The experience of reading ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ by Damyanti Biswas

Disclaimer – This post is about my experience of reading the book ‘You Beneath Your Skin’. It is not to be confused with a book review that is more analytical and exhaustive in approach.

How often do you read a book that has such a deep impact on your soul that you fumble for words to speak about it? Keigo Higashino’s books have had that effect on me almost every time. And a recent addition to the list is debut author Damyanti Biswas’ crime thriller ‘You beneath your skin’. I finished reading this book more than a month ago but I had to let the emotions sink in before I could speak about it with clarity.

Set in Delhi, this is the story of Dr. Anjali Morgan, an Indian American psychiatrist and a single mother raising an autistic teenaged son Nikhil. She had come to India to escape her strained relationship with her mother after her married life fell apart. Police commissioner Jatin Bhatt, a much-married man with a teenage son is having an extra-marital affair with Dr. Anjali. In between balancing their personal and professional lives, both witness an upsurge in rape and murder of women belonging to the lower strata in the city. While trying to help Jatin in solving the crime, Anjali lands in a life-threatening situation. By the time the truth unravels, relationships and equations have undergone a transition beyond repair.

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

At 390 pages, this book is not the kind that can be finished at one go. The primary reason is that it is written in such a hard-hitting way that you cannot stay indifferent to the pain and trauma of the characters. It shakes the reader up, makes her question about the kind of society we live in where danger lurks in every turn of a woman’s life and gets her into a feeling of hopelessness and anger. Sometimes, it feels so real that it doesn’t even read like fiction. Damyanti started writing this book after the horrendous Nirbhaya incident in 2012 and I am writing this review after the horrific rape and murder of Dr. Priyanka Reddy a fortnight ago. If anything, the situation has only gone from bad to worse and this book is a harsh reminder of the same.

This book peels off layers of crimes that connect the lowest strata of the society with the most privileged class of elites. From abduction, minor sex racquet, prostitution, drug abuse, acid attacks, rape, and gruesome murder, this book manages to cover a wide spectrum of crimes effortlessly. The author has shown expertise and finesse in ensuring that none of the sub-plots feel exaggerated or forced. The reader experiences a similar spectrum of emotions in the form of sympathy, hopelessness, frustration, remorse, and anger though I must mention the slight ray of hope that appears at the end of the book.

It is quite difficult to believe that this is the work of a debut author. Her command over the plot, language, development of characters, and flow of the story is commendable. It is quite evident that extensive research has led to creating this book. A lot of incidents are also inspired by the real-life circumstances that people around her have been subjected to. She has absorbed their pain and channeled it into creating a story that lays bare the skeletons of an inhuman society. And here is one author who is not ready to stop at just writing about the barbaric acts. The sale proceeds of this book will be transferred to two charitable institutions ‘Project Why’ and ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ that she has been attached to and that’s her way to bring a positive change in society.

eShe Flash Fiction runner-up

Of late, I have been unusually hesitant to post anything that could be remotely related to writing achievements. Not that there have been many but I seem to have fallen into the vicious cycle of ‘writing less to achieve less’. I finally started my online MFA in a creative writing course last month and I was expected to submit my first assignment on Monday. On Sunday evening, I spoke to my MFA advisor from India (there are two and the main advisor is based out of the States). She had been my biggest motivation for taking up this course.

When I shared my inhibitions about the article not really making it to the set benchmark, she changed my perspective by inclining it towards ‘write more to achieve more’. This achievement could be in the form of a genuine comment of appreciation, a certificate, a trophy, a prize or even a small target fulfillment. She said every bit, however insignificant it might look to me, still matters for it gives the courage to carry on.

eShe Flastion Fiction runner-up
eShe Flastion Fiction runner-up

So, here’s one of my latest achievements as we reach the last leg of 2019 – I emerged as a runner-up in a Flash Fiction contest held by eShe in September. I wouldn’t even have known the results (announced on Oct 10) hadn’t they mailed me a final reminder to send them my address last week. Here’s the link to the entries that made it to the winning list. This competition was judged by some eminent writers in the field of literature and that is why this small feat feels special. If you have read my book ‘Deal of Death’, you would probably fathom my recent writing struggles through the name of my protagonist here.

