As she waits, she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror—naked, shameless, "free, afloat, watching somebody else."Panna's story in "A Wife's Tale" is exactly the opposite of the story of Dimple Basu, the compliant, clingy, and eventually mad émigré spouse in Mukherjee's 1975 novel Wife.
Panna is an intelligent, initially sad woman who, over the course of the story, comes to disconcerting insights about herself, her marriage, and her life in general.
On the 10th day of the visit the husband plans a sight-seeing tour, carefully determining which company provides the most sites for the least amount of money.
He sends Panna alone into the tour office to buy the tickets, for he realizes that Americans do not understand his accent.
The ticket seller, possibly a Middle Easterner, crudely propositions Panna.
Her husband, suspecting something of this nature, shows his own racial prejudice and chauvinist thinking, which blames the woman rather than the man for such incidents, by chiding her, "I told you not to wear pants. He thinks he can treat you with disrespect." Presumably, if she had been wearing Indian clothing, the incident would not have occurred.
Panna secretly resents what she perceives as Charity's "lurid" sex life and career drive, and she finds some small solace in imagining how Charity would fare in India: "Here, she's a model with high ambition.
In India, she'd be a flat-chested old maid." Moreover, Panna feels that Charity is actually being mean-spirited by asking her for advice about love, for Charity knows well that Panna's marriage was a traditional one arranged by her parents; all Panna needed to do was to learn what her prospective groom liked to eat.It also deals with the reactions of Americans, some only a generation or two in the United States, and other immigrant groups to these South Asians, whom Mukherjee calls "the new pioneers.""A Wife's Story" is told from the first-person perspective of Panna Bhatt, a middle-aged woman who has left India and her husband for two years after their son's death to study on scholarship for a doctorate in special education in New York City.She interacts with three other non-American characters, each of whom profoundly challenges her sense of self.In spite of serious labor unrest at the textile mill he manages, Panna's husband comes to New York to visit.(In keeping with the tradition that a good Hindu wife does not refer to or address her husband by his first name, he remains unnamed throughout the story.) To meet him at the airport, Panna changes out of her cotton pants and shirt—things she would never wear in India—into a sari and some of her best jewelry, especially her marriage necklace.With her fellow graduate student, the Hungarian expatriate Imre Nagy, she sees a performance of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross, which, with its ethnic slurs and stereotyping of Indians, offends her.