Gigi Ganguly, One Arm Shorter Than the Other, Atthis Arts, 2022.
The scifi novella One Arm Shorter Than the Other joyfully blurs genre lines with, at its heart, the city of Delhi and a thoughtful take about humanity.
When an old man goes to have his projector repaired, he never imagined that the reels would afterwards make him feel as if he was living in the film. When a disgraced middle-aged actor goes to have his TV repaired, he never imagined he'd be on screen again. When a newly retired woman goes to have her old radio repaired, she never imagined she'd meet someone new in her life thanks to it.
Those three tales are the first three in Gigi Ganguly's delightful novella One Arm Shorter Than the Other. It is the fourth tale, of which I won't say a thing, that takes those threads to gather them into a beautiful tapestry. Of course, all the characters go to the same repairshop, a small repairshop in Old Delhi, in which they meet the same man who has one arm shorter than the other. A man who never changes despite the passing years.
Ganguly really makes you care for those characters you meet briefly. The melancholy of the old man, the exhilation of the older lady meeting a new friend. Those are barely glimpses into their lives, yet Ganguly makes you see their hearts, and you feel with them.
The repairman really comes into his own in the last tale, as a figure you both care about and who remains unknowable.
I have loved the inventivity displayed in the novella, in particular in the last tale. You go from some lovely fantastical elements, subtle yet present, to full on scifi city and time travel. It offers an interesting take on what makes a city, on what we call home. It is particularly striking because the city of Delhi is at the heart of the novella, and the last tale offers such change with how it currently stands.
But change is also a predominent theme in One Arm Shorter Than the Other. The change that time or our actions brings. The question if we are still ourselves when we change, when we leave something of ourselves behind. And yet, the city stands, in one form or the other, through time, and change, in the continuity of stories and family histories.
One Arm Shorter Than the Other may feel understated, but Ganguly weaves a path made of emotions, and she makes them shine with a beautiful, clear prose.
One Arm Shorter Than the Other is a wonderful novella that plays with your expectations and your heart to offer you glimpses into humanity, through the future and the past.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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