Thank you eShe for the certificate and prize.

I pledge to protect you, my dear son, and a WHO prequalified vaccine helps me keep my promise

22nd September 2015 was when I entered into the new phase of motherhood. As I held the tiny bundle of joy in my arms after a difficult C-section, everything else felt inconsequential. In a while, the pediatrician came for his round of duty and this was when he spoke about the importance of vaccination for newborn babies. My husband, also a doctor by profession, listened carefully as the pediatrician explained the vaccination chart to us. But I was crestfallen since I couldn’t even bear the thought of my newborn being pricked by a needle.

The next couple of weeks were all about getting adjusted to this new schedule of life. My focus area had shifted to understanding the importance of WHO-recommended exclusive breastfeeding for six months and surviving the state of being perennially sleep-deprived. I was lucky to be surrounded by an understanding and supportive family to help me cope up with this sudden change that was not just physical but psychological as well.

Amidst such a chaotic routine, reality dawned on me as my infant turned six weeks. The first vaccination was due and the nervous mother in me overtook the rational individual that I was normally known to be. It was at my husband’s insistence that we decided to visit the pediatrician. As I spoke my heart out, the empathetic and knowledgeable doctor emphasized the importance of vaccination in the life of a newborn baby.

He discussed with us in length about how vaccines functioned in protecting babies against life-threatening diseases like Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, etc. The pediatrician was patient enough to dig deeper into my worries about having to inflict pain on my boy with multiple Injections. It was at this point that he mentioned the concept of combination vaccines which greatly reduce the number of shots that a baby requires. He spoke about how the acellular aspect of this vaccine is what makes it a less painful option while the vaccines before it led to a lot of discomfort and pain in babies.

Continue reading “I pledge to protect you, my dear son, and a WHO prequalified vaccine helps me keep my promise”

Happy Children’s Day

On this children’s day, I wish everyone the happiness of innocence and the joy of laughter in their lives, always.

Happy Children's Day
Happy Children’s Day

May the child in us never grow up. Happy children’s day.

The child and the man-child
The child and the man-child

© Sonia Chatterjee and soniasmusings.com, (2017-2019). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

November numbness – when grief knocks at the door

Eight years ago, life was almost picture prefect. I was heading one of India’s leading Pvt Sector Bank branches in Mysore, Tanmoy and I had been married for 5 months after knowing each other for 12 yrs and he had shifted to Mysore by taking a sabbatical from his medical profession to pursue MD.

That year, I had visited Berhampore to celebrate Durga Pujo after ages. Two days at my parents house and two days at my marital home was how we had workedout the schedule and pujo couldn’t have a better arrangement. Ma looked quite fragile but that was justified since she was recovering from weakness due to a low hemoglobin count. A change of place was the need of the hour. So we decided to surprise my parents by booking their tickets to Mysore for Dec’11.

The day we left Berhampore in October, she had been crying nonstop. But she was prone to getting sentimental every time I went back to college or work after a vacation. Little did I know that  her tear stained face trying to act brave for the sake of her daughter was the last time that I would see her. On the night of 11th Nov 2011, she was admitted to a private hospital in Berhampore with complains of pain in the abdomen. She was kept in the ICU as Baba and my marital family ran around trying to figure out what might have happened.

Ma
Ma

Sitting thousands of kilometers away, Tanmoy, who probably was the only one who understood the gravity of the situation, kept coordinating with the doctors while I was trying to get a car to take us to Bangalore airport the next morning and book the earliest flight to Kolkata. That night, we understood the meaning of ‘fear’ of losing a near one.

