Title: The Other Side of the Table
Author: Madhumita Mukherjee
Published: 2012 by Finger Print!
Price: Rs. 195
My Rating: 5/5!
I’m just a few books into Indian authors. I think I began at the wrong note, once while in school (hint hint: CB!) and that’s why it took me years to get over the initial disappointment and interested enough to pick up an Indian book. I’m still not very much into it, but there was Nilanjana Roy first with her amazing debut novel, The Wildings, that challenged my prejudice and she won! The second author to have done that is Madhumita Mukherjee with The Other Side of the Table. A friend had passed on his copy as he had liked it quite a bit and just 50 pages into the book, I knew I had to have my own! I don’t know what exactly made me love this book so much. The characters? The way it was written? The language? Circumstances and situations? I just don’t know. It’s like they say, ‘Not all things have reasons behind them. It’s simple’. That’s why I don’t even know what to write about for a review. It’ll be more like gushing about its awesomeness, okay? ;)
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance...
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata.
As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters ... letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings... about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations...
Letters that talk. And don't. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything...
Letters with a story you would never expect.
Why is the book so lovable?
The Other Side of the Table is a very simple book, a directory of letters exchanged between two friends living in different countries (I've learned they call such books as 'epistolary novels'). The letters in the book start from the year 1990 when Uma is just about to begin her medical college in Calcutta. Abhi is ten years older, living in London and already working in the field of surgery. They’re friends and they talk via letters (hello. That was the time when internet wasn’t born) and this book has nothing else but letters. They exchange life stories, all that has happened, all that is happening, what will happen, their feelings and emotions and thoughts on just about everything. Uma talks about her college, her friends, her family, the guy she dates, her marriage, the fallout, her career, while Abhi spends his time talking about his work, travels, friends and guiding, advising, lovingly reprimanding Uma. It’s a sweet relationship they share, and unique and totally enviable!
Going just by this, the story is pretty simple. Two lives in different places, very ordinary. No one is a super(wo)man, they have their own share of happy times and troubles, they fail sometimes, they make mistakes. I suppose that is what makes it so wonderful, because everyone can relate to it. You don’t have characters who seem perfect and people like you’d want to become, rather the book tells you the everyday stories of people just like you. This kind of simplicity actually did something to me. I can’t help feel a little breathless every time I look at the book. Maybe this might not have been the case if the writing style was plain simple words, too. The best part I think, was the way Uma and Abhi converse through their letters: frank, open, using a good language, from intelligent conversations to very simple ones. Initially, we don’t even know how these two had become friends, we have no introduction or anything about their backgrounds, but the book keeps you hooked and gradually you create their images in your mind on your own, from whatever tidbits you get from the letters. The writing style is the best feature here! *Standing ovation* for that! :D
You might think if the characters are in the medical field and not your age (like in my case), you wouldn’t be able to relate to their talks, but that is so not the case! Everything they talked about was very much a reflection of what we can relate to. More than that I think my reason was that I do have such a story-sharing relation with a couple of friends and it was very much like we talk too! It felt amazing. I sometimes felt a little off when the letters didn’t discuss in detail every single thing the other person wrote, just a few to acknowledge what they wrote and advice, if any, otherwise it was about their life (except for the few times when the things were deadly serious). I realized that the way I talk, is a more extended version, having a little to say on everything the person talked about, while Uma and Abhi show how it’s not necessary. The other would know you’ve read it and most probably understood too, and that’s good enough.
This is one book I’d like to have with me all times, it’s totally the kind where you can open up any page and start reading. There might be some negatives too, but I don’t even want to look for them to just have a point. It’s among the best books I’ve read. Like always, I started making a note of the wonderful lines, but gave up soon. The whole book is worth remembering. Still, here are some lines from the book for you to read, so that you know what I’m talking about and you get your own copy soon! ;) If you hadn’t guessed yet, I recommend the book to every single person! (There’s a bit of adult talk too, but just a little).
I think good relationships are delicate. They are fragile. They need to be handled with care and respect. They need nurturing, they need maintenance. But do we do any of that? Are we all not guilty of not taking care of these 'good relationships'?
Sometimes, some people just sneak into your heart and catch you unawares.
Don’t you find taking stock of things, a real eye-opener? It is always a shock to realize that you didn’t love someone as much as you thought you did. Or that you are made of sterner stuff and are not going to crumble into sawdust anytime soon, even if a person you believe was part of your life or loved you or whom you loved, walked away.
Don’t you think it is easier to love someone separated by several miles, or someone we have not seen for many years, compared to someone right in front of us? The person at a distance benefits from the projection of our hopes and dreams and becomes as wonderful as we can imagine.
I found another one!
The thing about making a decision is that you can take people along with you up to a certain point, but the final few steps, you walk alone.
After all these years of caring so much for other people’s opinions, I simply can’t be bothered anymore. Sometimes the urge to take a leap is so strong, you feel you must jump in, without caring whether you will sink or swim.
Okay, the last! This one’s good too!
Hope, the fuel of life, keeps us going. And love heals, like nothing else.
About the Author: Madhumita Mukherjee grew up in Delhi and did her medical education from Calcutta National Medical College. She has been living and working in England since 2001 as a Paediatrician. She has a special affinity for epistolary novels as well as novels written as journals and diaries. The Other Side of the Table is her debut novel.
Note to the author: Where are you??? I couldn't find your bio in the usual places (Facebook included). If you ever read this, please reply! I'm a fan of your book! :D