I am again at the completion of another great book. I call it great for various reasons. Do you know how I heard of this book? My physiotherapist remarked one fine morning how everyone was so rich in India. Not knowing what she meant, I looked confused. She remarked that everyone in India could afford maids, something she found fascinating. She told me that she was recently reading this book that explored the relationship of a maid with her mistress, and that was enough to kindle my interest. Fortunately, a copy of the book was available at the library. And ever since, I have found a reason to come home early, or not to whine about long distance bus rides.
This is a story unique in many ways. First, it explores the dynamics of a poor, old maid with her mistress, the bonding they share, and the reminder of the fact that although belonging to starkly different strata of the society, their lives were similar in many aspects. Relationship abuse, mistrust created by blood relations, learning to live in acceptance (or denial), and the remarkable ability to put the past beyond oneself and move on. Each of their lives amazed the other- Sera, the rich Parsi woman, and Bhima, her maid servant. The plot is unique, and so is the style of writing. It is not a feminist book where the reader is put into a set of woven circumstances that makes them end up being misandrists (man haters). It is a book about the struggle to keep up with human relationships, and the way in which bonding becomes bondage.
I liked the plot. And I liked the style of writing- detailed, observant, with a lot of comparisons and adjectives, idioms and metaphors. It is a nice peep into the world of Parsis, the little words they use (like "deekra"), the things they eat, their ways of life, even the common names they have (like Dinaz). If you read at the pace that I do, it is definitely a long novel. But it is a great read nevertheless.
The ending disappointed me a bit, not because it was badly written, but because I was expecting a different ending. However, after putting some thought into it, I realized that it was the most practical ending possible under the circumstances. It’s just that I was wrongly expecting a nice, romantic, happy fairy tale ending to it. But the end is as real as the real world is, beautifully depicting human emotions and how they guide us into action. Nothing more to be said, go find a copy and read it for yourself, I’m sure you will like it. By the way, I am wondering- is any of my blog reader Parsi?
The space between us- by Thrity Umrigar