Rejections don’t bother me. Review of ‘The other end of the corridor’ by Sujata Rajpalby Arvind Passey on Apr 30, 2015 • 10:16 PM 6 Comments
Rejections don’t bother me. Review of ‘The other end of the corridor’ by Sujata Rajpal
Man. Woman. Man and woman. Man vs Woman. Relationships. Perceptions of relationships. Marriage. These are issues that were there in the past and are hotly debated even in our times. If I were asked to review ‘The other end of the corridor’ written by Sujata Rajpal in one paragraph, this would be it. I’d simply add that the crux isn’t in what has been written but is quite literally stuffed between the lines. Any reader who is either unaware of the way things happen in India or who is insensitive to gender issues will pause every once in a few lines and think hard.
The book shows you what the newspapers are blaring about
Take one of the headlines published in the Mail Today even on this day: ‘Marital rapes can’t be applied to India’ or the editorial heading in The Hindu: ‘Forced into marriage by social pressures’. What I am trying to say is that the plot, however mundane it may seem, fits all that you see happening around you. No, the book isn’t a literary classic by any comparison but then nor is it a read-n-pulp publication. Sujata’s writing style is free of complex metaphors and not over-flowing with literary allusions, and, therefore, I raced through the book in a single sitting simply because I was in no mood to postpone knowing what Leela did next. Leela who knows that when people told her she ‘looks so different’ they actually meant she was ‘dark, ugly, and unattractive’. Leela, who is perceptive enough to understand the truth of the ‘fabricated tone’ of her own mother, is a character that tumbles into matrimony in the company of her own daydreams. The novel takes you on a run-through of her submissions, stumbles, steps, sprains… and spunky solutions, not always or necessarily in this order!
The novel, I must admit, is some sort of a representation of what many women in our country must be enduring… and I go by the multitudes of newspaper reports that are thrust on us daily.
When Leela’s husband tells her that ‘a woman is held in high reverence when she sacrifices for her family’ and effectively severs her bond with her dreams, the reader in me squirmed as restlessly as it did when I read the statement of the Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary: ‘It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament.’ The book explores almost all these factors through incidents in the life of the protagonist… and in some ways indicates that ‘the times are changing and women have begun to question such notions with the rise of their individuality.’
Rejections don’t bother me
Leela, who ‘was forced to grow from a young bubbly girl into a responsible and mature woman’ strangely, but nevertheless expectedly, chooses to embrace suffering at the hands of her husband. Not that she does not wish to emerge from this rather sore form of relationship that she is stuck with. The book traces her path to finally having the courage to question marriage by passing through seemingly mundane incidents until it is clear to her that she is disowned and disinherited by those she thought love would pour from.
Many of the women in this novel are not afraid of rejections of any kind and Leela does learn her lessons from them. She finally understands that ‘these women might be modern by Indian societal norms, but they were still nice. They didn’t make me feel small. Unlike me, they were not bored housewives who had nothing to do pass their time. Most of them were busy working women.’ Interacting with such women in some ways helps Leela evolve into someone who is then capable of not just dreaming without deserving the outcome… but who deserves every bit of success when it finally reaches her.
In many ways, the author tells us that this breaking away, their realisation, this coming of age isn’t something that happens suddenly… and that suffering is essential for this evolution to begin. Many readers may not agree to such a notion, and they would not be entirely wrong, but the path that the author chose for Leela is probably the way it happens for many women… until they finally walk into a phase where they ‘looked like someone else, someone who was confidant, who knew her mind, who was desirable and beautiful. Seeing my new look in the mirror, I smiled. My soul smiled.’
The fine print
It is not breaking away from the shackles of a suffocating relationship that is the solution… it is lifting your own self to a height where shackles cease to remain meaningful that is suggested by the novel. We see Leela fighting with shackles and getting hurt until this realisation dawns upon her.
Sujata Rajpal does inform her readers of this logic when Leela’s husband agrees to let her join a course in Mass Communication but implying that ‘all goodies come with conditions and in fine print.’
The book takes us from stages when Leela experiences a transient feeling of liberation only to go rolling back into the abyss she is so accustomed to. She realises that ‘when you wake up, for a few seconds you feel it to be a reality, but as the rays of the sun penetrate into the room and force open your sleepy eyes, the dream fades away, bringing you back to the real world.’
One reason why I loved the book was that it made me think seriously of the way women are treated in India… and this is good enough for me. Forget the inconsistencies in the story, forget the times when I felt that the author was lost and going in circles, forget the pages that seem to have been added because there was nothing better that could be added, and forget the sordidness that you know in your heart as not being true for everyone. Forget characters like Priya who were never allowed to develop, forget staring at a loser rising to get foreign assignments, and forget too many issues brought in only to be swept under a racy narrative… just remember that this book will make you look at the plight of women in a completely sensitive way.
Title: The other end of the corridor
Author: Sujata Rajpal
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers
Price: Rs 150/- (in 2015)
30 April 2015