By Shobhan Bantwal. Grade B
“A goddess in the temple. A burden in the family.
Children are a gift of God, they say. But do they really believe?
Isha and Nikhil Tilakare expecting their second child. Hardwired to favour a grandson, Nikhil’s egotistical parents have resented and coldly rejected their first granddaughter. So ever since the day Isha discovered that she’s expecting, this question has obsessed her:
‘Is it a boy? Or . . . God forbid . . . a girl?’
And finally the answer is there on the gynaecologist’s screen—it’s a girl!
What will Nikhil and Isha do now? As their decisions add to their nightmare, Nikhil is found murdered in cold blood. And their innocent unborn daughter is blamed for it. With her five-year-old at her heels, grief-stricken and relentlessly oppressed by her in-laws, who believe the baby to be a bad omen,Isha sets out on her own to build her life around her forbidden daughters.
Will she be able to protect them from the grave dangers that lie ahead? A thrilling, captivating, and thought-provoking portrayal of the dark secrets hidden in the Indian culture, this novel is bound to stir your conscience.”
The Forbidden Daughter takes up one of the gravest issues of contemporary Indian culture- Gender selective abortion, primarily female foeticide. With a penchant for novels centered on modern India’s cultural issues, the author brings to us yet another tale. Isha Tilak, the protagonist is heavily pregnant with her second child. Her husband is killed under ‘mysterious circumstances’ and she takes to her heels with her five year old daughter. Distraught with her in-laws, the archaic set who blame the death of their son on Isha’s unborn daughter, she faces the trials and tribulations of the society and fate while absconding from the destiny her in-laws had chalked out for her. She relentlessly pursues happiness in order to build a new world for her forbidden daughters. What must be borne in mind, though, that this novel brings to light the mindset of certain individuals and not of a society. This mustn’t be read as a comment on the Indian ethos.
Isha’s character portrays a realistic approach to the narrative at large. She is a character of blood and flesh; she is timid yet transcends her fears and transforms into a strong independent woman. The debacle is the fact that almost all other characters are one dimensional. The ignominy of it all is the obviously stated fact that the only time elderly (parents, grandparents, and the like) antagonists ‘might’ swallow their bitter pills only at their deathbed. The murder mystery only worsens the affair.
The author, like with her last novel The Dowry Bride, couldn’t help being clichéd. The conclusions derived in the end of the novel, which are all so merry like a Shakespearean comedy with all lose ends tying themselves in a pretty picture, are glaringly evident and could’ve been made a bit more coherent and thrilling. The plot is predictable and it is from here the trip is a tumble down the lane to ignorance. The premise of a lucrative plot line might draw in the readers but the oh-so-boring (predictable) suspense/ (bland) romance fails to save the novel. As one of the character rightly states in the novel, it feels like a Bollywood movie.
With an ostensible controversial subject matter, the narrative fails to pull our strings. It is emotionally charged, but from a literary perspective, it’s a no-show.