Sunday, December 02, 2018

Dear Shri Suresh Prabhu, Honourable Railway Minister

Shri Suresh Prabhu
Honarable Railway Minister
Rail Bhavan
256-A, Raisina Road,
Rajpath Area, Central Secretariat,
New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Subject: Complaint against Ticket Collector (TC) on duty in First Class Compartment of August Kranti from Mumbai Central to H. Nizamuddin, Delhi on 1st December, 2018

Dear Sri Suresh Prabhu,

I travelled from Mumbai Central, Mumbai to H.Nizamuddin on a 1st Class PNR no: 8433992200 on 1st December, 2018 arriving Delhi 2nd December, 2018.

There were four berths in my 1st Class coupe, of which I occupied berth number 21, Compartment H, Coupe H 1. After Surat, I found that the TC, named Mohan M. Sakelu, CIT/BET, Mobile number: 09422668524, 09004497554. had permitted 4 (four) drunken men into the compartment and into my coupe who had no tickets. 

I am a single woman travelling alone in that coupe. I was startled when the four inebriated men in their twenties began to address me.

-          We are like your children.
-          We are Agarwal boys
-          We are Brahman boys
-          We will do seva to you
-          May we press your feet?

My alarm bells rang at their intrusion and the vulgar speech to an unknown woman. I raised alarm and demanded to see the TC. When he came in, I, in no uncertain terms I told him that it is absolutely unacceptable that he should have allowed these drunken men inside the 1st Class Compartment and also that at that time of their entry into my coupe, I was the only woman there. I ordered him to give me his details and also to throw these men out of the coupe.

He requested them to leave the coupe after they had had their dinner and go to the 2nd Class AC Compartment, but in the morning I noticed that the men were still in the same class but in a different coupe.

My question to you, Shri Suresh Prabhu is: (a) How as the railway minister, are you monitoring the obvious corruption among Ticket Collectors. (b) And most importantly, what are you doing for the safety of women travelling on trains in India?

I would like to inform you that this letter to you will be widely circulated in Social Media for general awareness and warning.

Do please take this matter up seriously and respond.

Best regards,

Julia Dutta
Ticket Transaction ID: 100001512601967
PNR no: 8433992200
Train no/Name: 12953/August Kranti Rajdhani Express
Date of Journey: 01-Dec-2018 From Mumbai Central to H Nizamuddin, Delhi  

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why India Needs To SCREAM!

Dear Advocate Devika Singh,

Way back in 1997, the honourable Indian Supreme Court set up Vishaka Guidelines which you have commented upon in your blog 

However, it is important to remind ourselves on this subject of What is sexual harassment?

The honourable Indian Supreme Court has clearly defined it as under:
Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as:
a) physical contact and advances;
b) a demand or request for sexual favors;
c) sexually colored remarks;
d) showing pornography;
e) any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Courtesy: Wikipedia

In the present case, with regard to acquitting Mohammad Farooqui in the case filed against him for rape by a complainant residing in the United States, your powerful poem moved me to write this email to you. You have touched upon the many times and the multiple ways patriarchy which propagate power of male gender homo-sapiens  commonly known as man, in our society and empowered them to use power, physical, mental, psychological, over women. Thus, over ages, society wired in by this insidious crime against women, has got away with the worst because, the system is too deeply entrenched in the minds of men, and women alike, prompting them to bring up their daughters to be victims and sons to be forever ‘right’ even as a perpetrator.

I have read and gone through the entire proceedings and the content of the email. I came across this on FaceBook via my good friend Aditi Ray.

Frankly, the email is misleading sometimes, and has thus been used by the Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao (please to note, there was no woman Judge on this panel, which is unacceptable when the case is about rape), to acquit the accused director of Piplee Live, Mohammad Farooqui for the 2nd time in January 2018, after he was acquitted in the High Court in 2015. The grounds cited are evident from her email – “She said I love you and kissed him- 

Explanation 2,. Sec 375 defined Rape in the following Link 

It clearly states:
“375. A man is said to commit "rape" who except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions:  
Firstly. Against her will.      
Secondly. Without her consent.   
Thirdly. With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death, or of hurt.   
Fourthly. With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.         
Fifthly. With or without her consent, when she is under fourteen years of age.
Explanation. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.  
Exception. Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under thirteen years of age, is not rape.”

