Aarushi [Book Review]

Posted: July 25, 2015

Who killed 14 year old Aarushi Talwar? The question stands as Journalist turned writer Avirook Sen tries to find an answer in his latest book, Aarushi.

A blood spattered cover designed to catch the eye, which is appropriate because, for a time, the Aarushi affair had caught the imagination of every middle and upper middle class family in India, and a precise style of delivery in the best journalistic manner; Avirook Sen’s book reopens a seven year old murder mystery that seemed to conform to the best style of the locked door murder – except that there were no Poirots to solve the case.

The almost fourteen year old had been murdered in her bedroom while her parents slept next door and the body of the family’s Nepali servant, Hemraj, who had also been murdered, was later discovered on the terrace upstairs. At first it seemed an open and shut case, the servants confessed they had done it during the narco tests administered to them. But then, without warning, the situation began to change and the parents, dentist Ramesh Talwar and his wife Nupur, came into the limelight as the prime accused when the trial began four years after the actual murder.

The CBI declared it a case of honour killing. Aarushi was a slut and her parents finding her in bed with Hemraj, killed them both and then tried to cover up their guilt. What is alarming is that any suggestion of illicit sex has the media and its readers in a salacious frenzy, but the officer who came into the case, specialized in adding sexual innuendo to his cases and this ensured that Aarushi’s   reputation as a serial flirt and her parents’ guilt, along with alleged sexual misconduct on their part, made headlines.

Somewhere along the way, the initial findings disappeared into the woodwork and both medical practitioners and investigating policemen kept changing their statements.

Somewhere along the way, the initial findings disappeared into the woodwork and both medical practitioners and investigating policemen kept changing their statements. The fact that Aarushi’s swab samples had gone astray and that Hemraj’s purple pillowcase, supposed to be the most telling piece of evidence of all, had been found in another flat altogether, were overlooked. Personalities clashed-  Nupur, Aarushi’s mother, came across as cold and hard, therefore suspicious. Officer Kaul, the quintessential patriarch, had her down as guilty and from the initial suspicions directed at the servants guilt swivelled to Aarushi’s parents, with no reason given.

What is obvious is that, despite the mistakes made in the handling of the investigation, the CBI was determined to pin the blame on the Talwars and close the case before the judge Shyam Lal retired – Shyam Lal’s team told Sen that it was because the English it was written in had to be perfect since it was a historic judgment. With the result that the verdict was written down a month before it was pronounced in court and it was not shared with the defence team. The Talwars had no chance to take course corrections in their defense strategy. Both of them are serving time in prison at Dasna.

Society writers like Shobhaa De have referred to the Talwars as ‘Aarushi’s Monster Parents.’

Society writers like Shobhaa De have referred to the Talwars as ‘Aarushi’s Monster Parents’ and quite a bit of Delhi society is certain that it was an honour killing, which is why the CBI’s approach to the case changed abruptly.

Sen does not answer the question of who killed Aarushi. Quite obviously he cannot, since the findings remain inconclusive. However, he quotes alarming extracts from the servants’ narco tests and he does make it clear that the case needs to be reopened in order to right the balance of justice and bring some kind of closure.

Publisher: Penguin India

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Anjana Basu is a published novelist and works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. She has also worked on a couple of scripts with the director Rituparno Ghosh and has subtitled several of his films. Her byline has appeared in various magazines, and she reviews books for publications like Wasafiri and Outlook.

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