Dirty Women
92 pages

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92 pages

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When four-year-old Tara disappears from her own home in Calcutta one night in 2002, the ensuing media circus zeroes in on the private life of Drishti Sengupta, a singer of note and a single, unapologetic mother. Far less attention is paid to the investigation into the incident, which occurred in an upmarket neighbourhood, in a secure apartment complex. The police seem to have no real clue as to what happened – is it a real crime or fake? Is it a kidnapping or murder?

Told in two timelines – one in 2002, and one a contemporary ‘true crime’ book-within-the-book written by Ahana, a young journalist who is thrust into the heart of this case, Dirty Women is also the story of two tragedies: that of a missing child, and that of a city that joins hands to bring down a woman who wishes to live life on her own terms. Hope wears thin as everyone obsesses over who Tara’s father is, and police make no effort to even try to find her, concentrating on a rotating cast of suspects – culminating with Drishti herself.



Publié par
Date de parution 23 juillet 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9788186939918
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


‘A gritty detective fiction at its best, Madhumita’s Dirty Women is also very much a bildungsroman of a fledgling lifestyle journalist and her steady upswing as a brave crime reporter, moving almost dangerously, in the otherwise restful city of Calcutta. Pacy and nailbiting at times, Madhumita among other things, offers a compelling critique of the news-hungry media and regressive society, and how it can disrupt individual lives.’
– Jane Borges, author of Bombay Balchão
‘A searing, nuanced, feminist crime novel about loss, memories, and motherhood. Compelling characters, immersive storytelling. Highly recommended.’
– Damayanti Biswas, author of You Beneath Your Skin
OTHER INDIAINK TITLES Anjana Basu Black Tongue Anjana Basu Chinku and the Wolfboy Anuradha Majumdar Infinity Paper: A mysterious quest, an unforgettable adventure Boman Desai Servant, Master, Mistress Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Shadowland Claudine Le Tourneur d’lson Hira Mandi C.P. Surendran An Iron Harvest I. Allan Sealy The Everest Hotel I. Allan Sealy Trotternama Indrajit Hazra The Garden of Earthly Delights Jaspreet Singh 17 Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir Jawahara Saidullah The Burden of Foreknowledge John MacLithon Hindutva, Sex & Adventure Kalpana Swaminathan The Page 3 Murders Kalpana Swaminathan The Gardener’s Song Kamalini Sengupta The Top of the Raintree Lavanya Arvind Shanbaoug The Heavens We Chase Madhavan Kutty The Village Before Time Pankaj Mishra The Romantics Paro Anand I’m Not Butter Chicken Paro Anand Wingless Paro Anand Weed Paro Anand Pure Sequence Paro Anand No Guns at my Son’s Funeral Rakesh Satyal Blue Boy Ranjit Lal Bambi Chops and Wags Ranjit Lal The Life &Times of Altu-Faltu Ranjit Lal The Small Tigers of Shergarh Ranjit Lal The Simians of South Block and Yumyum Piglets Sanjay Bahadur The Sound of Water Sanjay Bahadur Hul: Cry Rebel! Selina Sen A Mirror Greens in Spring Shandana Minhas Tunnel Vision Sharmistha Mohanty New Life Shree Ghatage Brahma’s Dream Sudhir Thapliyal Crossing the Road Susan Visvanathan Nelycinda and Other Stories Susan Visvanathan The Visiting Moon Susan Visvanathan The Seine at Noon Tanushree Podder Escape from Harem
FORTHCOMING TITLE Sumedha Verma Ojha Chanakya’s Scribe

