Winner of 1994 commonwealth Writers Prize, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy is a novel very realistically depicting the social and political life of post independence India. The story revolves around four families-the Kapoors, Mehras, Chatterjis and Khans. The backdrop of the story is the political upheaval in the post independent and post partitioned India of the 1950s. Particularly, the story deals with the life of Mrs. Rupa Mehra (a widow) and her youngest daughter Lata for whom Mrs. Mehra is looking for a suitable boy. Lata is of marriageable age but quite an independent and rebellious kind of a girl who is already in love with a Muslim boy. Mrs. Mehra’s sole aim in life is to look after and take care of her family, especially finding a suitable match for her youngest daughter.
The background of the novel is the underlying Hindu/Muslim conflict which flooded the period immediately after independence of India and Pakistan, and which is even today a threat to the South Asian subcontinent. The novel shows a conflict between Hindus and Muslims in the fictional city of Brahmpur, where the story is primarily set. One of the main aims of the novel is to infuse the spirit of religious tolerance among the Hindus and Muslims.
The story begins with Savita (Lata’s elder sister and Rupa’s daughter) and Pran Kapoor's wedding. It is here that Lata decides and makes it vocal that she will not go in for an arranged marriage like her sister. With time passing by, three suitors come in Lata’s life, all from diverse backgrounds.
Lata likes a Muslim boy who was her classmate and is a writer, but her mother has chose a self-made business man for her. Life moves on and Savita and Pran start their family life after marriage. Pran’s brother Maan falls in love with a girl from unsuitable family and his whole life gets transformed. On the other hand, Lata’s brother have a fight in Calcutta. The story delves into the normal and day to day routine life activities of India in 1951-52.
The novel is basically a love story and efforts of Lata’s mother to find a suitable boy for her daughter. There are four families involved in the story and the backdrop is the newly independent India of 1950s still struggling and grappling with the aftermath of partition. The author weaves a compelling tale revolving around these four families and their love, hatred, sadness, daily chores, lives, etc. the novel deals with the common man in times of crisis and a society that is a mix of different cultures, communities, and castes undergoing a change. These ordinary people are busy and trapped in the web of their own complex social and personal relationships, having their own prejudices and ambitions.