The book The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar takes place in India and it’s about how the interactions between two families collide making both Sera and Bhima experience similar realities in their lives. Throughout the book Bhima and Sera live parallel lives. These characters have hope and witness similar moments of crisis in their lives. Both feel alone due to their failed marriages. Gopal, Bhima’s husband feels as if he’s holding her back and decides to leave her and take their son along. On the other hand, Sera’s husband Feroz dies from a heart attack leaving her as a single mother with Dinaz. Feeling helpless, Bhima and Sera hope their daughters can accomplish their dreams and live happily ever after. But Bhima’s biological daughter passes away from AIDS, she is left with Pooja’s daughter Maya and has to provide for her as if she were her own child. Over time Bhima and Maya develop a strong Mother-Daughter relationship as well as Sera and Dinaz have. At the end of the book both Bhima and Sera’s dreams are crushed. Maya is easily seduced and imbued by Viraf, thus fails to take advantage of her opportunity to go to college and gets pregnant. That’s not all, Viraf, Sera’s perfect husband for her daughter ends up not being what he appeared to be disappointing her by impregnating her servant’s daughter. Bhima and Sera ultimately live parallel lives as a result of the intricacies of their family relationships.
Sera wants her daughter to experience the perfect relationship, hence the fact herself wasn’t able to because of her miserable husband and their failed marriage. As stated in the book, “After all, who knew better than she how poisonous an interfering mother-in-law can be to a marriage?”(16) Sera lived the perfect example of an unhappy marriage. Her mother-in-law Banu was nosey and intervened with her relationship making Feroz, Sera’s husband, do whatever she wanted being insensitive of Sera’s feelings. This made Sera very unhappy and now wishes herself not to be the same type of mother-in-law with Dinaz. But that’s not all, Sera also had to deal with her husband. As said by Sera, “Not like the old days, when Feroz was alive and she and Bhima had to tiptoe around, afraid of his explosive silences and his explosive temper”.(18) Even though it was her home, Sera had to be careful when walking around because Feroz would get mad. Coming from a life in which she was a lot more independent Sera now hates and regrets getting married. This experience has made her envision what type of lifestyle she wants for her daughter.
Along the same lines, Bhima also wants her daughter to achieve a healthy matrimony. She was a victim of domestic violence. Bhima cannot rely on her husband for family obligations. She is constantly reminding him on what his role of being a husband is and carrying his responsibility on her back. Stated by Bhima, “You’re a eunch, not a man. After all, a real man doesn’t leave his sick child at home while he goes drinking with the other local loafers”. (243) After Bhima intervenes with her husband’s time and friends at the local bar she gets beat up in front of everyone. These atrocious memories make her dream for Maya to have a better future. As stated in the text, “But now his body moved of its own volition as he slapped Bhima’s sunken cheek with his left hand. Her head jerked back, and for a moment, something like pity came into Gopal’s eyes. Then he slapped her again. This time, a stream of blood trickled out of her nose. Gopal’s eyes widened at the sight of blood”. (244) After being beaten up and experiencing a horrible husband, Bhima firmly believes her tenatious life and bad matrimony is not the life for Maya and that she deserves more.
Sera wants to live her dreams through her daughter Dinaz because her matrimony had always been a delusion. Throughout the book Sera talks about her bad experience with her matrimony and hopes she doesn’t have to live the same way. As she sees her son-in-law Sera envisions the perfect man for her daughter, an educated, financially well off and good type of husband that will fulfill his wife’s needs and wants making her happy. We don’t know if this is Dinaz’s dream but surely the life style her mother wants to her to experience. When Sera was in a relationship she spoke about how she lowered her standards for men. Any man that didn’t treat her like Feroz was golden. Now that she doesn’t live that nightmare she realizes her daughter needs to look for much higher standards in a man. As stated in the book, “At least Viraf doesn’t beat her, she would console herself and then hate herself for the weakness of that thought, for having lowered her standards so much that lack of physical abuse had become her definition of a good marriage. She wanted so much more than that for her child”. (16) Sera hopes Dinaz has the husband she never had around the house to experience her daughter’s happiness.
