Tag Archives: Penguin Hamish Hamilton

The Good Girls – An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro

The Good Girls - An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro

Title: The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing
Author: Sonia Faleiro
Publisher: Penguin Hamish Hamilton, Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0670088829
Genre: Non-fiction, Gender Studies, True Accounts
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Faleiro had heard about the Badaun killings on Twitter, in the year 2014, as did most of us. It shook her to this extent that she decided to go the village of Katra in the Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh where the death of two teenage girls, who were also cousins, took place. The picture that circulated on social media was that of them hanging from a mango tree, whose memory is etched in so many minds and hearts. Though momentarily forgotten perhaps, it can be conjured in an instant. Between 2014 and 2019, Faleiro interviewed everyone connected with the deaths to produce a story in which there are different perspectives – each struggling to make themselves heard, each hustling for credibility.

Whether it is a cousin who claimed to have seen the girls getting kidnapped by Pappu Yadav, a 19-year old from the neighbouring village. Or whether it was someone else who had claimed to have spotted Pappu with the girls (who are known as Padma and Lalli in the book). Or whether it was the parents and relatives of these girls who didn’t act soon enough, scared that their honour will be at stake. Well, at the end of the day, the truth is that the girls were dead.

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro is not just an investigative book or a “non-fiction novel” as some would seem it to be. It is a chronicle of what women go through in the country on a daily basis, and this isn’t just restricted to one region or is a function of being educated or not. The brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in 2012 is a testament of that fact. The Good Girls is a book that holds no judgement. It is about the facts, and yet Faleiro’s writing is so strong and insightful that you cannot help but feel overwhelmed in most places while reading. The idea that two teenage girls – children really, died before their time. The idea that they could not lead full lives. The idea that we give so much importance to factors such as caste, honour, about how a girl should be and should not be, that we forget to consider life – the very basic essence of life and living.

Sonia Faleiro’s book is about the India that is still struggling with so much – patriarchy, lack of education for women and girls, poverty being the biggest issue (which most , maybe even all politicians turn a blind eye to or very conveniently use it to their advantage), about lack of faith not only in the judiciary system but also in the workings of the police and safety that cannot be trusted, and about the way we treat our women and men at the same time.

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing – just the very title says so much. Something that is so chilling, and yet only so ordinary that it could take place on an almost daily basis (and maybe does) and yet apathy is supreme. Sonia Faleiro also without taking any side goes to the heart of that apathy and indifference through this work that chronicles the brutality, that takes place more on a mental and emotional level. Faleiro’s writing is to the point. All facts and suppositions (that sprung from various narratives) are laid out for the reader. Everything is in plain sight. The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing never lets us forget that at the heart of it – of all that occurred, two teenage girls, two children really, with so much life, and possibility and a future, lost their lives to patriarchy and its machinations.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara Title: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
Author: Deepa Anappara
Publisher: Penguin Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 9780670093380
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 344
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is a joy to read – the prose I mean. The story is dark, and will bring you down, but will also make you smile and maybe make you hopeful about the world around us. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara is a revelation – even revealing what you already know but ignore as you live your life on a daily basis.

The book is about children that are disappearing from a basti (slum) they live in. Jai, a nine-year-old kid decides to find these children, with the help of his friends, Pari and Faiz. He is influenced by the true crime show Police Patrol and is confident that his detection skills will make everything alright. He also recruits a dog for this task and names him Samosa. The story then takes off with more children disappearing, their detective work, and what it ultimately leads to.

This is the thread-bare plot of the book. Of course, there is a lot more that goes on. Anappara doesn’t name the city in which the Purple Metro Line runs but you get a sense of it. The hi-fi buildings next to the basti, the large mountain of garbage, the walls built to separate the rich and the poor, and the aspirations that continue to soar.

With this book, she builds a world that is known to us and yet remains unknown. Is it because we don’t want to see how lives are lived there? Is it because we don’t wish to be involved in lives other than ours? There was a lot of morality play at work while I was reading Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line and rightly so. Anappara wants you to question it all – the intent, the society we live in, the rules we follow or make, the ones that we don’t because we are scared, and lives that don’t get the same or equal opportunities such as ours, no matter how woke we are.

A lot is communicated through the book and a lot which readers have to infer. The book also has been published at a time when the Indian democracy is at the mercy of political parties who have the agenda of dividing and ruling basis religion. It comes at a time of Delhi riots, where there is clearly a pogrom at play – that of eliminating Muslims. A major part of the book also speaks of Hindu-Muslim divide in the wake of disappearing children.

There are three sections in the book, and each starts with “This Story Will Save Your Life” chapter which is about the grim reality of the underbelly (so to say) and yet sounds so assuring. Djinn Patrol is narrated by Jai – the language is English, sprinkled with Hindi throughout, which is the lifeline of the book. There is no need for translation of those words because they take the form of emotion. Anappara doesn’t spell all for the reader, she doesn’t want to explain it all – it is left to the reader to decipher – the situations, the language, and hence draw out the meaning.

Jai, Pari, and Faiz are endearing, earnest, and want to live a secure life and nothing more. It seemed to me that Anappara wanted nothing more for them but had to say what she had to. The children are lost, the djinns are legendary, the class divide is real, the rubbish pile dividing them quite literally is as real as it can get, and in all of this is the slum, which is home. The prose brings it all out – nosy neighbours, dangerous children, even more dangerous adults, a trip to the red-light district, the sense of dread, the claustrophobia as you are reading a scene taking place in small spaces, the smells – of shit, oil, ginger and cardamom tea, and the ever-hanging smog – the smog that doesn’t seem to lift like their misfortune.

Djinn Patrol is a coming-of-age story, a thriller, a literary story, a story of imagination and fantasy, a story that is both linear and nonlinear, and a story that is tough with a heart that’s as soft as cotton. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is a book that will stay for long and hopefully will make you pray for the children of the world.