This is a 1938 novel by the Indian writer RK Narayan. This is from an omnibus collection of his novels I bought on a whim a few months ago and have thus far really enjoyed the two I’ve read so far and found it a fortuitous purchase given that I barely knew anything about him going in.
In this novel we begin with a married couple — a wife and her general businessman husband — arguing over a meal being served. Apparently the husband has decided that if he’s already paying for it, he most certainly deserves more vegetable than this meal otherwise contains. He laments paying a chef when his wife, who can cook better, could easily take on this additional responsibility. The scene then unfolds more and shows more of the life being lived in this house. The husband works 10-12 hours a day, spends hours playing cards at the club, and expects to come not only to a prepared meal, but to an enthusiastic family who have waited for him to enjoy their meal together.
It’s a pretty familiar scene. The novel then unfold as Savitri, the wife, deciding she’s had enough and rebelling in small ways. This of course allows everyone to better understand more of the sacrifices she’s been making.
This doesn’t really change a lot by the end, but it’s a moment of pure rebellion that is satisfying to watch, and finds itself enmeshed in the kinds of domestic incivility tropes we’ve come to expect, but clearly a kind of early example, and also one unexpectedly written by a male writer.