The greatest challenge for the main character of S.J Sindu’s book Marriage of a Thousand Lies is to be exactly who she is and not run (or disappear). The marriage that takes centre stage in the book is that of Lakshmi and Krishna.
The two met in college where Lakshmi discovered Krishna as the only other queer on campus of South Asian origin. Their marriage can sometimes be spiteful and distant and they both carry the emotional wounds of being in a loveless marriage. Both Lakshmi and Krishna come from South Asian traditional families and to the rest of the world; they are a happy heterosexual couple.
After Krishna’s parents disowned him due to his coming out, he found solace in Lakshmi and both of them forged a bond out of this. While alone or in places where they would be more accepted, they have the freedom to express their inherent sexualities, the sexism of their South Asian culture, restrictive gender expectations they’d been subjected to and their irreligiosity.
By marrying, they somehow box their identities in order to fit into a “world view” they can live with in order to be “accepted” into the local Tamil community that Lakshmi’s parents are members of. However, after moving to Bridgeport they allowed themselves a small taste of the freedom that they both desire. In an unlikely turn of events, the geographic separation from Lakshmi’s parents is not enough and even their marriage can’t provide the concrete wall that they so much needed.
The marriage only turns into stumbling block that prevents them from truly living the lives that they want to live. However, their marriage isn’t the whole story line of the book. Lakshmi gets called home when her grandmother is unwell. She gets caught up in a romance with Nisha who was her high school bestie and with whom she’d previously had a fling with.
Nisha is also engaged (to a man) and she creates a web around Lakshmi who is noncommittal about the fling but desperate to find some exit from a life that she feels has trapped her. Lakshmis parents have great jobs, are highly educated and progressive. They’re the kind of parents that vote for Obama.
However, they and the community they belong to are still extremely old fashioned and the women and men stay separately. Even though she’s married and in her mid-twenties, we see Lakshmi struggling to make decisions for herself as her mother seems to be firmly in control of her life.
When Lakshmi considers running away like her sister, we become privy to her mindset and mental state after years of hiding her sexuality and who she really is. Sindu understands what Lakshmi is going through and tells the story of the goddess Lakshmi and her husband Vishnu who transforms into a woman in order to seduce human men.
In way, Sindu alerts us to the ability of gender to shapeshift as well as the complexities of religion and culture. She also brings to light how the stories we tell of ourselves contradict the ones we know about the goddesses and gods we claim to worship.