The Other Side of the Table is about the correspondence between Abhimanyu, neurosurgeon and Uma, studying to be a surgeon. It is spread over nearly a decade, from the early 1990s-1999. Abhimanyu is a Consultant with a hospital in London and Uma is in Calcutta. They share their thoughts, observations about their experiences, friends, family and naturally exchange notes about medicine.
Given that the correspondence is in the first person, there is an immediate connection with the writers. Also that these are letters in long hand, posted by snail mail, in an era before email, there is a languid and an old world charm to the letters. No broken sentences, thoughts and observations worked out completely, without any hurry. As Abhimanyu remarks ” we have been storytellers, chroniclers, witnesses of each other’s lives.” Abhimanyu share his tales about travels across the Europe with Uma, his loneliness in London but sheer determination to excel as a neurosurgeon and become a Consultant and later his misery at struggling with cancer. Uma shares her life through college, from college crushes to a bad marriage, at the same time very sure of becoming a surgeon, becoming “someone”, through the sexist remarks she faces at work and yet, excels.
This is a story that will evoke memories of similar literature (notably, Tumhari Amrita and 84, Charing Cross Road ) but The Other Side of the Table is most definitely in its own space. Except for the epistolary form of telling the story, it would be wrong to compare it with other books of a similar genre. Madhumita Mukherjee, a cancer survivor and a doctor herself, has told a difficult story gently and with sensitivity. It is a book worth reading.
14 April 2013
Madhumita Mukherjee The Other Side of the Table Fingerprint Publishing, New Delhi. Pb. pp. 248. Rs. 195 (eBook available)