I don’t want to call this a review. It is my experience, my thoughts on the book. It was no easy read. It was one of my toughest. Not because of the writing, but just the mere events…
They were the murders that gripped the nation. Eight years back Aarushi Talwar was found murdered in her bedroom in Noida. A day later the body of the prime suspect-the family servant Hemraj was discovered. The case rocked the media, with practically every news channel lapping up every bit of information. And with a press conference immediately following, that maligned the character of the young girl and the parents; all hell broke loose in the case. Over the next few years, the case went underway, with multiple twists and turns, eventually the Ghaziabad trial court convicting the parents of the crime. But are they really guilty or merely victims? Aarushi- the book is the account of this crime, by journalist turned author Avirook Sen. A sharp and detailed narration of the Noida double murder case.
Excerpt from the book
“When the astronaut Rakesh Sharma went to space in the early 1980s, the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, asked him what India looked like from up there. Rakesh Sharma’s response was memorable: Saare jahan se achha (better than all the world). This book is about what it looks like from the ground.”
Right at the outset, Avirook maintains his stand. He didn’t know the Talwars. But after going through the case, having attended every trial session in the lower court, and covering the proceedings with due diligence, he is convinced that there has been a mis-carriage of justice. He considers them to be victims of a system- with premier investigating agencies in the country having botched up investigations. From the day the crime was discovered -16 May 2008, till the conviction in 2013, Avirook traces the important events and milestones, that leaves almost all intrigued.
The Investigation, The Trial and The Dasna Diaries
The book is divided into these three parts that constructs the case sequentially. The writing is simple and keeps you hooked. As a reader you do conjure up images of the entire crime scene and I did get a sense of witnessing it all first hand. Yes- that’s Avirook’s impeccable writing skill. He digs further and deep inside, bringing out minute details- the way our investigative agencies work, the forensic teams and the larger Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Lines from the book: The CBI conducted a “scientific” test in Aarushi’s bedroom using Shalimar Superlac paint as blood, and when a judge asked if the paint had the same consistency as blood, a forensic ‘expert’ said, “Woh khoon jaisa tha” (“it was like blood”).
Apparently Shalimar paint has none of the properties of blood, except probably the colour. Avirook uses court documents, eyewitness accounts, and in-depth insight into how exactly the Indian Judicial system works.
Key questions left unanswered?
Yes, Avirook does believe in the parents’ innocence and he brings this out with great conviction. As a reader when you do look at the case with an open mind, you cannot but agree that there have been shortcomings in the judgment, the investigations that have been botched up, prejudices/pre-judgment strewn in the trial process and justice has probably not been served. We hardly have a forensic team that is efficient. The competence of our premier investigation agencies is questionable and the media’s increasing propensity to play judge and jury.
- Why did the key witnesses change their stance at court?
- How could a verdict be written well before the defence could conclude its argument, a month prior to announcement of the sentence?
- The crucial evidence of the pillow cover- tampering of the seal and was there really a typographical error?
- And it left me with an unsettling question – “What if it had been my child?”
Aarushi- The book has been impeccably written is well researched and perfectly constructed with diligence. The book is a must read for those who follow the case, and for those who don’t too. It gives you a grim picture of our State, our Judicial System and the thought processes which are strongly prevalent in society. Avirook Sen has done a brilliant job trying to fit in the missing pieces of a greatly jumbled murder puzzle.