Continue reading “November numbness – when grief knocks at the door”

The experience of reading Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd by Richa S. Mukherjee

Months ago, I had decided to stop writing detailed book reviews because it took away the happiness of reading. The critic in me could take a backseat while my bibliophilic entity could savor the world of written words. That is why it is essential, to begin with, a disclaimer first – this post is not a book review in the strictest sense but more on the lines of sharing my experience of reading Richa S. Mukherjee’s latest release ‘Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd’.

Anyone who has ever lived in a small town would know how every small town holds a flavor unique to its people, traditions, and culture. That is why I would want to first mention the strongest aspect of this book which is the setting of its plot in the town of Kanpur. The author manages to take the reader on a ride through the lanes of Kanpur into Awadh Nivas, the residence of the Tripathi clan. Every character, scenario, festival, and even their food choices feel amazingly real and relatable. Kudos to the author for her sharp observation skills in creating this fictitious world by drawing inspiration from the real world.

Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd. in my possession
Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd. in my possession

Enter Prachaand Tripathi aka Prachi and his partner in the real and professional life, Vidya Tripathi aka Viddu. Together, they run Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd, a Detective agency that survives on mundane cases but aspires to be much more. Often they find themselves spending more on keeping friends and acquaintances entertained (unwillingly, though) than earning through prospective clients.

The Tripathi’s (other than the detective couple) consisting of Ammaji Rampyari, mother Rachna, father Dinbandhu, uncle Dinanath and brother Bhushan (the Kanpuriya Justin Bieber) are a hilarious bunch. As their daily life unfolds through the pages of the story, I often found myself laughing my heart out. If there is one quotient that the book excels in, it is humor. Richa’s sense of humor keeps the plot from never becoming too grim.

Continue reading “The experience of reading Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd by Richa S. Mukherjee”

Favorite Indian Detectives – Raya Ray by Sonia Chatterjee

Disclaimer – This bibliophile blogger is also an author and I made my debut with the Detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ last year. While writing the favorite Indian Detective series, it was quite difficult to choose seven Detectives amidst many that I had read. But the intention was to keep it personal and so I blogged about only those who I had grown to love. This series saw some great responses from authors like Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, Bhaskar Chattopadhyay, and Swati Kaushal. Not to forget, even Anita Nair had liked my tweet about her Detective. But the 8th Detective is a character created from my brain and heart. So how could I not let it be a part of my favorites list! Despite the risk of making this post sound like a bit of self-promotion, I felt that there couldn’t be a better way to make some announcements with respect to the lady sleuth who created quite a furor with her entry.

Who –

Raya Ray

Creator –

Sonia Chatterjee

Novels in the series –

Deal of Death

About the Detective –

Raya Ray by Sonia Chatterjee
Raya Ray by Sonia Chatterjee

Raya Ray, an ex-marketing honcho had been dealing with loss when a chance to help her Banker husband, Krishanu Banerjee, marked her debut as a Private Investigator in Kolkata. Raya had been handling mundane cases until she lands in Munshiganj in response to a call for assistance from the sister of her house-help.

Raya, who is well-aware of her need to get fit to keep up to her professional needs rarely has any second thoughts while ordering pastries and sweets. She is sharp and analytical while cracking mysteries. During the course of the case, she is often found to seek closure of her wounds through the happenings in her clients’ life. In the world of investigation dominated by men around her, Raya is here to smash gender stereotypes chasing chases criminals and solving cases.

Raya’s journey –

I wrote ‘Deal of Death’ as part of the Blogchatter E-book carnival in 2018. It was one of the first books to reach the download limit of 600 on the Blogchatter platform and it continued being in the ‘out of stock’ status until recently. The book opened to rave reviews and the recent review on the blog Vartika’s diary goes to prove how much this novella is popular even today. The Goodreads rating of the book has been at a consistent 4.59 for more than a year now.

Continue reading “Favorite Indian Detectives – Raya Ray by Sonia Chatterjee”