Status: Read from Nov 8 to Nov 11, 2017
My rating: /5
Author: Ambai, Translated by Lakshmi Holmström
Winner of the Hutch Crossword Translation Award 2006, this collection of stories revolves around personal loss, sexuality, and identity and selfhood. A sense of longing for meaning in a fluid world, In a Forest, a Deer articulates the real experience of women and communicates their silences in words and images.
Translated by Lakshmi Holmström, this work will be rewarding for anybody who enjoys good writing and will appeal to students and scholars of Indian writing, comparative literature, and translation, cultural, and gender studies.
I am a person who is not a fan of short stories (yes i do like short stories by Oscar Wild, O.Henry, and few indian authors like Premchand) and rarely a person to give 5 starts to any book of short story collections. But this book is extremely well written reaching extraordinary heights. Beautifully translated from Tamil, without losing the essence of the original language. All the stories in the book has a touch and essence of Indian life and culture. There is feminism with almost every story with a female protagonist. Ambai voices egalitarianism and compassion in her stories. I loved reading every single story in the book, few are my favorite as well. Journey 1, Paraskti and Others in a Plastic Box, Vaaganam, In a Forest, a Deer, Unpublished Manuscript, A Saffron – coloured Ganesha on the Seashore, A Movement, a Folder, some Tears.
In Journey 1, Ambai narrates a story of a lady, who gets peed on by a child, while traveling in a bus. This narration is funny and hilariously it showed, how people scan a women by her mangalsutra or toe ring to check if she is married or not. Even she is chided by passengers for asking the mother of the child to take care of him. In Journey 2, Dinakaran prefers to identify himself as a person from Tirunelveli, instead of a Madrasi, who can start his day only after taking bath in river Tambaraparni. He is not comfortable in Delhi, and find solace only after he finds a South India lodge and eats Tamil food. One and Another describes the gay love of Methew and Arulan in a very simple and pure form. Parasakti and Others in a Plastic Box is a story, where Amma says her needs are merger and she needs only a place to keep her plastic box containing her idols of Gods and Goddess, but she’s an institution in herself. And her daughters short out how to provide Amma her own house, so that she can live happily in her house. In a Forest, a Deer is about Thangamma Athai, who fails to bear any children, but she finds a second wife for her husband, and also treats every child in the village as her own child. Though everyone has so much respect for her, but her body is considered as a hollow body which never blossomed. In Unpublished Manuscript, Tirumagal, brought up with love and care by her father, Ramasami, is a professor at Banaras University, heading the department of English. She is fond of Tamil poetry, and falls in love with a famous Tamil poet, Muthukumaram and marries her. But her married life turns into a nightmare. This story narrates how with all difficulties she takes great care of her daughter Senthaamarai, without giving up her career. In A Saffron-coloured Ganesha on the Seashore, a Christian fisher man, finds parts of Ganesh idol in the shore, that has washed and reached here after last night’s Ganesh procession. With the help of few other fisher folks, he take those pieces of the idol in his motor boat to sunk them in the sea, because after all, it’s someone’s deity. A Movement, a Folder, Some Tears is story of three women activists, their great work, but one end up committing suicide. The story shows some brutal picture of the Gujarat riots. The book also contains a story narrating about the modern day Sita.
So, you see, in a single book, Ambai has picked up so diverse plots touching every sensitive social issue delicately in Indian community bringing in the revolution. Lakshmi Holmström has done a amazing work in translating this book by keeping the traditional touch and not disrupting the revolutionary facets in the book. I again repeat, it’s a five star read for me, and i recommend this to everyone. This is a gem in Indian Literature, and i am sure you will not be disappointed.
About the Author:
Ambai is the pen name of Dr C.S. Lakshmi, a historian and a creative writer in Tamil who writes about love, relationships, quests and journeys in the Tamil region and elsewhere. She is much loved for her wit, her inventiveness, the lyrical grace of her writing, and the manner in which she challenges received notions. Ambai spent much of her childhood in her grandparents’ house in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Her adult life, on the other hand, has been spent outside Tamil Nadu, in Delhi and in particular, Mumbai. Her stories are drawn from memories of her childhood and adult hood, and interspersed with others which are placed elsewhere – Spain, America, or imaginary and mythological places. Her stories have been translated by Lakshmi Holmström in two volumes entitled A Purple Sea and In a Forest, a Deer. Ambai was awarded the Lifetime Literary Achievement Award of Tamil Literary Garden, University of Toronto, Canada, for the year 2008. An independent researcher in Women’s Studies for the last thirty-five years, Ambai is the author of several critical books and articles. She is currently the Director of SPARROW (Sound & Picture Archives for Research on Women).
Lakshmi Holmström MBE (1 June 1935 – 6 May 2016) was an Indian-British writer, literary critic, and translator of Tamil fiction into English. Her most prominent works were her translations of short stories and novels of the contemporary writers in Tamil, such as Mauni, Pudhumaipithan, Ashoka Mitran, Sundara Ramasami, C. S. Lakshmi, Bama, and Imayam. She obtained her undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Madras and her postgraduate degree from University of Oxford. Her postgraduate work was on the works of R. K. Narayan. She was the founder-trustee of SALIDAA (South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive) – an organisation for archiving the works of British writers and artists of South Asian origin. She lived in the United Kingdom.
She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to literature.
She died of cancer on 6 May 2016.