The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee
I have always believed that the best expression comes out when you know whom you are talking to, when you know them well and when your thoughts are well thought out. Letter writing is one such format. Where there is a conversation between two people and only one speaks at a time. The reader gets his own time and space to read. And absorb what the writer has said without worrying about losing the next sentence while you are still lost in interpreting the last one. To be able to weave a full-length story, like in this book The Other Side of the Table, through letters between two characters separated by continents is a craft.
Madhumita has woven a sweet and gentle love story between two not so unusual characters. One, an Indian born Surgeon in London. And another a new medical student in Kolkata. The relationship develops over the letters as they share their lives with each other while becoming a support system for each other. They go through their lives, as usual. Dealing with its ups and down almost on a predictable basis. He is a successful surgeon on way to becoming a celebrity in his career. She is an ordinary but bright girl living life as expected by the family and society. The relationship changes as they move on and life take different turns for them.
The beauty of the story is that the letters are spaced out. And is actually written and not e-mailed. They do not write every day and everything. But they express when they feel the need to. They treasure what they receive from the other person. And there is no obligation whatsoever. Reading that kind of honest communication almost makes you feel like having a pen friend just like that. Someone who can listen to you without judging you, someone who can know you’re not so good part and still stand with you. And someone who does not have to adhere to any norms of defined or organized relationships. Someone who just exists in those letters and thoughts.
With a backdrop of the medical world, there is a story of biases and struggles that a young woman has to face. There is a story of how they deal with the disease when they are on the other side of the table. There is a story of the politics and professional pushes and pulls in the hospitals. And of aspirations thereof. There is also an angle of women professionals in fields like surgery where they exist in minority. The medical field is not something that you ever think is male-dominant or partial to women doctors. But then there may be bastions within it that are still held firmly by the men of the field.
Overall a well-written, simple and sweet little love story told only through letters between the two characters.