Mohammad Farooqui is guilty on all grounds stated above. She did not give consent. In fact, she continued to say no, even as he pushed himself harder on her.

It is yet to establish, whether a thorough in depth inquiry had been made on the content of the email, for the complainant does appear to be under duress and even confused in her own head to have made statements that did not tally throughout. Yet, picking up statements like ‘I love you’ or ‘making drinks for him’, ‘they were friends’ ‘faked orgasm’ when she says earlier that this was the first time, and coming to conclusion that the complainant had given consent is drawing a conclusion too soon. Was the complainant questioned to find out her background, whether she was a victim of child sexual abuse in the past, or why she shot off an email that was confusing in content? And most importantly, why Mohammad Farooqui, guilty on two accounts – first, for cheating on his wife, in their house, right under her nose, and then secondly, committing rape when his wife was out of the house, is still acquitted, leaves much to be desired. The case seems to be hurried to conclusion, favouring the man, in an all male Bench, with no desire to open and scrutinize the case, once again, since it was brought forward after the High Court had passed its judgment in favour of Mohammad Farooqui. If the complainant appealed to the honourable Supreme Court, then was it not the duty of the SC to relook at the case from a fresh angle, without quickly dismissing it as ‘High Court’ has taken the most measured and well-thought out decision, and so the case is closed and The Supreme Court does not wish to open the case again?

If justice be done, then, the case must be reopened and scrutinized.

(a)  More inputs on the content of the email is required and deciphering its true meaning, which to me is unclear, since there is a lot written between the lines which has not been taken account of.
(b)  Mohammad Farooqui must be bought to task on clear evidence of a double deceit, one against his wife and the other against the complainant by forcing himself against her will even though she constantly said no to it; for un-natural oral sex with the victim and then penetration which makes the entire procedure tantamount to rape.
(c)  Consultation with Psychologists and persons working with Child Sexual Abuse victims for a more in-depth meaning of the email. There is a need for far more public discourse and involvement to garner strength over the case which is shoved under the carpet by the honourable Supreme Court saying they do not wish to re-look at the decision made by the Mumbai High Court, as they are quite sure that the conclusion arrived at is after profound deliberations on the said case at hand.
(d)  Bench must consist of woman as judge along with gender male judge to make the judgment acceptable.
(e)  The Supreme Court must answer why it is flaunting its own judgment and guidelines set up by Vishaka Guidelines and also Explanation 2, Sec 375

A time has come that India needs to SCREAM loudly about atrocities against women and the law-less-ness that prevails in our country over Rape which is rampant across the country and goes unreported at most times and dismissed if brought before Law of the country.
Precisely why, the complainant returned abroad to file an FIR, because, within India, the custodians of law and order, the Public Police Service are reluctant to do so.

Mohammad Farooqui may be free man, but is a perpetrator on the prowl. He is symbolic of the decadence of a society that thrives on lies and male power to dominate and subjugate woman they wish to objectify to meet the carnal desires of their oft deranged minds - their mother, sister, daughter, wife, and girlfriend.   

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Book Review: Nights of The Dark Moon by Tutu Dutta

Of Dark Nights and Folktales

Thirteen Gothic stories from eleven countries in Asia and Africa – quite a feat achieved over continents showing a single thread of interconnection, that being all the stories which fall in the folktales and legends category are dark stories some with humour built into them – a unique collection of YA fiction stories.

Tutu Datta’s book, Nights of the Dark Moon, looks at a common thread in all the stories, which have been collected over a decade by the author, that being in each story one encounters with something from the paranormal, world-of-spirit, which appears to be invincible, because of the very nature of these ‘beings’ when confronted by the homo sapiens. The stories draw from this ‘sameness’ that runs in folktales across all these nations, where, the ‘Nights of the dark moon’, meaning the Nights when the earth covers the moon and in so doing, darkens the earth even more. It is out of this scary darkness, that many a folktale has taken birth. Tutu Datta’s book holds some of the best of them.

