The first thing that struck me about the book is how much it reminds me of Doctors by Eric Segal, which I absolutely adored. One scene in the book, the part about how Sarika in general surgery needs to change in the nurses room because there are no females taking up general surgery that they dont have a seperate changing room for them is eerily similar, though I found it terribly sad that that is still relevant (after all, Doctors was published in 1988 and based in 1962). However, I will admit that I really like stories of young people in medicine (somehow more than IIT or IIM based love stories, perhaps because they've become intensely repetitive at this stage and I enjoy different perspectives). And the best part about this one is that they dont ignore realism - a lot of the characters struggle between ambition and their personal lives, and between love and work, which I actually really enjoyed reading. Their interpersonal friendship, though at places under-deveoped, was also more appealing than the love stories, for me.
The cast consists of five different people - sweet, innocent, overprotected Hina, rich-rebel Ranjiv, very ambitious and driven Sarika, Rahul, who struggles to find his place in the world, and Sagarika, who is not as well developed as the rest, and gets less story time, but who's story is one of the most satisfying. A lot of the book is based on the interlinking love stories of all the characters - but while I thought the love stories were slightly predictable I enjoyed reading about the other conflicts - how Sarika works to make her marriage work side-by-side with her ambition, how Hina struggles against her parents and eventually develops into someone quite different from who she was in the beginning, how Sagarika (why do the characters have such similar names?) learns to adjust to the newest changes in her life. Some conflicts were resolved a little too easily, and too many because of calamities, but I guess calamities have their power to, I quote Bernard Shaw here, " break down all likes and dislikes, and throw them both back on their common humanity" and therefore that part of the story makes sense as well.
Some things that I didnt like as much - at places the writing seemed very forced and there is too much telling as opposed to showing. On the other hand, the book is short and fast-paced and zips past very fast. I really liked the chapter heading and certain special chapters - like the chapters where Sagarika writes back to Rahul in an email, and the beginning of the book, are truly gems. The first chapter, for example, is set in an extremely turbulent time and will grip you and make you want to read more about the characters when you dont even know them. The book is about love, life and friendship in a difficult time and a difficult course, and as such it does well in portraying the conflicts that assail these people in young India.
Final thoughts: A tale chronicling the (mostly romantic) struggles of five medical students in India. Fast paced and different - definitely worth a read.
Other thoughts: Did I also mention I finished Eric Segal's "The Class" recently? I have to post a reply of that. Also of Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" and the first book of the Percy Jackson series, as well as many books currently in my bookshelf. Keep a look out!
Also, I'll be interviewing author Vivek Banerjee soon here!
(Financial disclosure: Book source is the author.)