Tamil writer Ambai, born C.S. Lakshmi in Coimbatore, has been awarded the prestigious Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award. This esteemed award is presented in recognition of sustained and outstanding contributions to the world of Indian writing and literature. Past recipients include renowned authors such as Anita Desai, Mark Tully, Amitav Ghosh, Ruskin Bond, and Girish Karnad.
Ambai, a distinguished feminist writer, is celebrated for her courageous exploration of the stereotyping of women in society through her literary works. Her thought-provoking narratives have challenged traditional norms and sparked conversations about gender roles and expectations.
Awards and Recognition
In 2021, Ambai received the Sahitya Akademi award for her remarkable collection of short stories titled Sivappu Kazhutthudan Oru Patchaiparavai (A Red-Necked Green Bird). This accolade is among the highest literary honors in India and underscores Ambai’s mastery of storytelling.
Ambai’s academic journey led her to study history during her post-graduation at Madras Christian College. She later pursued a doctoral degree at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, where she deepened her understanding of literature and culture.
Ambai began her literary journey during her teenage years and published her first collection of short stories, Sirakukal Muriyum, in 1976. Throughout her career, she primarily focused on the art of short story writing, captivating readers with her concise yet profound narratives.
Born in Coimbatore in 1944, Lakshmi’s academic pursuits took her to Bangalore and Madras universities for her undergraduate and postgraduate studies. She subsequently completed her doctoral studies at JNU in Delhi. Her career started as a teacher in schools and colleges, where she juggled her passion for teaching with her dedication to research and writing.
A Multilingual Author
Most of Ambai’s works in Tamil have been thoughtfully translated into English, allowing a wider audience to appreciate her literary genius. One of her notable works, Veetin Mulaiyil Oru Samayalarai (A Kitchen in the Corner of the House), translated by Lakshmi Holmström, offers a compelling portrayal of three generations of women in a Rajasthani household, viewed through the perspective of a Tamil daughter-in-law.
Archiving Women’s Stories
Apart from her contributions to literature, Lakshmi has played a pivotal role as a pioneering archivist in women’s studies. She co-founded SPARROW (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women), India’s first archive dedicated exclusively to women. SPARROW houses a vast collection of writings, visual records, and oral histories, preserving the diverse narratives of women’s lives.
Tamil writer Ambai’s recognition with the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award is a testament to her enduring impact on Indian literature and her unwavering commitment to highlighting the voices and stories of women in society.