You may ask, what is the greatness in dark humour and dark tales? As simple as this: dark takes to excite the mind with their chilling and haunted stories, laced with ancient curses, supernatural creatures and damsel-in-distress encounters which the human mind can explore, but not solve. Yet, each story in the collection talks of valour, courage, and revenge taken to silence the disturbed soul, which in most cases were done injustice to. Thus, the young adult, of any age, is able to duly impersonate in his or her mind the central hero/heroine in the story and play out the brave, strong, unafraid worrier that brings justice to the harmed or killed.

The stories at the beginning of the book are far more chilling and have a lot to do with killing the evil spirits, taking revenge, deceit, and damage, followed by others which slowly temper down, but are not totally free of their dark humour and content. The author has arranged all the thirteen - Oh My God! Isn’t 13 an evil number too – starting from the far east, where the sun rises first, Japan, to where the sun is the hottest, Africa.  Further, the stories get romantic and talk of longing, affection, and sorrow.

Although, I loved all the stories, my favourites were in the end, the ones from West Africa and Nigeria, because, they spoke of threes and how, cutting trees can cause untold harm to the woodcutter because, the good spirits who dwell in the trees are angered and the evil spirit also dwelling alongside, creates havoc, which a valiant hero with his sword cannot silence, and must then use his wit and intelligence to appease the spirit. Now isn’t that so much like stories we heard about the great warrior, in India, called Vikramaditya? Yes, now read that story in Tutu Datta’s book, King Vikram and Betaal the Vampire. What a smart, brave and wise king he was! The fine illustrations at the beginning of each story are also drawn by Tutu Dutta. They really are exquisite!

My fingers may be trembling as I write the names of the stories and the countries they have originated from, for who can forget the unexplained horror stories told so easily – The Haunted Bridge of Agi (Japan), The curse of Miryang (Korea), The Tiger of Flower Hill (China), The Shapeshifter of Co Lao (Vietnam), The Temple of Rara Jonggrang (Indonesia), Hang Nadam (Singapore), The Seven Princesses of Ulek Mayang ( Malaysia), The Strange Tale of Chief Naam (Malaysia), Princess of the Bamboo ( Malaysia & Sumatra), King Vikram and Betaal the Vampire (India), The Weeping Lady ( India). The Witchman (Nigeria), The Curse of the Iroko Tree (West Africa). What fascinated me, is the commonality in cultures and rituals across all the folktales from all the countries. And hence, while Tutu Datta’s book, Nights of the Dark Moon, may be a collection of dark folktales of valour, courage and perseverance, at a deeper level, young scholars can take up the study of these tales and draw up a table of similarity between these cultures in all these lands, which run a near identical thread of mores.

In the preface to the book, the author states, “dark tales get young readers interested – exhilarated – about reading. These stories allow young people to experience danger in a safe place, i.e, in the pages of a book.” She goes on to quote Neil Gaiman, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell you that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

What a wonderful lesson for youth growing up in a world torn by strife, disparities, inequalities, and terror.

About the author: Tutu Datta is a writer of children’s and young adult books. She is the author of eight books. Her non-fiction work includes a paper on Asian Folklore presented at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Singapore in 2013. She was also one of the judges for the Scholastic Asia Young Writers Award 2014. To know more on Tutu Datta and her work, visit her website by Clicking HERE

Nights of the Dark Moon is available as printed and ebook format, across nations including India on Click to BUY 

NOTE: Also published in The Shillong Times. CLICK HERE to read.

Monday, July 09, 2018

#WakeUp or #PackUp #MadWithBhan #MADTakeWays

   Book Review - Make A Difference With  (a little assistance from) Bhan.

“Somewhere between 6 and 9 in every 10 Start-Ups fail.

No one is exactly sure how many.

And very few of us know exactly why?

Seventy-five percent startups fail, stated Harward Business School in 2012.

Eighty per cent start ups fail, Forbes told us in 2013.

