Skip to main content

A Book Review: One and a Half Wife by Meghna Pant

When I picked up Meghna Pant's One and a Half Wife, it is the title that evoked a curiosity in me more than the blurb that explains the story of a young Indian Immigrant girl whose Big American dream turns to ashes. To be honest, I’d say that there didn't seem to be a 'new-ness' to the way the blurb explained the story. In fact, if given a second chance, I’d suggest to the author to completely rewrite the blurb because it is plain dull and doesn't do justice to the subtle, exquisite nuances that underlines this deeply touching, well written story. 

Talking about nuances, I like the introduction of the story beginning with a parrot who picks up cards to predict the little girl Amara’s destiny as a ‘one and a half wife.’ The description is deeply touching and will evoke interesting memories with a distinct Indianess that all of us can relate to. The author adds a dash of subtle humor too, poking fun at the silliness of some outdated beliefs that Indian parents cling to.

One fakir studied the moles on Amara’s face and declared her unlucky. Another poked her ears with a steel pin and after comparing the wax inside her left ear to the one in her right, warned Biji of the presence of an evil eye. A holy man determined the strength of the breath exhaled from Amara’s nostrils and charted her husbandless future in accordance.

Guess you know now why I’m recommending this book. It’s well-crafted, warm, full of social relevance, identity crises that we all go through in life and it’s got many moments that can evoke memories lying within ourselves. Don’t miss reading this book.


One and a Half Wife: The Story
Amara is a good Indian girl who is groomed right from birth for the most important moment in a girl’s life. Typically, you'd have guessed what that is: the Big American Dream that would pave the way for finding the Prince. Indeed, all her struggles in life are for that. Like most Indian girls who grow up in orthodox families, Amara is taught not to argue with her parents or question their decisions about her life and especially about her marriage.

With the help of Dua Uncle who is Amara’s maternal uncle, Amara’s parents finally get the Green Card and go to America. This seems to signal the culimination of all their dreams for Amara’s marriage. But this doesn’t bring them the ‘social equality’ they dream of having. For instance, Amara’s cousins, Tina and Riya, are cold, aloof and distant to her. They treat her like a stray pet that has been picked up from the street. In school too, they show no recognition they are related to her. When she makes attempts to visit them or to talk to them, they shut the door in her face. While this may have stories within itself, it also conveys how several Indians, wherever they are, carry their social biases and unique identity traits with them.

Thus, Amara learns:
“It was consequently fitting for an immigrant to blend in with America like sugar with water or better still, to avoid a diabetic relationship, to blend in like air with water.”
“Everything fits together in America except the immigrant’s identity.”

The Twist in Amara’s Story
The turning point in Amara’s otherwise dull existence is that when Amara gets married to the millionaire Prashant Roy. The twists, the turns and the social nuances of pretending that a marriage is fine despite the long cold, silences between a husband and wife are well punctuated within the story itself. So, what makes Meghna Pant’s treatment of ‘divorce’ different?

Let me clarify. Acclaimed Indian authors such as Anita Desai, Anita Nair, Kavery Nambisan and Manju Kapur have explored multi faceted dimensions that map incredibly well to the conflicts and tensions that resonate in an Indian marriage. So, the question that inevitably pops up is this: ‘what has Meghna Pant done differently with this novel?”

Meghna Pant has treated Amara’s divorce as an opportunity than as a tragedy or the breakdown of a marriage that could have been made to work somehow. She portrays the social stigma associated with divorce in the Indian community but does not cease to showcase Amara’s divorce as a transition into a happier, better future. This approach is solution-oriented and practical. This contemporary accuracy and the level of detailing is what makes this book worth more than just one read.

On hearing about her divorce, for instance, Amara’s strong willed mother Biji tells her, “You, stupid, stupid girl, a daughter is a reflection of her mother. Now I will have to carry my ‘die-force’ shame on my head.”

But some months later, the same mother urges her to consider proposals from suitable men who are keen to marry her despite the divorce. That’s what I mean by saying Meghna Pant’s approach to all the problems Amara faces are “practical and solution-oriented.”

The more Amara tries to break out of her former mold, the more difficulties she faces. But one by one, she finds her way towards getting what she desires instead of what others desire. This begins Amara’s journey into the discovery of her self.

One and a Half Wife: Does Amara find love?

Read the book to find out. It’s worth reading. I can vouch for that. It won’t change your life or transform your unhappiness into instant joy. It offers no miracles but it gives you inner courage, the hope to move on despite the odds and the realization that every time we cross a difficult hurdle and fall, we grow new ways and methods to cross it without falling again.

One and a Half Wife: What does Amara learn?

