One of the "Truth Tales" is about a young woman, a doctor, whose husband has been dead for two years. Society tells her to keep on living with her mother-in-law and keep on tending her husband's shrine. She would like to meet new men.

Another story is about a wet nurse, a profession that some Westerners might assume is no longer being practiced anywhere in the world.Each of the seven stories in this book is from a different region of India, each written in a different language. They are translated now, published by India's first women's publishing house.

All the tales are written by women. All give a fascinating glimpse into the heart of another culture.

Westerners may not completely understand the culture described in these tales. We can understand, though, why Indian women chafe under the restrictions of caste and arranged marriages.

Many of the stories reveal the formalities of Indian communication. Subterfuges and intricacies surround even the simplest conversations.

In "Tragedy in a Minor Key," Mrinal Pande describes an exchange in which a college woman appears to accept an invitation to go to the movie with her friends.

She writes, "I knew I would not go to the movie, and so did they. Why bother then with these futile exchanges?"

We feel frustrated just reading about the rigid rituals of Indian life. Yet there are other aspects of Indian life that are rich and appealing.

There are some beautifully crafted stories in this varied collection, though two are long and boring. Even those that miss being great literature offer insights into the culture.

"India is the world's largest democracy," writes Meena Alexander in the introduction to "Truth Tales." And, Alexander believes, Indians are the most politically active of Third World women.

Indian women fought against the dumping of dangerous drugs by Western pharmaceutical companies; fought for decent wages for women; fought against the revival of sati (the ritual immolation of widows). Alexander sees them as a powerful force in literature as well as politics.

She writes, "There is an ancient tradition of women's writing in India, at least two thousand years old. . . ."

"Truth Tales" shows us the many forms that truth can take for the modern Indian woman.