As many as 90% of start ups in India fail within the first 5 years, according to 2017 survey conducted by IBM Institute of Business Value in collaboration with Oxford Economics.

By year 10, only one-third startups survive, as per US Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

All this is not my voice; it is not even #RavinderBhans voice. According to him, Owner, Founder, and CEO of #TPS ManagementConsultants, with 35 years of marketing consultancy experience behind him, in all he says is “Focus on succeeding.”

Precisely why I picked his book, Make A Difference With  (a little assistance from) Bhan.

After the initial few epages of forward, acknowledgments from India, UAE and USA giant multi-nationals, the author brings us straight to the subject – Do I have the money to StartUp? Do I have a product to sell? Followed by how to…detailed step-by-step way to do which engrosses the reader totally. Let’s admit it, you won’t pick up this book, unless you want to StartUp yourself. So, naturally, your mind is ticking away as Bhan hand-holds you through the pages, from start to take you to next level.

At the end of each Chapter you have the #MAD Takeaways and let me tell you, I have been to many conferences of StartUps, but have never come to such a precise summarization of thoughts placed across all the Chapters.

Every Chapter starts with a story, you can identify with if you are a startup or are planning to become one.

In 1992, the author tells us, he had been employed for one-single-day! It was the turning point in his life. He had a family to maintain and kids in school. At rock-bottom, as many of us in business or in life know, the springboard of transformation happens. One might have nothing except a burning will to rise like a phoenix and fly. That is exactly what happened to Bhan – straight from the horse’s mouth, straight talk, then. When you have been there, done that, there is nothing to look back to, only the journey ahead!

A highly motivating book, this!

In India, where the population is high, and education too is available to all, at least in the urban areas, jobs are hard to come by. The industry does not require the kind of manpower out there in the market. Automation is quickly taking over, so there is bound to be a huge shakeout of manpower or no human hands required for jobs except retail, and online activity. There is no option, but to StartUp, if one wants to survive. #RavinderBhans book comes to aid.

You might like to be inspired by him on the following online forums.

#RavinderBhan is on Facebook – Click HERE and Like his page And on Twitter Click HERE

On LinkedIn, where he has a huge following – Click HERE and follow/connect.

And on YouTube – Click HERE to get inspired.

You can also reach him at TPS Management Consultants

Monday, July 02, 2018

The Ballad of Bant Singh by Nirupama Dutt

Picture credit HERE
A little background: When I was little, I grew up in a small hill-station town called Shillong, At that time, many houses had their toilets away from the main house, so people went to defecate there. Irrespective, though whether the toilet was inside or outside the main house, there was a back door to the toilets even if they were inside, with WC/Indian model. It is through these back doors, and the open toilets in other houses, that I saw men with pagris come to clean toilets or take the excreta away, replacing full for empty oil-tins which served as excreta collectors. Quite naturally, in many houses, you had to change your clothing to go to the toilet and then, return and wash up or even have a mini-bath, wear fresh clothes and then enter the house again. As a child or even a teenager, I was not aware of the caste system in India. The word Shudra/which is now addressed as Dalit was only in my sociology books, but I had no knowledge of who they were.

Then I came to other parts of the country. I was shocked to find, men and women in pagris living in our locality and their children going to the same school as I did. As far as my life in Shillong was concerned, I had some lovely friends called Jyoti and Daljit Kaur as schoolmates. In Shillong, these men who came to clean the toilets I knew lived in Bara Bazaar, but it was not until, August last year that I walked through their lane, going out to catch a bus to Upper Shillong. It was a lovely habitat – both sides filled with shops and residences and even a Gurudwara.

“Oi!’ I said to myself, ‘this is just like parts of Delhi.”

That this area can be under attack, is unthinkable, because, these hard working Punjabi Dalits have lived here for a long time and washed and cleaned toilets of many of the Shillongites, including Khasis.

As a resident of Delhi for the last twenty years, I have been the recipient of Punjabi heartwarming inclusion, visited Gurudwaras and even went an stayed in Beas, Radha Swami Satsang.  The painful stories of Dalits can be read on my blog.