In a like manner, Bhima cherishes Maya’s opportunity because she thinks she can become happy through her daughters success. She worked harder and harder every day to be able to provide Maya with the resources necessary for her to become a successful person in life, the one she was never able to become. Since Bhima wasn’t able to get an education to have a nice job and be financially well, she has the desire for her daughter to do so. She works laboriously hard and has been Sera’s servant for so long that Bhima was able to get her to invest in Maya’s education and have her daughter continue her education to fulfill their dreams. Said by Bhima, “It is Serabai’s generosity that has made Maya’s education possible, and if Serabai now feels betrayed by Maya’s treachery, if she feels her investment in the girl’s future has come up dry, it is to her credit that she has never spoken of her disappointment to Bhima.” (20) Thanks to Bhima’s job, she has earned Maya the first step to her pursuing a life with a better socioeconomic status when she gets older
Indeed after her dream vanishes, Sera still grasps on to the idea of being in a flawless relationship. As stated in the book, “She wanted to keep moving, keep running, put as much distance as she could between herself and Banu’s gloomy, life-draining house”. (183) After experiencing her life as a prison when married, Sera tried to run away and leave her dream behind. Her husband and mother-in-law had oppressed her ability to be happy. As stated in the text, “Poisonous words, which could leave Serabai with a wound she may never recover from”. (285) After hearing the news that Viraf was the one who got Maya pregnant, Sera does not believe it. The image of the perfect husband is immediately revoked from her mind unable to grasp it anymore. Her daughter’s husband was unfaithful to Dinaz not only disappointing Sera but also abolishing her hope and dreams for her daughter.
Even though Bhima endured a lot of phases of unhappiness and hope, at the end of the day her dreams remained crushed. The ideal that she was going to live her dream through her daughter wasn’t an option anymore. “This way, Maya would live, would continue going to college and choose a life different from what Bhima had always known. That was how it was supposed to be, how it had been, until this dumb cow of a girl, this girl with the big heart and, now, a big belly, went and got herself pregnant”. (6) Just as Bhima had it all figured out Maya crushes her dreams and plans to pieces, making it hard for her to believe it. She thought Maya would be the one to live out Bhima’s dreams of becoming part of a higher socioeconomic system. Maya’s pregnancy angers and disappoints Bhima. “And that it was Maya- Maya, the granddaughter whom she had rescued from death’s door; Maya, who had come to her as an orphan and grown up to be intelligent, ambitious young woman; Maya, the only flesh-and-blood family member she still had near her; Maya, who had been the sole bright spot in Bhima’s bleak life; Maya, who was to make up for all of Bhima’s own unrealized hopes and aborted dreams, who was the golden focal point of all of Bhima’s fantasies and daydreams…”. (36/37) Maya had lots of weight to carry on her back. She was Bhima’s only reason to live and wanted to see her accomplish any obstacles that went her way. Watching her daughter throw away a great future made Bhima feel useless and in desperation. She had no reason to exist on earth anymore.
Therefore, Sera and Bhima live parallel lives throughout the book. Their dilemmas and hope keep them running through life as if it were a maze trying to find their dreams. The result of failed marriages make both Sera and Bhima feel alone and unhappy. Sera’s husband passes away after a heart attack while Bhima’s husband leaves her and takes off with her son. With no help, they feel they have a second chance to achieve and live their dreams through their daughter’s lives. Bhima dreams Maya will take advantage of the opportunity given to her and graduate from college to live a better lifestyle compared to her mother’s. Meanwhile, Sera had an oppressive relationship and hopes that her daughter will have the perfect husband and be happy. At the end of the story their dreams die out. Maya ends up getting pregnant to Dinaz’s husband and lets go of her opportunity to succeed, disappointing Bhima and Sera. As a result of family complications, Bhima and Sera live parallel lives throughout the book The Space Between Us.