Sammar is a young Sudanese widow living in Aberdeen, Scotland working as an Arabic translator at a university. She is depressed and grieving over her husband who was killed in a traffic accident, and has left her young son to live with relatives in Khartoum. Sammar lives alone in a small apartment with little personal effects, and has few personal interactions other than with her co-workers. Her daily prayers give her something to hold onto, something that sustains her in her grief. Sammar is an observant Muslim: she wears a headscarf and only eats halal food, fasts for Ramadan, and she cannot marry the man she comes to love until he becomes Muslim.
Ria is a young Hindu woman hoping to study in America to advance her writing career. She is part of a large, well-to-do Delhi family that would love nothing more than to see her marry. However, Ria seems unable to form intimate relationships with men, and only after confronting and exposing her childhood abuser is she freed from her fears. Ria feels pressured by her family to conform: they believe she will be a successful writer, but the cultural expectations of marriage predominate. She also feels this pressure more acutely as her cousin’s wedding approaches, engulfing the family in money worries, adulterous liasons, and chaos of all sorts.
The Translator and Monsoon Wedding work together as amazing portraits of women and family — the former of a woman isolated and adrift until she can reunite with her far-off family and culture, the latter of a woman who learns to fight for her independence and selfhood within an almost suffocatingly close family and culture.