But, no to The Ballad of Bant Singh, the torchbearer of what Dalits in Punjab are trying to get rid of the exploitation of their women, the rape that goes unrecorded, and the sheer violence that erupts when there is resistance from them against the upper caste.  

But, you can’t kill a mockingbird – their songs will tear through your soul making you bleed with anguish yourself. Created in volumes the soulful music of Udasi, who inspired Bant Singh, with his revolutionary sharyari,  the songs flow in your blood-steam like molten iron in your veins, red with pain that must be intolerably hard to bear, at the same time, sweet music to the ear and soul. An abundance of these lyrics is captured in the book.

They say a soulful voice can only take birth out of extreme pain. The need to talk and sing about a revolution in society is as old as humans on earth are, especially when discarded as the scum of society.

Poet, journalist, Art critic, Niruma Dutt’s painstaking work on The Ballad of Bant Singh is one such tale, written over a period of three years through the violence and ultimate dismembering of Bant Singh limbs, whose voice could not be tolerated by upper caste communities.

But, when blood speaks with anguish, hearts melt and the revolution moves on, with stronger intent and unwavering faith, that one day, they will overcome! There is no power in Punjab that can silence Bant Singh. Salute!

The poet and revolutionary, Bant Singh, has stirred the souls with his songs at the Jaipur Literature Fest, and now may travel across the globe singing his song of freedom.

“Many are the crossroads from life to death. The route that is different, may I be taken that way.” – Udasi

Below are some points from the book, which are interesting to note.

“In Bhuj Jhabbar, fifty-five percent of the population is Jat and forty-five Dalit. There are only two other castes in the village: two Bania brothers who are shopkeepers, and two houses belonging to families of the Jheevar or water-bearing caste. “  

Bhuj Jhabbar, is the village in Mansa district of Punjab’s Malwa region where Bant Singh lives.

“Most of the Dalits in this village – which is jointly set up by Jats and Dalits of Akila village not more than two hundred years ago – are agrarian labourers. It has a total population of around fifteen hundred...Only five Dalits of the village have government jobs and that too of the Class III or Class IV variety. There is one retired army jawan but his sons too are working as attached labourers. The Dalit tenements are shabby.”

Dalit women are regularly raped by upper caste men; indeed, it is almost a ritual that first the upper caste men must deflower a Dalit woman, while they take great pride in making the girl shriek with pain and horror. In her testimony, Bant Singh's daughter says, and I quote from the book -

“I, Baljit Kaur, daughter of Shri Bant Singh, am a resident of Bhuj Jhabbar in Mansa district, Punjab. I was gang-raped on July 6, 2002. I did not conceal the incident and along with my father waged a struggle for justice…”

“What, after all, does a Dalit labourer have? He has neither money nor influence. All he has is his own body, which he must use to earn a livelihood. And, as for the body of a Dalit woman, it is very easy for it to be seen as an object of casual, easy abuse. In bant’s case, and in Baljit’s, it was their bodies which became the sites of oppression.”

Quoting from Kushwant Singh’s book, The Sikhs, Dutt writes, “Sikhism did not succeed in breaking the caste system. In intermarriage is considered the test of equality, at no time, was there much intercaste marriage between Sikhs converted from different Hindu castes. The untouchable converted to Sikhism remained an outcast for matrimonial alliances. Although he was no longer untouchable in the sense of not being touched and sat in temples along with other Sikhs, in time…Sikhs of higher caste refused to eat with untouchables Sikhs and in villages, separate wells were provided for them.” Today, the author continues to tell us, cremation grounds in villages and small towns continue to be separate and the past decades have seen the rise of caste-based gurudwaras.

Thus, far from only being a very comprehensive biography on Bant Singh, only, Dutt has done her cultural, sociological and anthropological work so much in depth, that The Ballad Of Bant Singh, stretches past the boundaries of its covers to become, even a textbook for students studying anthropology, or sociology, of Dalits in Punjab.

It is a must-read for anyone interested in the Dalit movement in India, Punjab.

