Sunday, May 30, 2010

Aruna’s Story by Pinki Virani

I picked this up because I picked up “Bitter Chocolate”, and do not regret it. This is yet another remarkable book by Pinki Virani, based on the true story of Aruna Shanbaug. I had vaguely heard about this case. This case received much media glare due to its relevance in the legal debates on “mercy killing” or “euthanasia”.

Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse at KEM hospital, Mumbai, is accosted by one of the hospital sweepers, raped and strangled by a dog chain in the basements of KEM. The sweeper had been reprimanded by Aruna a couple of times for not doing his job properly, not feeding the dogs, etc. This person was on temporary duty in the hospital. Aruna, who was supposed to go on leave from December to prepare for her marriage to Doctor Sundeep from the same hospital, falls prey to sweeper Sohanlal in November. That one day changed the course of her entire life. This story dates back to November 1973. Due to strangling, the oxygen supply to her brain had cut off and she lost power of expression and speech, and even eyesight. In just one twist of fate, her seemingly envious life, turned into an utter waste.

Surprisingly, Sohanlal had to serve only a 7 year term in jail for assault and robbery, and never for sexual molestation, rape of ‘unnatural offence’. There’s not much of his perspective in the book. It is said at the end of the book that after he served in jail, he was working in some hospital in Delhi.

You don’t know what to feel when you read her tormentor got away with just 7 years of imprisonment and on the other hand Aruna Shanbaug lay in vegetative state for the rest of her life. Due to the kindness of the staff of KEM Hospital, she is taken care of by them, but her own family abandons her. It seems that they leave Aruna to her state because they were not well-off and did not want an extra burden when they were already struggling to make their ends meet.

This book is yet another marvelous work from Pinki Virani. What stood out in this book, as also in her other book called ‘Bitter Chocolate’ is the insufficiency of Laws to frame the criminals. The way she has converted an incident into a full-fledged novel is commendable, creating fictitious conversations and handling the sensitive issue with utmost care, she never falters from her focus – telling Aruna’s story!

Read more in the following links:
The Hindu
Indian Express

(Image source: Infibeam)


  1. This author really sounds incredible. I will be on the lookout for anything by her. Great that she is bringing attention to the shortcomings of the Laws, something that needs to be done all over the world.

  2. Yes, that is what I really liked about the author too. I have her third book “Once was Bombay” which is a collection of short stories. I had started the book but did not like it much at that point of time. But I am keen on “Deaf Heaven”, then will restart “Once was Bombay”. Right now, I am reading “Miracle in Andes” by Nando Parrando, an inspiring autobiographical book for a change.

  3. I had come to know of the incident when Aruna passed away earlier this year!!! And the whole incident still manages to give me goosebumps!!!

    Might read this book sometime later! I need to finish Deaf Heaven & Bitterchocolate first! Both lie unread in my shlelf!

  4. Don’t know about ‘Deaf Heaven’ but don’t read ‘Bitter Chocolate’ now. It is quite disturbing.


  6. @JOJI: Hi, I went through the link. Thank you for linking my post on Pinki Virani's book. After reading the book, I have also read several newspaper articles on Aruna Shanbaug's story, and everytime I am deeply moved by the efforts of KEM staff. What they are doing for her is beyond words, especially in this day and age. I am not too sure why Pinki Virani petitiond for 'mercy kiling' because Aruna Shanbaug does not appear to be brain dead. The concept of 'Mercy Killing' is way too sensitive, controversial and perceptual. Who will decide whether another individual should live or die? But most of all, I could not understand why Aruna's tormentor was never tried for rape.