WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 5/5
“The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
Dedicated to Indian physicians who left their country for good or bad to advance their careers and the difficulties they had to face to attain professional satisfaction, V.Q.E is the abbreviated version of Visa Qualifying Exam that is a rigorous and challenging test that foreign medical graduates had to pass to gain entry to practice medicine in the United States in the 1980s.
Divided into three parts and 24 chapters, V.Q.E is the tale of an Indian physician in the United Kingdom of the 1980s.
At the outstart, the book questions the reader about the genre that it can tentatively put into. Vivek Gumaste argues that neither is it a pristine memoir nor an outright fiction. It is rather a quasi-factual reminiscence.
Despite that, the title of the book is catchy and uncanny. Unless explained, it cannot be deciphered easily. Such is what is at stake for most parts of the book. It is a difficult read and one that comes from a writer who is not only well read but also very articulate.
Becoming a doctor is seen as one of the noblest, toughest and most challenging jobs. However, after receiving his medical degree in India, Gumaste realises that his degree has no value internationally unless he qualifies in any of the placement examinations of the West.
To further his ambitions and his passion for medicine, Gumaste sets on the strenuous trail to define a path-breaking career.
V.Q.E is all about his ordeals and the challenges that he faced with a smile on the outside and a strong spine on the inside. It the coming-of-age story of a brave heart whose passion drives him to any ends of hard work to seek knowledge.
The backdrop of the book is in the context of several political upheavals. This makes the plot more enticing. Knowing that the book is based on real events adds to the drama.
V.Q.E is full of insider facts that are otherwise unknown to the average reader. Born in 1954, the post-independence aura of the advancement of the British and their counterparts lurked in the back of his strongly patriotic mind that at once hated the imperialist but desired to venture out into the coloniser’s land to advance his tricks of the trade.
All throughout, the reader will be ecstatic to find out how extremely well read Gumaste is.
The writing style is rich with allusions and adages from famous writers that fit aptly and perfectly into the situations and needs of the plot.
However, it is not a book that can be read too easily in a single sitting. It requires attention and patience along with a genuine interest in the medical field and a desire for endless knowledge.
Knowledge is the backbone of the book. Gumaste never frets to display his knowledgeable self in several walks of life especially his love for hardcore literature.
He uses the English language profusely with useful quotations and a mix of simple language for everyday use. He is well versed no doubt but that does not indicate any sense of showing off in any manner. He is as honest as this genre can possibly allow.
The book also comes will illustrations that have been put together well. These range from maps of England, the physician hierarchy in the UK and USA hospitals, the truncated map of London underground and the Falkland Islands and their distance from Britain.
The plot is a pandemonium of chaotic trysts in hospital settings and in the UK. It gives a view into the insightful happenings of individuals who, like any other, are fulfilling and obliged to fulfil difficult duties while trying to keep up with the pace of life.
V.Q.E is challenging to say the least. Thrown into it all is the unlikely cocktail of the political backdrop of Britain of the 80s, the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the Royal Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the Falkland war and racism.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of V.Q.E using the link below.