Skip to main content

Misogyny, corruption and family ties: You Beneath Your Skin, Damyanti Biswas

In her tautly-written debut, author Damyanti Biswas explores the misogyny, corruption and social inequalities that exist in Delhi’s seamy underbelly. Dark and atmospheric, the book sits within the Indian noir genre that has inspired Hindi movies such as Mardaani and Talaash. It follows psychotherapist Dr Anjali Morgan as she juggles her work at a women’s project in inner-city Delhi, with her complicated personal life: her fraught relationship with her teenage son Nikhil, who has autism; her friendship with Maya who runs a small detective agency, and her on-off affair with Maya’s brother, Special Crime Commissioner Jatin Bhatt. When the three of them begin to work on a case solving a spate of grotesque murders in which slum women are raped and killed, their faces disfigured with acid, it exposes old scars and creates new ones in the personal lives of the main characters.



With her brooding writing style and the narrative split between multiple viewpoints, Biswas skilfully lays bare the hypocrisy infecting families and institutions; the toxic masculinity that enables some men, even from a young age, to feel so entitled that they can carry out hideously violent atrocities on women, and the privilege that allows certain classes to exploit others with impunity. She also explores society’s (and perhaps Indian society’s in particular) obsession with perfect appearances – whether that’s physical appearances or one’s status and standing in the eyes of their peers and community. 

The title therefore works on two levels; it refers to the characters who find that other people’s perceptions of them and their outward appearances do not add up to who they really are. But also as a wider comment on the veneer over the worst aspects of society; the tension between morality and materialism eventually gives way, ripping apart the thin veil cast over society’s flaws, and exposing the ugliness beneath.

There are plot twists aplenty, although they are set up for discerning readers to be able to unravel them before the characters do. But this did not detract at all from what was, for me, still a dark and gripping read. It compels the reader to confront the worst of what human nature is capable of, but also offers optimism in showing that we can still redefine ourselves on our own terms.

Not only is this a hard-hitting but thoughtful read in its own right, I was also impressed to learn that author proceeds from this book go to two Delhi-based charities dedicated to educating street children, and helping survivors of acid attacks.

Brown Brontë rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

You Beneath Your Skin is published by Simon & Schuster India and is available for UK readers on Amazon.

Comments

  1. I found your blog on Google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. You can also visit Detective Services In Delhi for more Veteran Investigation Services (VIS) related information and knowledge, Keep up the great work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.


    ReplyDelete

Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

Home Is Where The Heart Is: Hashim and Family

It’s a difficult time right now for debut authors to be releasing books. So as a book blogger I’m trying to do my bit by sharing my thoughts on this wonderful debut novel: Hashim and Family, by Shahnaz Ahsan. Before we start I have to tell you that I know the author personally, and OBVIOUSLY I’m bursting with pride for her, so if you feel you need to take this review with a grain or two of salt, please do so. However, rest assured that I never recommend a book that I don’t genuinely think is worth reading. The story: It’s Manchester in 1960 and Hashim has just arrived in Britain from East Pakistan – now known as Bangladesh. He moves into a shared house with his jovial cousin Rofikul and sets about trying to build himself a life. We see the two men going to work, socialising with their friends and navigating life in a new immigrant community. It’s not easy to adjust to a foreign country – the weather, the food, the unfamiliar ways. And people aren’t always friendly. But

50 Years of Bangladesh

 Today is the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh. Growing up, my sisters and I would hear stories from parents and relatives about the War of Independence of 1971. We would go to community events commemorating Bangladesh Independence Day, Victory Day, Language Martyrs Day, and listen to veterans and members of the community who lived through that period, talking about their experiences. As they stood in front of rows of nodding elders and bored schoolchildren, the pain and pride in their voices rumbled through the microphone in their hands and filled the small community hall, along with the aroma of biryani stacked in boxes at the back, waiting to be handed round later.     Although we often had mixed feelings about sitting through those three-hour programmes, I've begun to realise that those parents who dragged their children along to those events knew that one day there would be nobody left alive who had witnessed that history.     As second or third generation di

Rediscovering My Roots: Literacy and History on Mother Language Day

 You may know that today is International Mother Language Day , but why is it important?      On this day in 1952, in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Bengali university students were shot and killed by armed police, while protesting for the recognition of Bangla, rather than Urdu, as the official language of East Pakistan. It would be some years before Bangla was officially recognised as the state language of East Pakistan, but this day marked the beginning of the independence movement for a sovereign Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh mark today with a national holiday, songs and poetry recitals, repeating the words “amra tomader bhulbo na.” We will not forget you. monument to the martyrs of the language movement      My parents have always tried to instill in us a sense of the importance of learning Bangla, but for many Bangladeshis in Britain, their mother tongue is not actually the ‘standard’ Bangla but one of the regional dialects from Sylhet, Noakhali, Chittagong o