Book review | You Beneath Your Skin unearths the misogyny, corruption and injustice

Published: November 3, 2019 10:19:32 AM

Damyanti Biswas, who volunteers with NGOs ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ and ‘Project Why’ and is strong advocate of women empowerment, was inspired to give voice to the stories of women who have been the victims through this book.

Book Review, You Beneath Your Skin, Damyanti Biswas, crime against women Delhi In this well worded suspenseful and gripping story she breathes life into not only the
characters but also the city which comes alive as you read of the smells of street
food, over whelming traffic and its fumes and the chai shop conversations.

By Shoma Abhyankar

Women have many times suffered brutalities at the hands of men be it domestic violence or crimes on streets. The inhuman viciousness meted out to Nirbhaya in Delhi had jolted the nation and left all shocked beyond words at the act. With rapes, acid attacks, kidnappings and murders, Delhi in its all ‘smog-choked’ noisy chaotic avatar has seen many violent crimes against women and this becomes the backdrop of the latest crime thriller ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ by Damyanti Biswas.

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Anjali Morgan, an American-Indian psychiatrist has her hands full being a single mother to an autistic teenager, helping NGO to rehabilitate victims of crime and violence, the slum women and children and keeping her affair with a much married Police Commissioner under wraps. With a surge in crimes where more slum women are found raped, mutilated by acid attacks and trashed around Delhi, the commissioner dives deeper in investigations only to uncover many truths that are terrifyingly closer home. As Anjali struggles to keep sanity in her chaotic life, her
affair blows back with much intensity and Anjali finds herself caught amidst all horrifying violent happenings in the city.

While the story is inspired from victims of the acid attacks and revolves around Anjali, but every other associated character in Anjali’s life has a space and story crafted only for them. Be it Jatin, the Police Commissioner whose marriage is failing or his teenage son who seems to be falling wayward or Maya, Jatin’s sister and Anjali’s closest friend. Each character is dealing with pains and challenges of their own adding to the story.

Though the premise of the story is crime but it has many more dimensions to it. It is a story of various relationships and their struggle for semblance. It is about parent and child bond in Anjali’s coming to terms with the strained relationship with her mother or her constant efforts to bring normalcy in her autistic son’s life. It is about her quest to seek happiness and love that defies societal rules. It is about Maya and her fear of rejection by men. It is about Jatin, a father who is blind to the follies of his son. It is about humans in all their shades of grey.

As the story navigates through narrow filthy lanes of slums it also unearths the misogyny, corruption and injustice. It touches sensitively on the pain of an acid attack victim. The fascination of society at large with the skin-deep beauty is not lost when Anjali despairs at ‘her organs melting before her eyes’ or when Maya desperately covers her vitiligo.

Damyanti Biswas, who volunteers with NGOs ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ and ‘Project Why’ and is strong advocate of women empowerment, was inspired to give voice to the stories of women who have been the victims through this book.

In this well worded suspenseful and gripping story she breathes life into not only the characters but also the city which comes alive as you read of the smells of street food, overwhelming traffic and its fumes and the chai shop conversations.

A tightly woven story that doesn’t let its readers slacken the pace as it vividly describes each moment. Surprisingly the story does not lose its momentum even though the perpetrators of crime are disclosed quite early in the book. Instead, it makes the reader more curious. With characters that evoke dislike, sympathy, hope at various stages, this book is simply un-put-down-able for the readers of thrillers.

(The author is a well-known travel and lifestyle writer. Views expressed are personal.)

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