The Other Side Of The Table: Madhumita Mukherjee – A Saga in Letters
February 13, 2013 1 Comment
If you’ve ever been a letter-writer, you will love this book. The story is told entirely through letters between two people. Letter-writing isn’t just a lot art, it’s a lost form of conversations. Time is the punctuation for those familiar with the language of letters. An ongoing correspondence is very different in letters than in phone conversations or the modern-day equivalent – email & chat. Because of the time that lapses in between, people’s lives move on. Every new letter is both a response to the previous and the beginning of a new chapter. Thus letters are like milestones on life’s journey, rather than parts of conversation. No wonder, as the book says,
“We have been storytellers, chroniclers and witnesses of each other’s lives. “
At the start of the book, Uma is just beginning medical college, determined to make a mark. Abhimanyu is her older friend, already a successful doctor, who advises her, challenges her idealism and acts as a sounding board through her growing-up pains. Over time, Uma matures to being more of an equal to Abhi just as he enters the second stage of adulthood – questioning his purpose, settling his values etc. Through a correspondance spanning ten years, we see fatal illnesses, marriage and heartbreak.
The intimacy of letter-writing between two people who are very close also lets the author explore such nuances as envy in friendships, materialism, love & sex and the political underside of medicine. The voices of the two main characters come through distinctly even as they evolve with the various life-changing situations they each experience.
I loved the two characters and how their evolution occurs through the book – Uma’s naivete, then disillusionment, defeat, resignation, acceptance and renewal and Abhi’s breeziness, flightiness, crash landing, devastation, darkness and renewal. It’s a lovely story told well. Definite must-read.