The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar


                                     The Space Between us.

“The thin woman in the green sari stood on the slippery rocks and gazed at the dark waters around her. The warm wind loosened strands of scanty hair, pulling them out of her bun. Behind her, the sounds of the city were muted, shushed into silence by the steady lapping of the water around her bare feet.”

The Space Between Us is a reflection on the relationship between two modern-day Bombay women’s.: Sera and Bhima- her lone time servant. The book contains a beautiful tale of the everyday joys, hardship and true tragedies of life which is offer to anyone spontaneously. Thrity Umirgar has attempt to describe the division between the RICH and the Poor in India. Aravind Adiga had tried to do the same in his book White Tiger, while Adiga book explores the world of men and drivers of rich businessmen and Thrity ponders on the subject of women and their housemaids.

Thrity takes the reader into the world of domestic servant through her character Bhima, a poor women working for Sera, a wealthy Parsi women. When the book opens it takes us where Bhima is employed to Sera for twenty years, showing at work rain or shine to do domestic work like washing the dishes, sweep the floors, cooking, and marketing and also to take care of Sera’s daughter.

Although Bhima worked for Serabai for years but due to the caste system no matter how close their relationship becomes – a distance must be kept. However as Serabai reflects her own hardships in the life it is clearly visible how important Bhima has been for not only herself but also for her daughter Dinaz. Even though Bhima, who has meant so much in her life must still drink tea from her own cup in the kitchen and never allowed to sit on the furniture. But no matter her love for the family and theirs for her…. Bhima is still an out-caste and servant of the house.

The parallels of Sera’s and Bhima’s life are dealt very delicately; indeed there is nothing heavy-handed or over exaggerated about the book. Regardless with the weight of the theme – class, gender, race, culture and sexuality – Thrity never lets the prose slip into tired clichés or familiar sentiments. As a reader one can feel the unpleasantness of Bhīma existence; can feel the rage and helplessness as she stands over her doomed, pregnant granddaughter as actually as we can see Sera crying on cutting onions.

However, the story set up in the big bad city of Bombay, famous for its slums and equally famous for its flamboyant /rich Bollywood stars and its filthy rich industrialist, the questions it raises in no way limit it to any one geographical setting because they are universal in nature. But it asks: in a conflicted situation, what comes first: Blood relations or friendship? Is loyalty a more valued virtue or is honesty? Should always the rich wins? If someone is illiterate- do they automatically lose their voice for justice??

Besides writing a beautiful story, Thrity Umirgar has also given some wonderful and truthful sights of Bombay city and its people. Scenes portraying the daily struggles of poor- standing in queue for communal toilet, the miserable and gloomy government hospitals, along with beautiful scenic of Chowpatty beach- so far the strongest point in the story. Loved her insights into the fascinating and endearing Parsi community of Bombay and the way she incorporates Indian speech patterns in her characters.

At last, despite her wonderful ending (cried like a baby), emphasizing on the inexhaustible spirit of poor and continually – broken women, there was a straight forward message that the next generation of Indian women will still be condemned to the careless whims of men.

THE SPACE BETWEEN US reveals the power of coming together and the tragedy of breaking apart.

Rating: 4/5






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