  • Get in touch with what you desire. Then go out and do that.
  • You are only as weak as you allow yourself to be.
  • Your mind can be as strong as it can be delicate. It can be both a flower and a rock. So learn to define yourself.
♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all those who enjoy reading books by Indian writers. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who love reading books by Indian writers. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥


Comments

Anonymous said…
I agree. I really enjoyed reading this novel. Loved the cover, the title, the writing, the story and the characters. I think this is a welcome addition to India literature. I was frankly fed up of all the mediocre writing in the last years. So it was really grt to finally sit down with an amazing novel that has a good story and excellent writing. Someone should make a movie of it!
Anonymous said…
I highly recommend this novel to anyone. I simply loved it and couldn't put it down. I was up till 6 am on a work day :)

Most Popular Posts

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

Many years ago, when I wrote this post on Kerala's caste system, I had not considered the possibility that my thoughts and my personal journey would receive such online abuse or that I would be seen as some one who was trying to insult other castes. The intention of writing is always to share an experience and not to insult others. My experience of motherhood and marriage would be different from yours. When I write about my experience, it is illogical to shout that as being insulting to your experience because our journeys are entirely different narratives. 

My question is - why do you ABUSE any caste or person here? You are free to disagree but why do you ABUSE? How does that reflect on YOU?

In my article, I shared what trials I went through, without any intention to insult any community.The intention of my article is to question - why are we even exchanging insults over an issue called caste? 

Should we not be aspiring to be above caste considerations instead of abusing each other …

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Meaning, Benefit of Chanting and Who can Chant the Mantra

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra
This mantra is believed to have the power to remove all sufferings, diseases and bestow the one who chants it with good health and long life. It is also believed that constant contemplation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
What got me fascinated about this mantra is something personal.  I learned this mantra from my father but it is my maternal grandmother who chanted it all the time and repeatedly told me of its tremendous power to protect. However, I did not chant this mantra regularly. [ Do READ: THE POWER OF LOVE]
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he became very enthusiastic about chanting the mantras. Following this, my mother taught him the Maha Mrity…

Amazing Signs You are an Earth Angel

Doreen Virtue’s book, “Assertiveness for Earth Angels” brings to life the reality of Earth Angels in very easy way. It’s an exciting must-read! 

[DO READ: The POWER OF LOVE]

Earth Angels have amazing superpowers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions and  becoming invisible at will.
[MUST READ: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]
DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

How to Identify Earth Angels by their Traits
To know whether you are an Earth Angel, take a look at their known traits that are explained in this book:


You have a graceful and compassionate aura that inspires people.Your presence “lifts” everyone to happier spirits – it is proof of who you really are.You don’t judge others but you overdo the “acceptance” bit. So, you tolerate even those who show no respect for boundaries.You cannot stand anyone suffering or being in pain. You are constantly “rescuing people” because it is in your nature to want to see everyone happy in …

Sukhamo Devi: Directed by Venu Nagavally

Not just as a fan of Venu Nagavally but as an avid movie watcher, I have to admit that Sukhamo Devi is a path breaking Malayalam movie that influenced many youths in Kerala. A campus romance with a most heart wrenching narrative and happy moments, by his own admission, Director Venu Nagavally called it a true portrayal of his own tragic love story.



The campus movie paved the way for a great shift in the realm of story telling, scripting, music and even the characterization of the protagonists. The way this movie reached out to touch and influence young minds cannot be expressed sufficiently in words. It changed our perceptions about campus romance, friendships, relationships and even the intimacy of our experiences in campus once we have come of the mould and learned to separate ourselves from those whom we once considered central to our happiness in life. 

Remember, the song ''Sukhamo Devi'' and see how it just transports you into another world altogether? Mohanlal, Sh…

Top 10 Skincare tips for Summer

Come summer, and we women worry a lot about how the sun lashes out on our skin. True, skincare tips for the summer are plenty but what about the hushed secrets - yes, those tried and tested family secrets that are passed on from mother to daughters? [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]




Here are some that are totally easy to do. Best of all, these are effective and bring on a feel-good factor in the peak of summer.

1. Replace water with rosewater. It keeps your skin luminous and fragrant throughout the day. It's a good toner too.

2. Cleanse your skin by combining these ingredients - honey, milk, rosewater/rosepetals and turmeric. Add a dash of olive oil and yes, it feels wonderful.

3. Almond oil body baths are a must-have! You will smell delicious all day. This summer, skip all those body lotions & moisturizers! You will love the way almond oil pampers your skin all day!

