In the recent years gone by, few criminal cases have shocked and intrigued Indians as much as the Aarushi Talwar case – and for good reason. That two parents could be so depraved and inhuman so as to murder their only child to safeguard their ‘honour’, that a 14-year-old could be having a sordid affair with her middle-aged servant, that one of the parents could be having an affair with someone; the case has all the trappings of a headliner.
After seven years since the incident, though, Avirook Sen has come up with a book that goes beyond it all and reveals what really happened. Of course, some readers might think ‘You can’t say that’s what really happened; it is after all one man’s narration’. But that’s the great thing about the book, it is so ‘clinical’ in its writing, in that the facts are hard and cold, laid out bare for everyone to see that you won’t for a minute doubt that it’s anything but the truth. Agreed, the book seems to have been written heavily in favour of the Talwars but Sen presents every reason to do so.
Throughout the course of the book, the one thing that remains with you is the shoddy nature of the investigation and how the police would rather fabricate a story that fits conveniently into the puzzle rather than the other way round. For instance, the police finding Aarushi’s online chats with a boyfriend and labelling her a fallen girl so that her “affair” with Hemraj the servant could seem plausible. The same thing also throws ample light on how we, as a society, function.
We judge, we believe the worst. Policemen are humans too, so their prejudices end up affecting investigations too. Case in point, after the judgement, when the Talwars submitted a plea for an opportunity to appeal, the presiding judge refused. When the couple’s lawyer argued that the two have been model citizens, with no past criminal record and weren’t going to repeat the crime they had supposedly committed, the judge replied, “Your clients cannot repeat the crime because they don’t have another daughter to murder.”
The book offers some serious WTF moments too. Here we go:
- The creation of an email id ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ created by an officer to send e-mails to the Talwars so that they’d feel ‘guilty’ every time they answered to it. A pressure tactic.
- The police ‘changing’ the weapon of offence from hammer to khukri to a 4 iron golf club to 5 iron golf club.
- Casting aspersions on Talwars’ characters because they ‘ate non-veg on Thursdays’.
- Naresh Raj’s testimony that Hemraj had or was about to have sex with Aarushi before he was murdered or while he was murdered was based on “the experience of my marriage”. When the defence pointed out the ridiculousness of this testimony, he replied, “It is incorrect to suggest that my marriage and experiences of my marriage have nothing to do with the swelling I found in Hemraj’s penis.”
- Judge Shyaam Lal’s obsession with the English language that drove him to write this as the introduction of his judgement: “The cynosure of judicial determination is the fluctuating fortunes of the dentist couple Dr Rajesh Talwar and Dr Nupur Talwar, who have been arraigned for committing and secreting as also deracinating the evidence of commission of the murder of their adolescent daughter.” Go figure.
- The fact that the judge started writing this judgement even before the defence had started arguing the case.
Sen’s book also shows the utter lack of restraint and sensitivity of media in the country. Agreed, there are two sides to a coin – that media has helped unearth many a case but the amount of damage that was done to the Talwar case by the media is simply irreversible. Newspapers and tabloids were as much responsible for the character assassination of the Talwar family as the law and order system of India. In fact, one person in the book clearly admits that the police had no motivation to twist the case the way it did, it was simply ‘utter stupidity’. During the time that I read the book, it was heartening to see good, credible, honest people involved in the case but the truth is that they were like solitary drops in a vast ocean of corruption.
What I liked
- The depth of it all. The research is astounding.
- The lack of emotion. At no point, at least in my reading, did I feel that Sen deliberately tries to make his reader feel. He leaves that to the reader. He questions, probes, analyses but never decides.
What I did not like
- The editing is not up to the mark. Time and again, there have been debates about this and the tendency to leave errors in a book, that too by a noted publishing house, is increasing. Given the subject of the book and the sheer avalanche of facts that are thrown at the reader, it should have been imperative to structure the book better. It goes back and forth so many times (and it needs to) that it ended up confusing me for some time.
Aarushi is a deeply, deeply disturbing book, it’ll wreak havoc with your mind for long after you’ve read it. I personally felt as if it would be a crime to raise my child in this country. It may or may not impact the Talwars’ case but the book did what it set out to: expose the underbelly of the law and order system in this country. Aarushi, just for this, is worth picking up.
Author: Avirook Sen
Publisher: Penguin India
Price: Rs. 175 (Kindle)
Buy it on Amazon here.