Study Guide

Homeless Bird Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Gloria Whelan

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Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

Like her maa before her, and her maa, and as far back as anyone could remember, the women in our family embroidered. All their thoughts and dreams went into their work. (1.10)

Embroidery isn't just a past time for these women; it's also how they display their ideas and opinions, how they express themselves. Koly shares with us that each sari or quilt takes months to create, and her family's dreams have been implanted in the material by her mom, one stitch at a time.

Stories were told of girls having to marry old men, but I did not think Maa and Baap would let that happen to me. In my daydreams I hoped for someone who was handsome and who would be kind to me. (1.13)

Koly hopes for a strong hubby who is tall, dark, and handsome—but what she gets is a sickly boy with tuberculosis. The difference between her hopes for her marriage and reality are evident the second she meets Hari. As they say, you can't always get what you want.

I longed to beg my parents to take me home. I would promise to eat very little and work very hard. But I could not ask such a thing. To refuse to go through with the marriage would bring dishonor on my family. (1.59)

Did you notice that Koly is always thinking about what would shame or dishonor her family? That's because she's weighing the pros and cons of running away. On the pro list are freedom, happiness, and hope, but on the con list is shame for her family. It turns out she cares more about her family than her own dreams for the future.

I imagined myself returning to my village, to my maa and baap and my brothers. I wanted to picture welcoming looks on their faces when they saw me come back to them in my widow's sari. As hard as I tried, I could not put such looks on their faces, nor could I feel their welcoming embraces. (4.37)

Koly honestly doesn't think her family would embrace her with open arms. Her circumstances have changed now, and she's supposed to stay with her husband's family whether she like it or not. Even in her dreams, her family doesn't welcome her the way she wishes they would—so maybe there's some reality mixed into her dreams.

"Think of what her life is like with Hari gone. She has nothing to look forward to. Remember that without her dowry we would never have had the money to go to Varanasi, and her widow's pension these two years has added to Chandra's dowry." (5.17)

Mr. Mehta says this about Koly to try to get his wife to empathize with her, though of course it doesn't work. Still, we get a clear picture of how people in the book view widows as hopeless. Since Koly's life is essentially over now, Mr. Mehta says she has nothing to live for. Ouch.

I hoped that if I worked very hard, and did exactly as I was told, Sass might begin to look kindly upon me. I hoped that someday she might love me as she loved Chandra, or if not so much as that, at least a little. (6.2)

We know no amount of hoping will make this come true. Even though Koly tries to be a good daughter-in-law in the end, Mrs. Mehta just isn't going to come around to her. She just doesn't like Koly—never has, never will. Koly, however, never gives up hope on her sass. She dares to dream things might be better between them someday.

I began to make plans. I doubted that I could live on the pension alone, but my silver earrings would help until I could find a job of some sort. But who would hire me? In the city I would be seen as the poor country girl I was, shrouded in a widow's sari and with no proper schooling. (6.23)

Making some plans to get the heck out of Dodge helps comfort Koly and give her hope. She's living in a dark situation with Mrs. Mehta, but this allows her to think beyond her current plight and imagine a future full of possibility and hope.

If there were such cruelness in the world, then it might indeed be true that Sass had taken me to this place of widows just to get rid of me. I was alone in a strange city with only a few rupees and no friends. (8.10)

This is the lowest point for Koly: Not only does she get ditched by the mother-in-law that she despises, she also doesn't have any plans for how to get herself out of this sticky situation. What's more? She's not even looking forward to the future anymore.

"I'll work the farm, but I'll have to live with my uncle until I fix the house. It's fallen apart since my maa and baap died." He reached down and, picking up a handful of pebbles, began to pitch them into the river. "When the house is finished," he said in a low voice, "I'll want a wife." (9.40)

Raji fills Koly in on his plans for the future. Unsurprisingly, they involve getting a wife and settling down on his farm. Koly's happy for him, but it's also bittersweet. It makes her think of her future, too. She wishes he could stay her friends with Raji forever, but knows he should go find a wife.

Gazing down, Raji mumbled, "You would be my wife, of course." I stared at him. I had never imagined such a thing would be possible. I thought I must be dreaming. (11.13)

Koly can't believe her ears when Raji tells her this, partly because it's not acceptable for a guy to marry a widow in their culture. Happily for Koly, though, this dream is becoming reality.

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