One and a Half Wife is the début novel by Meghna Pant who is a financial journalist by profession. This novel is the coming of age story of a girl torn between her dreams and the desires of the ones she loves and reveres.
One and a Half Wife is the story of Amara Malhotra, a shy little girl who lives with her Biji (Mother) and Baba (Father) in the beautiful and old-fashioned town of Shimla. The story begins one fine day when Biji takes Amara to a roadside Fortune teller to know about her future. The Astrologer’s parrot picks up a tarot card which foretells that Amara will remain but One and a half wife. This comes as a source of great disappointment to Biji who has big plans for her daughter, Green Card and rich bridegroom included. When Dua Uncle, Biji’s brother, sends the Green cards for the family, the Malhotras embark on their journey to fulfill their American dream. The first half of the story traces the family’s struggle to settle in the American society. While Biji and Baba struggle hard to make ends meet; Amara, living under the shadows of her richer cousins, fights her own battles to find an identity and acceptance in an alien land.
Amara’s life seems to take a drastic turn when she gets married to Prashant Roy, a rich Investment Banker, everything what Biji could ever dream for in her wildest dreams for her beti. However this was a marriage destined not to be. Amara finds herself stuck in a loveless marriage and in spite of her desperate efforts to save her marriage, is not successful. Amara’s family returns to India, unable to bear the stigma of having a divorced daughter at home. Whether Amara succeeds in her quest to find love and dignity in a conservative society or do her dreams shatter forms the latter half of the novel.
Amara is not able to save her marriage and has to go through a divorce. Unable to bear the stigma of having a divorced daughter at home, her family returns to Shimla. Whether Amara’s quest to find love remains unfulfilled or she finds love is the premise of the latter half of the novel.
For a first novel, Meghna Pant has done a great job. The story flows like a fluid Himalayan river and the book is practically un-putdownable. The sensitivity with which the author has created the characters is incredible. One seems to develop an instant bond with the protagonists and is actually bothered about what happens to them, feeling happy by their joys and saddened by their suffering. Amara feels as if she will come to life anytime and make the world fall in love with her. The Author weaves her words beautifully and sometimes gives such insights into life that make one sit up and notice and then smile with satisfaction. There are occasional flashes of another author from the hills- Shivani Pant, who was peerless in her understanding of the heart and soul of an Indian woman.
However, the novel has its shortcomings too. The story goes on a predictable note after the family moves back to Shimla. While not being as clichéd like French Lover, it still seems that the author was in a dilemma whether to tell a story and leave it at that or gives a social message. In the end, the social message it tries to convey looks a bit forced. The way things fall in place by the end make the reader feel as if the author was in a hurry to wrap things up.
Notwithstanding these trivial faults, One and a half Wife remains a compelling read. Among the recent crop books from the Indian Authors in English, it comes as a whiff of fresh air, not superficial but something which can touch you inside. Highly Recommended.
|Book:||One and a Half Wife|
|Number of Pages:||304|