4. Use a mixture of almond oil and olive oil for your feet. Your feet will sparkle an…

A Dad's advice to the daughter he loves: Be yourself, remember you are special and treasure your strengths

Just a week ago, Dad gave me a very emotional pep talk at the Bangalore airport. The good thing is that whenever I feel emotionally vulnerable or stressed out, I replay Dad's conversation. It lifts me up and instantly brings a huge smile to my face. That's my Dad - yeah! 




As a teenager, Bangalore used to be one of my favorite cities though the garden city was not as ''global'' and ''vibrant'' as it is today. It was a pretty cool place to go shopping for stylish accessories, not that I could splurge and go crazy with shopping but I could do so on a limited budget. So, I used to look forward to our summer trips to Bangalore, from where we would head out to Whitefield. 

The busy, broad streets, the scent of street food and the vibrant atmosphere had always perked me up every time I reached Bangalore. Be it heading to Puttaparthi or Whitefield, my parents and I have traveled to Bangalore so many times that it became a kind of ''routine'…

Conversation with a friend: How to deal with the death of a loved one and Three Lessons I learned

The simplest lessons are always the toughest to learn.This December, a classmate passed away and I was totally shocked to hear the news. Another shock came my way. I heard that another classmate's husband had passed away and when I received the news, I felt very deeply for her.
[Image: Pexels.com]
1. Reach Out, Show You Care and Be Honest
For me, my classmate is someone whom I had shared countless jokes and conversations with when we were young. Our conversations and happy moments have never faded though we have become different individuals with completely different journeys in life.  So, yes, I plucked up the courage to call and show that I am with my friend through this moment of grief. The experience of the conversation we had humbled me like a lesson of life and the blessing was that I felt much lighter within. 

2. Honour the need of others to grieve in their way
I believe that the ''body'' alone perishes but not the soul. I don't offer my beliefs  to those who …

Mumbai Police Movie Review: Prithviraj breaks the typical 'hero' mold, challenges sexual stereotyping

Exploring a completely different dimension in his latest film Mumbai Police, Director Rosshan Anddrews delivers a fast-paced, thriller film after his award winning fims such as Udayananu Tharam, Notebook and others.



To flesh out the script written by Boby Sanjay, Rosshan Anddrews ropes in actors such as Prithviraj, Rahman and Jayasurya to portray three police officers: Antony Moses, Farhan and Aryan respectively.
The story begins with a phone call that Antony Moses (starring Prithviraj) makes to Farhan (starring Rahman) saying that he has solved the murder mystery of Aryan (starring Jayasurya). Just as he says this, there is an accident and Antony Moses loses his memory. From then, Farhan's attempt is to take Antony through people and places that are likely to trigger his memory so that they can solve the murder of their close friend and colleague Aryan. A series of events happen, almost hurtling us towards it.
And I am taking the liberty to hand out trophies for the following:
'M…

Childhood is the best part of life

Memories have a funny way of coming back into my head, sometimes when I am about to get ready to go to work or sometimes like a flash from the past. It happens to me all the time - swathes of childhood memories flooding back. This time, as the first touches of winter began to make itself felt in Delhi, I went on a trip to Goa with my son and close friends. From the moment I landed in Goa till I got back, I was on a happy high, like a teenager who's going on a much awaited holiday.  Let me tell you a funny thing. I even went and bought myself a swimming costume to wear for the first time since my teenage years but guess what? The funniest part comes now - I never got to wear it. Maybe the idea was just to feel like a teenager again as I am growing older, not wiser! Hahaha!  [MUST-READ: Mahashivaratri - I'm loving it!]


[Image: Pexels]

The Goa trip was an incredible experience that took me back to where I really came from, where my heart has always been - Blantyre. That's where…

Balanced diet for ladies: Eat according to your body’s age

Experts say that as years roll by, your body’s ability to absorb nutrients decline, so it is even more important to formulate a balanced diet and eat according to one’s age.

The following age-specific information (excluding the details given under ‘Expectant Mothers’) is a summary from an article I read in the popular UK food magazine called Delicious and the article is titled “Eat your age: Wise up to your changing needs.” It is written by Anna Montague and published in  March 2011.
Balanced Diet during Teen Years Iron deficiency is seen as a pre-dominant condition in most teenage girls and this trend is increasing. Teenage girls are not getting enough iron from their diet.

200gm of low fat yoghurt every dayLean meat, fish, pulses and eggsDried fruitsLeafy vegetablesFresh fruitsSay no to sugary drinksHaving a daily sufficient calcium intake is important for girls as it is like having ‘bone in the bank’ for the future.
Balanced Diet in the 20s’ Fortified cerealsHave fresh and dried nutsFrui…