The Ballad of Bant Singh is available in both English and Punjabi. The English version is published by Speaking Tiger. You can buy it HERE 


Monday, June 25, 2018

Book Review - Destiny's Girl by Adite Banerjie

Picture Credit HERE
Adite Banerjie’s debut Indie novel, Destiny’s Girl, is a flight of imagination that would appeal to every woman, who is fond of romantic novels, like Mills & Boon, which is built on a wild figment of imagination, mixed with large portions of love, desire, longing, and rejection, only to return back to Prince Charming in every one’s life.

Yet there is a fabulous plot built in it.

Krish is the only son of mega business tycoon, KD, the owner of DGE Group, which is in the business of hospitality. It also specializes in horticulture and the growth and export of the finest new and originally patented flowers which are grown in their hothouse. These flowers are boutique flowers and are only available with the DGE Group. 

Krish, who wants to break out on his own, has been subjugated to his father’s power and control. It is clear now, that he is on the verge of being traded as material for more wealth accumulation, when his father is about to announce the engagement between the DGE Group and Surya Mittal’s daughter Amisha, so that the two families could bring further wealth to DGE Group. Krish, has only a few hours to dismantle this plan. He must marry someone before this happens.

Come Maya, trained landscapist, working at Kavita Dayal’s Landscaping Outfit, is spotted by Krish and his loins signal that this is the girl Krish must have as his wife. She is invited to a party by DGE Group and meets Krish, whom she falls in love with. She is drawn into the plot and becomes ‘wife-in-contract-only with Krish, and must now live with him.

For Maya, it is an overwhelming condition. She has an ax to grind with Krish’s father, hence, her marriage to Krish only brings her close to her objective. The contract specifies that they will not be in each other’s arms and bed, but can that clause be maintained?

In a stunning display of mind and body entanglement, hot words and even fiery passionate love-making, Maya and Krish are going to make the reader blush and battle with emotions rising within themselves, as they read on.

Don’t miss, woman! Indulge yourself! While men may read to update themselves on what women really love when they are in bed or pursued hard to be taken to.

Well done Adite! Waiting to read your next hot stuff, with a great plot as Destiny’s Girl surely has.

About the Author: Adite Banerjie  is a journalist and lives with her husband in Delhi/NCR, India. She has been published by Harlequin/Harper Collins. She has a few books in progress and loves watching films, back-to-back. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Guest Post - Priyanka Bhatia on How Money Sets You Free

L: Praveer Shukla R: Priyanka Bhatia

‘How long can you continue to sleep with your dreams?’ - Priyanka Bhatia

In 2008, Priyanka Bhatia was a successful journalist who covered business and politics for national newswire services. But from childhood, she dreamed of starting her own business. She pioneered the first Coffee Cafe Day in NOIDA while she worked with PTI and she invested money in stocks.

While the coffee shop was profitable, she lost almost all her money in the Crash of 2008. That was a turning point and she realized that unless she skilled up she would continue to dream – she realized that most women are untrained and uneducated in entrepreneurship and stock markets. She began to skill up and learn from some of the most successful businessmen and women - [Mrs. Neeru Tiwari, a stock investor for 40 years, Mr. Gautam Gupta, who attained financial freedom thru bonds, Mr. Lalit Khorana, businessman] and intensively practiced their recommendations. She also participated in women's business programs, such as the ISB course for women entrepreneurs and the mentoring program at the internationally acclaimed Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

Satisfied with accomplishing her own goals over the years, Priyanka began to offer other women the opportunity to achieve their dreams, too.

In 2011 she started Women On Wealth for women who are passionate about getting their money life in order, and are willing to make major life changes to have their money life work - permanently.
Priyanka developed WOW Money Gym, a course that helps women to develop a wealth mindset and provide tools and structures to support them in accomplishing their goals. The program has been life-changing for women from all walks of life.

