I started reading Ambai with this book. I had heard of her and her books in the past, but somehow never got around to reading her. There was always this preconceived notion of her writing being acutely feminist in approach and style, and honestly I was not ready for that kind of fiction or non-fiction then. I picked up, “Two Novellas and A Story” on almost a whim or rather an impulse and sometimes the time is just right for these kinds of books. For me, it was now I guess. The thing about Ambai’s writing is that she opens a world through silences. There are no gaps in her stories and if there are, then it is for the reader to discover what is hidden. She does not give it all away and that is the beauty of her stories.
“Two Novellas and A Story” has obviously two stories and a novella, but also a very interesting essay on space and longing in women’s literature. Ambai’s literature is not feminist in nature. She tries to create a balance between men and women and observes their relationship dynamics with a fresh perspective.
The first novella in this small book is called, “Wrestling” and it is an unusual way of looking at a marriage and how sometimes both perspectives are needed. It is about music and ego and love which mostly is hidden. The plot is not wafer-thin. It is well-layered, though it takes time to get used to the characters’ names and the relationships, but when you start and immerse yourself in it, you are in for a ride.
At the same time, “A Deer in the Forest” is a story of a woman – who is the center of her many nieces and nephews and stepchildren and perhaps their children (or so I assumed) and more children of the household. Just that she cannot become a mother. And she allows her husband to get married again. She spins stories for the children. She continues to live life exactly in the same way like she did before.
This is what I loved about Ambai’s writing. She blends the plot in the ordinariness of life. It is built around the daily acts of living. It is through this that her writing shines and is most relatable by readers, irrespective of borders or languages.
Ambai is not a feminist in the real sense of the word. She is definitely on a mission, but at the same time, it is done beautifully through her stories and characters, that live in the world, and blend in, only to emerge victorious through their choices and opinions. I am absolutely looking forward to reading more of Ambai, because I know this will not be the end of my reading journey with her.