Ever since I had Thrity Umrigar’s Book “The weight of heaven “ for our front cover friday series; she was on my “must-read” list. So there at first opportunity I ordered her book “ The Space between us”. I had heard lot of good reviews about the book. Boy, I am so glad to discover it. The book turned out a gem indeed , a page turner from beginning. A very good book by Indian Author I got to read after long time.
The story brings us the two protagonist Serabai Dubash and Bhima. Like many Indian households Bhima is domestic help in Sera and Feroz’s house. Over the years; Sera and Bhima has developed some bond between them; observing and facing happiness and pain from each others lives. There is this connection yet there is space that divides them. The space that bifurcates their classes and bring in the status of owner and servant. No matter how much Sera cares for Bhima she can never treat her like part of her own family and for Bhima she will always be the superlative. Bhima gives credit of every good thing that comes to her life to her employer. Each favour by Sera buries Bhima more and more under the weight of those favours.
The plot blooms slowly opening the pages of their lives. Sera’s educated and highly-placed husband has a wild side. Their abusive marriage; the ever controlling mother in law and Bhima telling her mistress not to tolerate the physical abuse. Sera actually get relived after her husband’s death. Dinaz , Sera and Feroz’s only daughter the most sensitive and wise girl. Her double-faced husband Viraf who is unable to handle his very hormonal wife who is about to bring their first child in this world.
Among all the characters it is Bhima who leaves you mesmerized with her attitude and her courage to face the shit called life. She has her own moments of break down but yet she draws hope and power to over come the hopelessness. Despite letting go her son, husband , daughter she still makes way through life for her grand-daughter Maya. Having faced lot of trouble due to being illiterate she wants Maya to learn and do a while collar job. Maya who gets pregnant and shatters Bhima’s dreams. The ever helpful Dubash Family comes to their rescue and helps Maya to get rid of the child.
Some of the high points of the plot would be
Bhima’s unspoken connection with the Afghani Balloon Seller; her connection with sea and nature; they are so well sketched that you can almost see them.
After living though an abusive marriage; Sera thanks her stars that her son is law does not beat her daughter but they only have verbal fights. That’s such sad state of human mind.
Bhima bringing in some herbal remedy to heal the beaten wounds on Sera’s body and advising her not to keep up with the abusive marriage.
The face lift of the goody boy Viraf the son-in-law of Dubash family.
So is there really a bond between Sera and Bhima ? When time comes will Sera support her for all Bhima has done for Dubash Family ? Or the space that separates them is the only dark and bitter truth ? You have to read the book to find these answers.
Overall a very good read. Arrangement of domestic help is such a common scene in India. Only issue I feel is people who are not aware of these India Specific traditions; I don’t know how would they perceive these things. I am not sure if it will make them to bond with equal vigor with the plot like it will do for an Indian. Would love to hear from such readers.
If I have to rate the book it would be 5. Details about our rating scale are here.