One of the best ways to create wealth and move towards financial independence is India's stock market. Learning from her setback in 2008, Priyanka has taken expert guidance from some of the most successful investors and learned how to make profits irrespective of whether the markets are up or down. She is mentored by one of India's most successful women investors, Mrs. Neeru Tiwari, and, together, they have created a program for women - "How To Pick Quality Stocks for Beginners”

A question that Priyanka asks women is, "Every morning, you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them. Which one do you want?" She and her WOW teamwork with honest and open-minded women who are passionate to get their finances in order and are willing to embrace major life changes and solutions to have a money life that works permanently. The work includes result-producing workshops, webinars, group and one-on-one training, videos and free eBooks. The Women On Wealth team's experience is that stepping out towards financial freedom and independence is a transformational act for women.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Book Review - searching for Durga Sabyasachi by Chandini Santosh

Photo credit HERE
3rd December 1984. As the world sleeps in the idyllic city, Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, India, a few things are happening which will put the city, as the worst case in human history when corporate and government connived to allow no action or justice to be brought to the thousands of people who lost their lives, limbs, eyes, and are maimed for life. In the night, early morning of that day, the tragic event of a poisonous gas leak from American Company, Union Carbide, is covering the entire city and rolling out in huge balls along streets, killing thousands of innocent sleeping inhabitants.

On the same day, there in the hospital Operation Theatre, Dr. Arvind Patidar conducts a cesarean section on a woman almost died. An 11-pound baby boy is born as his mother breathes her last. In the meantime, in the delivery room, a woman delivers a still baby. This is her 3rd time over. Dr Patidar has only a minute to write a death certificate in the name of Durga Sabyasachi, reading the name inscribed on a ring the lady lying dead on the operation table is wearing on her finger, before he rushing out of the OT and to another hospital where his own wife is about to deliver his child, too. It is nurse Nancy Varkey’s last day of work at the hospital, before she is off to a month’s leave, to get married. As she leaves the OT, two sets of men wait anxiously, to know their fate – one, having lost his child twice before in still-born children and waiting to hear what has happened this time, in the labour room. The other sent by their mother, to find out the same the same news from the nurse. Nurse Nancy, takes charge of the moment, as the hospital crowds up with dying patients poisoned by the gas in the air. She hands over the child born to the lady, in the OT to the man, who has missed becoming a father twice, handing over the death certificate to the other, saying both mother and child died during delivery. And she is gone to catch the bus, to her home. That day, she had only one thing in mind and that was her marriage. She had no clue that she along with many others, in that scene, that fatal day, would be revisited by the ghosts from the past.

After 26 years, Mohit Sabyasachi, returns to search who his real mother was, after his father, on his deathbed reveals, the secret of his birth. Mohit, now a photojournalist in Delhi, is obsessed to finds his real identity. He must return to Bhopal, to trace back the events that finally lead him to his real birth mother. He is aided by his fellow journalist and girlfriend, Pia Shanbhag and together they are able to unearth the finer details of the birth of Mohit Sabyasachi, and locate who his real parents were.

In a gripping account of one event leading to another, Chandini Santosh, weaves her story, skillfully, opening up the most intricate details of the lives of the characters in her book. The author has the ability to draw the reader into the tapestry of her story almost as soon as the book starts. Spaced between 30 years, the chapters go back and forth throwing light on the events in the past and the goings-on in the present.

Choosing Bhopal, 3rd December 1984 as the location and date on which her book is situated, the author has made sure that any mention of Bhopal & 3rd December 1984 would simultaneously, bring to mind, Mohit Sabyasachi and his heart-wrenching search for his identity, in searching for Durga Sabyasachi. 

The book is an example of what an individual will do and to what extent he will go to find the truth about himself. It portrays the extraordinary human need to define “Who Am I?”

Yet, it is the end, the brilliant display of love, respect and duty that brings the story to ‘closure’.

I only wish, the editing had been better. Also, proofreading errors; annoy the reader, ever so often.

Main characters: Durga Sabyasachi, Mohit Mehra/Sabyasachi,, Pia Shanbhag, Sabyasachi Mukherji, Dr. Arvind Patidar, Dr. Parikshit Shukla,  Nancy Varkey, Jalaluddin Farouqi, the Undertaker/gravedigger.

Chandini Santosh is a novelist, poet, and painter. She has three solo collections of poetry and two painting exhibitions to her credit. She is also the author of The House of Oracles published in 2016