One and a Half Wife
Author: Meghna Pant
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Westland Publication
Publication date: 2012
Genre: Literary fiction
Unlike most Indian immigrants, Amara Malhotra is not destined to achieve the American Dream. Much to the anxiety of her parents - the spirited Biji and the doting Baba - Amara leads an unremarkable life. That is, until she marries Harvard-educated millionaire, Prashant Roy.
However, this fairy-tale isn’t meant to last, and even as Amara’s marriage collapses, she finds herself returning to the land of her birth, to the small city of Shimla.
Here, in a borough grappling with questions of modernity, Amara is caught in a tug-of-war between old beliefs and new ones, between parents who favour obedience and new friends who encourage independent thought.
With powerful insights, One and a Half Wife traces the coming-of-age of multiple characters, while re-defining family, relationships and love in contemporary India.
This ground breaking debut novel tells the life of a traditional girl- Amara Malhotra, who has a built up belief system that the institution of marriage is the only basis of her identity. She was taught from early childhood that a girl’s life should be dedicated to her family and her husband. Such a life is is considered respectful and worth-living. But there is a dramatic turn of events, which puts the tag of ‘Divorcee’ before her name. Now, she has to face challenges in defining her identity, her honour and face her family.
By definition, divorce refers to the termination of any marriage when a couple decides to live separately and sign the legal papers by mutual consent. Now, our society is not alien to the regressive concept of shaming the ‘She’ for the failing of a marriage.
In Indian societies, ‘divorce’ is considered a taboo and divorced people especially the supposed person for holding the marriage together - the ‘Wife’ is subjected to face social and cultural scrutiny and taunts. This in turn leaves a deep negative impact on the psychology of the bothered people. She addresses such mentality in this following excerpt from the book:
“Talking about marriage in bad terms was considered sacrilege in the Indian community. Everyone around her was married, and claimed to be happy so, despite public fights and snide rumors. She often wondered if there was anyone else who had daily failures in marriage, like she did.”
However in ‘One and a half wife’, Amara slowly came to realise the self-negligence she has put herself into through all these years. She realised her worth was more than she being the glue in her marriage; just like she expresses this realisation in the book:
“The spectre of another human being was so strong that Amara felt like she had an invisible twin, whose identity had been meshed into hers. She accepted that she was to have no ‘I’ in her life; before meeting him she would be known as ‘We’, the Malhotra family and after meeting Him she would be known as ‘Us’, the married couple.”
In the end, her character is shown to be have matured mentally to a point where she declines Lalit’s proposal inspite of being in love with him. The words she utters gives the readers the picture of how much she has grown as a person:
She declines the proposal saying:
“You’ve loved me so entirely that I couldn’t ask for more. I could not be in love as much as I am with you. But marrying you will be an escape, a way of running away from my problems. It will be unfair to you.”
Meghna Pant does not in any way normalises the concept of divorcing one’s partner, nor does she implies that that has to be the solution of any trivial problems in a marriage. But, she definitely tries to bring forth the cruel discrimination people faces after a divorce, and tries to convey the problems of such mentality.
About the Author:
Meghna Pant is a multiple award-winning author, journalist and speaker. Her books – Happy Birthday!, One & A Half Wife, Feminist Rani, The Trouble With Women and How To Get Published In India – have been published to commercial and critical acclaim.
She has been felicitated with various honours and shortlists for distinguished contribution to literature, gender issues and journalism, including the Laadli Media Award, Bharat Nirman Award, Muse India Young Writer Award, FON South Asia Short Story Award, Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Frank O'Connor International Award and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Pant's short stories have been published in over a dozen global literary magazines, including Avatar Review, Wasafari, Eclectica etc.
Meghna has lived in Delhi, Singapore, Zurich, Dubai and New York City. She is currently based in Mumbai with her husband and daughters.