Journey is the leitmotif of this latest offering of short stories from Ambai’s stable. Locations in language, gender and geography are continually traversed in this deceptively thin book in which seven stories are titled Journey (an intertextual continuation of her earlier collection In a Forest, a Deer, in which one can find Journeys numbered 1-3).
The journeys are not just geographical, though they are spread from Mumbai, Chennai, Pondicherry and New York, and traverse landscapes and ethnoscapes. The more important journeys are also explorations of gender, the opening up of new spaces for the urban middle-class consciousness, and the trope used in them explores different conceptions of the human body. Ambai’s complex position as a Tamil writer located in Mumbai, writing vignettes of life that have been translated from the original into English, is itself a journey: a linguistic crossing that plants these stories in a new hybrid space. In a short preface Ambai foregrounds the cacophony of languages which make up her milieu but emphasises the stories’ plots over the linguistic choice of register or an imagined audience. She writes, she says simply, because she has stories to tell and maybe a few to hear them. The narrator in many of these is an unobtrusive presence, with the tale’s focus rendered in a sparse, conversational style which, in retrospect, surprises the reader with its layered texture.