This digital edition published in 2021
First published in 2021 by
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Copyright © Madhumita Bhattacharyya
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eISBN: 978-81-86939-91-8
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The Loss of Tara
What happens when we lose a child?
What happens when those entrusted with the child’s protection stand accused of the most abhorrent acts imaginable?
What happens when a whole town stops to watch?
On 13 June 2002, Tara Sengupta, age four, went missing from her own home, her own bedroom. Kidnap or murder – what had become of the girl in the middle of the night – was a mystery that took the nation by storm. A girl who happened to be the daughter of a single, celebrity mother.
The aftermath of the tragic events wrecked several families. The town that watched, open-mouthed and ugly, emerged unscathed, and walked away nonchalantly, as it always does.
What about the disappearance of Tara brought out the worst in us? It was a scandal to be sure, but at its heart it was an intensely personal tragedy. Coming at a time when the 24-hour news cycle was just emerging, when India was getting a taste for sensational news. After decades of dry Doordarshan, it had discovered the painful pleasure of watching the crises of others from a safe distance. But there was more to its hunger for blood, something sinister and frightening to those who watched closely.
The case had all the ingredients of a hit: tragedy, love, sex, money. It occurred in an upmarket Calcutta neighbourhood which made it feel as though it could happen to anybody, anywhere. But even though Drishti Sengupta, the tragic mother, was People Like Us, she was also Drishti Sengupta, singer with a salacious past, sufficiently different to set her apart. It was everyone’s worst nightmare, but at a comfortable distance.
This book is a factual account of the events that unfolded. As the newsmen played judge and jury, I too became a part of the story, and it has stayed with me in ways I did not expect.
Which is why, when I received a request from the most unlikely of sources to write this book, it gave me pause. Was I ready to open up the wounds of all involved again, seventeen years after the fact? Was I willing to relive and recreate the horror of 2002 in 2019?
As I took a closer look, however, I became convinced that there was a need to tell the story, for despite the hysteria of the time, the chilling crime had been largely forgotten by the public. But for those involved, it had never gone away.
Day 0
The Loss of Tara
On the night of 13 June 2002, Drishti Sengupta took the stage at the Blue Banyan, the pub at the Victoria Hotel. It was a Thursday, not a night for a headline act, but Drishti liked playing to the smaller crowd that would assemble to hear her sing at the venue that had launched her career.
The Victoria Hotel was a cozy establishment in the heart of the city’s tourist district, what might be called a four-star for no objectively verifiable reason at all, except that the owners had deemed it so. It was a family-run affair that had been around for about forty years, and it catered to locals as well as the Sudder Street backpacker crowd. It had a café, The Alcove, popular for its pancakes and omelettes at breakfast, sizzlers in the evening. Drishti had sung at the Blue Banyan, alongside bars both seedier and more luxurious, for over fifteen years.
In fact, she had, for the most part, taken whatever shows had come her way through the bulk of her career as a singer. It was only in the past couple of years that she had enjoyed the privilege of picking and choosing a little more, since her work had taken flight in directions she had not foreseen. But she still enjoyed the intimate space that the smaller stage afforded, and the loyalty of a crowd that had appreciated her before fame had found her.
And if Drishti was being honest, which she usually was, the routine of a weekly job allowed her to get out of the house. Away from the domesticity that she both adored and abhorred at the same time, often in the same moment. The regular gig meant weekly practice, and that translated to two days a week where she got to hang out with other adults and pretend for a few moments, in the smoke-filled rooms of her youth, that she was the same as she’d always been.
That night, Drishti was late and she was flustered. Her bandmates, who had already done set-up and soundcheck, noticed this because, as they said later, ‘little could usually get under Drishti’s skin’. She arrived at the hotel in her ancient Maruti 800, ran in to the bar and straight onto stage, dressed in regulation white shirt and tight blue jeans. Her short pixie hair was damp; it had been raining that evening. There were a couple of whistles and catcalls – she was used to that sort of thing, and half the time it was a friend in the audience. She had already discussed the setlist with the guys – the ‘guys’ being Debanjan Dutta on lead guitar and vocals, Shiv Ahuja on bass and Karna Das on drums. They had also been warned that she was in a rush that evening – she’d be singing for seventy-five minutes and no more.
They started the set at 9.30 pm, with covers as usual. She knew better than to leave them out; she could wait for her chance to perform her new material. She’d also play Run for your Life early on: it was her most recent hit, and she hadn’t grown sick of it yet. It helped that it was one of the first songs she had written and loved, even though it had taken years to put it out. And the fact that she liked the film that had made it a hit.
But she could also not neglect Nick of Time , an audience favourite, and the song that had pulled her out of obscurity. The crowd would sing along to that one without fail, though she herself could take it or leave it.
Was it de rigeur for artists to hate the work that made them famous? Drishti had liked Nick of Time well enough when she wrote it. It was a mildly sentimental love song, nothing too offensive, with a lilting, hummable tune that slid off the raspy edges of her voice like water off stone. But in the past two years since it had been out, she had sung it so many times at so many shows, with requests hurled at her from the dark corners of clubs, that she had grown weary of it. However, today she would pull it out so the audience would feel it had got its two-drinks’ worth when she cut out early.
But Drishti never did get around to singing Nick of Time that night.
At about 10 pm, she saw the pub’s manager, Bunty, coming towards the stage. She had known Bunty for the better part of a decade, and they often shared a meal at the end of the night. When she had the time, in the olden days. All the performers got dinner after their set, and she would share hers with Bunty, but only if he added on a beer.
He caught her eye. ‘Come now,’ he mouthed.
She raised her eyebrows at him, still singing Ode to My Family

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