Friday, February 15, 2013

#BookReview: The Space Between Us - Thrity Umrigar #BP2W (India)

The space between women of differing religions, socioeconomic statuses, age groups and the space between men and women are all touched upon in Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us.  While the differences are vast at times, in some instances, there is very little difference.

Bhima has worked as a servant in Sera's house for more than twenty years.  Bhima has witnessed the abuse Sera suffers at the hands of her husband, yet doesn't pass judgement.  She is there to pick up the broken pieces and serve her mistress as best she can, even if that means neglecting her own family's needs.

Sera married Feroz believing that a lifetime of happiness awaited her.  Instead she got a husband prone to violence and an equally abusive, albeit verbal, mother-in-law.  The bright spots in her life are her daughter Dinaz and her son-in-law and the unwavering loyalty of Bhima.

The lives of Sera and Bhima are so deeply intertwined.  Each woman depends on the other for emotional support, yet there are still unwritten rules that keep them from crossing the bridge into friendship. For as long as Sera has known Bhima, and as much as she depends on her, she's still very much aware that she is her servant and not her friend.  The men of the book seem to feel that Sera has forgotten this, but the reader is reminded by Sera's actions that she has not.  Most telling of this is a family argument in which Bhima is firmly reminded that she is indeed a servant and not a member of the family.

Umrigar gives you a lot to think about with this one: Bhima's relationship with her granddaughter, which is strained by the differences in age and levels of education; Bhima's relationship with her husband, in contrast and side by side with Sera's relationship with her husband and even Dinaz's relationship with her husband; Sera's relationship with her mother-in-law vs. her relationship with Dinaz. In addition, each woman must live with consequences brought about as a result of choices their husbands have made, with no room for discussion, refusal or rebuttal.Each relationship explored is more alike than they are different, separated only by the imaginary space between them.

Published: January 2006

The status of women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia. From equal status with men in ancient times through the low points of the medieval period, to the promotion of equal rights by many reformers, the history of women in India has been eventful. In modern India, women have adorned high offices in India including that of the President, Prime minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Leader of the Opposition. As of 2011, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha (Lower House of the parliament) both are women. However, women in India continue to face discrimination and other social challenges and are often victims of abuse and violent crimes and, according to a global poll conducted by Thomson Reuters, India is the "fourth most dangerous country" in the world for women, and the worst country for women among the G20 countries. - Wikipedia
Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan
Size: 3,287,263 sq km; slightly more than 1/3 the size of the U.S.
Population: 1,205,073,612
Ethnic groups: Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3%
Languages: Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%

Anthem: Jana Mana Gana (Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of All People)

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