12:00 AM, June 13, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 13, 2016

A glimpse of Indian society

AUTHOR: AVIROOK SEN || PENGUIN BOOKS INDIA, 2015

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The very beginning of Aarushi by India based eminent journalist Avirook Sen reminds me of the opening lines of The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing. Both books deal with macabre murder. Both writers, through their tales, raise some questions which remain unanswered till the end of the books. Since the review will solely discuss multifarious facets of Aarushi, it will not answer the questions raised by Lessing. Rather, it will attempt to unfold how Avirook Sen has hatched a gruesome tale based on a real life incident. De facto, Sen started covering Talwars' trial from 2012 for the Mumbai Mirror. In 2014, after the declaration of verdict which gave Talwars' life time imprisonment, the author interviewed the key witnesses, investigators, family and friends of the Talwars. He attended the trial and accessed important documents.

Aarushi is based on the brutal killing of a thirteen-year-old girl Aarushi Talwar. She was found with her throat slit in her room in the Delhi suburb on May 16, 2008. The day after the murder, a middle-aged domestic servant of Talwar's family, Hemraj's body was also found nearby. 

A very close reading of the book exposes that Sen as a writer is less interested in knowing who may have actually killed Aarushi, rather he is much interested in exploring whether there was enough evidence to convict the Talwars. He strongly believes there has been a miscarriage of justice based on the evidence he saw in the trial. At this point, it must be mentioned that in November 2013, Rajesh Talwar and Nupur Talwar, parents of Aarushi Talwar, were held on accusation of killing their only daughter and domestic help Hemraj. Two investigation reports given by the Uttar Pradesh Police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) clearly state that 'it was an honor killing perpetrated by the parents.' But Sen thinks this story has been fabricated by the CBI to prove the Talwars guilty.   

Furthermore, Sen's keen observations unveil many a prosecutorial errors and the failures of the investigators. Whether Aarushi was raped before she was killed is unknown due to the contamination or loss of DNA. Sen outstandingly reports the doctor who changed his testimony to assert that Aarushi's “vaginal opening was found prominently wide open” had never performed an autopsy on a woman's body before. Moreover, the pillow cases would draw special attention to the readers. A pillow and pillow cover seized from Hemraj's room were photographed and packed in sealed covers, which could only be opened on court orders. But Sen observes that these were taken out from the sealed envelopes and photographed again violating the due process. In this regard, Sen raises some relevant questions: “Here are the questions the agency did not answer about the photographs: 1. The pillow covers were under seal. No court authorized the opening of the seals, so on whose authority were the pictures taken? 2. Who took the pictures? 3. When were they taken?” In this way, Sen brings into focus the incongruities of the CBI's case against the Talwar couple. 

I believe if the readers go through the book, they will easily perceive the inner meanings of the aforesaid words. Though it is a non-fiction, the readers will get the taste of reading a fiction. The way Sen has dished out the true happenings of  Talwars family amid us is gravely heartrending. The diction he has employed in his text is fat-free and facile. Last but not least, some days before I went through A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. The book took me to a world where there is nothing at all to believe in. I believe after coming across Aarushi the readers will feel the same way I felt after I came across James's above-mentioned book. Overall, Aarushi will open a new vista before the eyes of the readers to discover the true nature of human beings hidden beneath the skin.

The reviewer is a critic. He teaches English at Central Women's University (CWU). 

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