There is no doubt that Shobhan Bantwal has joined the ranks of such genuine Indian storytellers as Anita Rau Badami, Neil Bissondath, and others.
With The Forbidden Daughter, Bantwall exposes the practice of selectively aborting female fetuses in India as the result of archaic customs that favor males.
In her impressive prose, Bantwall provides a provocative tour through the minefield of the illicit feticide trade. According to the author’s research in “The Lancet”,a British medical journal, reported in January 2006, “that according to a study nearly 10 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India over the past two decades.”
Through her characters, she chronicles this abhorrent custom, the greed of the abortionist and the narromindedness of a certain strata of Indian society.
In the Indian hamlet of Palgaum, the principal protagonist of the The Forbidden Daughter, Isha Ketkar Tilak and her husband Nikhil, have a daughter and Isha is pregnant the second time around. Thanks to the discovery of the sonogram, she knows that her unborn baby is another girl. The hitch is that her narrow- minded in-laws want her to have an abortion and send her to an unscrupulous doctor Karnick who will do it for a fee.
Of course Isha and Nikhil are totally against this archaic idea. Nikhil even starts to probe into Dr. Karnick’s past and secures important data proving Dr. Karnick’s guilt. Unfortunately, Nikhil is assassinated and Isha is left to the wrath of her in-laws.
Isha’s journey, after her husband’s murder, is both informative and visceral. Pregnant, with a small child in tow, she refuses to live with her rich but demeaning in-laws. She seeks refuge in a convent wherein she gives birth to her second daughter Priya and meets a pediatrician who plays an important role in her life. She is reunited with her sister-in-law Sheila who likewise is a big help to her.
Together with her newfound friends, Isha will seek out her husband’s killer and denounce him despite all the dangers that hover over the heads of her children and herself.
The author deftly builds up the excitement until the climax of the denouement.
In addition, at the end of the book, the author provides readers, book clubs and
gatherings with interesting questions to discuss pertaining to this prickly subject.
A page turner, The Forbidden Daughter is an eye opener uncovering a strange “modern” custom.
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