Saturday, August 27, 2011

Table for Four by K.Srilata - Book Review

Awesome is the word to describe the book 'Table for Four'. The deeply moving and enticing narrative, softens you, alerts you , and entertains you. It has been a long time since i read a book fully. Had started reading around five books and just managed to read half or three-fourths of the story. But, i could not put down 'Table for Four' and read it fully.

Three students Maya, Derek, Sandra share an apartment for four years in USA. Prithvi Uncle is the owner of the house who communicates with post-it notes. Other inmates get to see him in person only once in a year. Strange! Sandra is sometimes glued to Orkut for two weeks without food and communication with real people. Derek is studying History and Maya is studying Creative Writing.

During the course of their stay, Maya falls in love with Derek which she knows will never be reciprocated. Just when the time comes for all of the three inmates to complete their studies and leave the shared apartment, Prithvi uncle calls them for a dinner.

The dinner is served on a turtle-shaped Nikolai table. And Prithvi Uncle coaxes everyone to narrate their life stories. "There are layers, aren't there, to you girls?" he continued after he had sat down once more. "So many layers - like Draupadi's saree...And unknown to you, these layers have influenced your relationships, colouring them in ways you would have never imagined."

Sandra starts  with her story in an orphange. She continues to stay in the orphanage as other new babies are adopted. This is because Sandra's twin sister has a disease 'Spina Bifida'. Her sister's head bloats and water has to be drained from her head. And twins had to be adopted together. So, Sandra continues to live in the orphanage with no idea of the joys of the world outside. How fate separates the sisters and the subsequent Orkut hunts of Sandra form part of the remaining story. So, Sandra's Orkut addiction did have a reason. Do people do anything without a reason?

Next Prithvi uncle tells his story of being an elf and how he manages to attract poeple by becoming an intent listener. He marries a woman pregnant with another man's kid, teaches in a school, and lives a not so ambitious life. His chance meeting with a tatoo-etcher Michael changes Prithvi's thoughts and so his life. The remaining story of Prithvi is about how a firangi falls in love with him and they wed and move to the USA. Does Prithvi Uncle have a reason for using post-it notes? Yes.... his layers reveal that.

Derek does not come for the dinner. But Maya recollects his life in war-ridden Afghanistan as a journalist. And his chance meeting with an Afghan errand boy Hamil. Once Derek confesses his love for Hamil. Maya wonders if Derek is gay. But we never know!

Is Maya's story just as interesting or is it more dangerous? Why is Maya afraid of the ocean? Does Maya manage to tell the others her story? Is Maya a murderer? Read the book to know.

The four main stories have a lot of sub stories. Sometimes, a small story starts and ends within a paragraph. For the first time i read that writing can help in expending calories. A book 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and a poem collection 'Staying Alive' are mentioned in the story. The 'Table for Four' story emphasizes that writing your own life story or telling your story and listening to it is like doing Yoga. It has a therapeutic and healing effect.  Grab your copy today. It costs Rs.250.

Author Srilata with her book Table for Four


Anne John said...

Sounds interesting. I am trying to read more Indian women writers nowadays.... Will surely check this one out Anitha.

Anitha said...

Yep. Please do Anne. Really worth the effort. It's just 177 pages!

weaving mist said...

K.Srilata’s debut novel ‘Table for Four’ is a resurrection of the past probably as a moral protest against the burden of private ethics of the characters. It also offers an unfailing anchor to sustain the pent-up emotional and intellectual needs of the characters caught in a continuum between the exploiter and the exploited. The underpinning of the sub-conscious desire provides the internal evidence to size up the characters squarely. The novel’s preoccupation with memory makes it essentially an exploration of the inner selves forging the characters’ identities. It is an effort to redefine the ambiguities in human relationship in retrospect. No wonder, the novel is an engrossing journey from memory to meaning.