Friday, February 15, 2013

The Other Side of the Table: Book Review




I’ll be honest, I judged this book by its cover. I couldn't stop looking at how the London Bridge was reflected in the waters of the Hooghly under the Howrah Bridge, to the point that it was turning out to be rather difficult to tear my eyes away from the cover and get between the covers.

If like me, you've been a letter writer you’ll love this book and it is sad how the art of letter writing has pretty much disappeared, given our preference for other (quicker) forms of communication like e-mails, phone calls and text messages. But then they all lack the beauty and intimacy of a hand written letter. The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee is a beautifully haunting book in the form of letters between two friends- Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London and Uma, who is just entering the world of medicine in Calcutta. Each letter acts like a new chapter and leads you on beautifully.

The letters exchanged between Abhi and Uma chronicle the lives of two friends living world’s apart and gives you a peek into their desires and ambitions. Abhi is older than Uma and is already an established surgeon and Uma, who has just entered medical college is a keen student and is determined to shine. Abhi acts as Uma’s sounding board, advising her, guiding her and challenging her. Through the book we see Uma mature from a girl to a woman and Abhi enter a more serious and somber stage of his life.

The correspondence between Abhi and Uma, which spans ten years, gives us a picture of their friendship, their frankness and how vocal and comfortable they are with each other, taking advice from each other on matters pertaining to life, their careers, relationships, marriage, love and sex.

As the book progresses, one sees Abhi and Uma go through defining moments in their lives; marriage, difficult relationships, heartbreak, challenges at the workplace and a critical illness. What I also loved was how we see Uma evolve from a headstrong and stubborn girl to a woman who has tasted heartbreak and defeat and taken it in her stride and moved on and how Abhi, emerges from being a carefree and breezy young man to someone with deeper realizations about life and his purpose and values.

 This is a book which doesn't leave you even after you've turned the last page and whose characters you begin to miss because they'd begun to feel like friends. Heartbreaking, yet heart-warming, a beautifully told story; highly recommended.

(This is a book review requested by the publisher)