Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai

I don’t know what led me to this book, but once I read this, I was certainly hooked to read it:

“In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where thirteen people lie dead. The girl is alive, but she has been beaten and abused. She is held in the local prison, awaiting interrogation for the murders she is believed by the local people to have committed. Visiting social worker Simran attempts to break through the girl’s mute trance to find out what happened that terrible night. As she uncovers more and more, Simran realises that she is caught in the middle of a terrifying reality, where the unwanted female offspring of families are routinely disposed of. Brilliantly atmospheric, hauntingly real, this is a major debut from an exciting new author.”

The book deals with an important issue of female infanticide in Punjab. Quite a coincidence, these days I have also been watching this serial called “Na Aana Is Des Meri Laado”, which also deals with the same issue. Apparently, the women in the interiors of such places believe that if there are few of them, then they will be valued more. Well, there’s this movie called “Matrubhoomi”, and it is one of the most horrifying movies I have ever seen. One thing is that it is badly made, but the main thing that disturbed me was the premise of the story. The movie is about this woman, “Kalki”, who is the only surviving woman with only men around her. You can imagine what would have become of her.

It is a well-known fact that Punjab-Haryana has the lowest sex ratio across India. Here’s an article on the alarming numbers and how education has not been able to curb this evil, and it stands out as prominently in urban Punjab, as much as it does in the rural areas.

Such strong inclination for a male child is not only for dowry because it is quite prevalent in affluent families as well. The issue is also deeply rooted into property and social status (read stigma).

Coming back to the book. The fact that the writer feels quite strongly about the issue stands out starkly through the book. There are definitely a few shortcomings, but we must give her credit to create such a page-turner, and yet drive home the point. The beginning is as much shocking as much it is intriguing, and sets the stage for the story to unfold. I finished this book in 3 ‘week’-days, with only a few hours of reading each day. It was almost unputdownable - sometimes you were absorbed in the flow, sometimes you rooted for Simran to keep up her spirit, sometimes you got all boggled on ‘who-did-it’! At some point, it also gets quite alarming to just think of what is happening to so many girls, may be our age, may be a few years younger, may be who never could take birth.

I would say it is a worthy book. 


  1. though I have not read this book, but i feel this must be good. I am trying to get one copy.

  2. Yes, the book is good. You must try it. It is available on all online bookshops and they have several options for payment as per your convenience.