Book Review: The Other End of the Corridor
Author: Sujata Rajpal
Rating: Three and a half stars
‘The Other End of the Corridor is dark but powerful take on women’
In society, women has been relegated most of the times as lesser human being, restricted as a mute entity that has no voice and if ever is heard, it’s the biggest crime for which she has to atone for. Author Sujata Rajpal in The Other End of the Corridor’ addresses the role and position of women in society, tribulations faced, in search of identity and how she is not only fettered in social roles but crushed to death.
The author explores several aspects in depicting Leela who is married to the useless and spineless Vishal, supported by his mother. Leela never had it easy in life where her brother was the preferred child at home and is slapped by the ‘educated’ mother in law. A social critique where Sujata explores the world of Leela, her identity as a human being and the clash in emotions. Deep inside, Leela, the middle class woman with aspirations like any human being is pushed into the life of a married woman, whose transition from a young girl is obliterated. She lies to hide her true identity as human being in the company of the super rich woman, discovers and falls in love online where the personality clash with her modern class mate, Priya, is explored in depicting two contrasting lives. Sujata explores the place of a women in society, what it means to be an underdog suffering every bit versus an independent woman who has a child without being married. What it means to be a woman in society.
The Other End of the Corridor is a novel, not a feminist rant or social analysis, mind you! It’s about the identity of a woman, her place in society, fettered and finding herself in the tunnel, deprived of life and imprisoned in her own thoughts.
When your dreams are tainted with lies and deceit, you have no other choice but to walk to the other end of the corridor. Leela has nothing extraordinary about her except the dream to become famous. Her desires take wings when she gets married to a handsome boy from a respectable family in Delhi. But her dreams are shattered even before they have a chance to take flight. In an attempt to rediscover herself, she falls in love with life and with herself but her life takes a sudden turn again…No matter what, Leela will continue to chase her dreams. Where does this journey take her?
Leela gets married by deceit to Vishal, sadly so my namesake turns out to be a loser in life and who has never been taught respecting women in life. The husband is jobless and gets violent with his wife. Sujata starts the narration in a flawless and lyrical manner, describing the life of Leela, a woman whose life we have heard several times. It’s the fight of Leela against a patriarchal system ingrained in the mind of Vishal and his ‘educated’ Mother. It’s a heart-touching and gripping narrative into the world of Leela, which is so true, for many women facing physical and verbal violence. She is the common woman who turns her life when the time is right. Sujata scores high with the strong characterization of Leela, who doesn’t play victim despite she is one and makes her humane, her lies to show to her friends Harleen (socialite) that she is human and the infatuation with Jai. The author explores the hypocrisy in our society when there are expectations in the world of Facebook and at the same time, disappointment. Jai turns out to be a genuine person, being the strength of Leela, at times.
The narration is well built, packed with surprise and heart pounding moments when the servant knocking on the door, imploring a powerless Leela to save her and her child from the clutches of the husband. Sujata Rajpal’s deftly makes a contrast between two woman, Leela, a middle class woman and stuck in a rut and ruined by her social conditions and Priya, an empowered woman flying high in life. Two different and contrasting lives, one longing for independence and the other relishing her freedom. Sujata brings to the fore how a stuck Leela condemns in a way the life led by Priya which she would jealously love to live. That’s what social conditioning does to us. At the other end, justice is done and Leela triumphs by taking destiny in her hand. ‘The Other End of the Corridor’ is about the struggle of a woman against violence and prejudices but also about love and human triumph.
“You are Leela, and you will always be Leela, whom no one loves. You can never be Elaa; boozing, smoking, wearing people’s old clothes, enjoying on borrowed money, nothing can make you Elaa because YOU are not Elaa, my inner voice said.”
“Jai is neither a colleague, nor your classmate, and definitely not your friend. My inner voice almost shouted, making me feel guilty of projecting myself as easily available. I was in half a mind to return, but before I could think of going back, Jai had seen me.”
“Vishal hit me everyday, and I kept quiet. When I hit him once, he wanted to divorce me. It appeared that Vishal had used this opportunity to throw me out of his life.”
“He smiled, my smile reaches my eyes. He smiled too. The smile turned into laughter..There was so much I wanted to say, but it was as if he understood everything. He was there when my husband beat me mercilessly…..when Navin molested me, when I cried in my pillow every night for being so alone and helpless…It was as if Jai had always been there with me.”
I still can’t digest the fact how Leela goes back to Vishal,the man who assaulted her soul and despite assurance that he is a changed man, it wouldn’t convince a woman hardened by the violence faced. There are some people that never change in life and this episode is one thing that I can’t digest of someone going to a man that uses violence. Coming from an educated woman like Leela, I feel that it’s one of the minus points in the book.
As the story rolls and we get acquainted to the dark world of Leela, at times the narrative slows a bit in the description of the life of the main’s protagonist. However, The Other End of the Corridor is a thought-provoking book delving into the lives of many such Leelas and their dark world. Despite the minuses, the book is engrossing and touches the heart, making one angry at the ‘powerlessness’ of the character in the absence of financial independence.
The ‘Other End of the Corridor’ may seem slow as the narrative unfolds but author Sujata Rajpal tells a very gritty, grim story on the life of a woman, Leela, who nurtures the dream of making it as an RJ in life but ends on the wrong corridor. The reader will feel her pain and what directs her life, the despair she is driven to. Full marks for Sujata for coming with what I’d say is a ‘courageous’ book when everyone is going the romance one. It’s dark, agreed, but it has its fair share of light moments. The novel is a must read for the sensitive and powerful portrayal of the life of Leela in a society filled with venom, violence, and prejudice against woman. Violence can happen in educated households as well. A must read for the powerful impact it leaves on our minds. Full marks to Sujata Rajpal.