Empower. A word that is being thrown around often and enough, by various parties, with the hope that women will get the drift, shake off the damsel in distress act and get down to saving themselves. At home, on the streets, the work places and the list goes on. Not just violence and harassment but sexual discrimination as well.
I braved through three books that took on the ‘woman’ issue a few weeks back and decided to throw in a fourth to deliberate the matter further. The curious case of reluctant heroines. Predator by Kartik Iyenger (Harper Collins, Rs 250), Under Delhi by Sorabh Pant (Hachette, Rs 299), S.T.A.L.K.E.D by Girvani Dhyani (Harper Collins, Rs 250) and the fourth - Fraudster by RV Raman (Hachette, Rs 250).
Predator takes on the story of a girl who goes missing in a town that has been plagued by a few grisly murders already. A mutilated body of a girl turns up in a vineyard opening up a scary tale of preying on people through the virtual world, black magic and some serious psychosis. The chase seems endless as the protagonists manage to find the missing girl but she succumbs to her injuries.
A creepy thriller with an underlying warning - be careful who you talk/text/chat with, the predators are out there. The book dishes out facts and figures at the end in an effort to make you focus on the problem at hand - your privacy settings are not private enough. Evidently.
Under Delhi starts off as a sharp, tongue-in-cheek crime caper of a female vigilante Tanya Bisht who tackles with Delhi NCR’s testosterone driven ‘problems’ by grabbing them by their scrotal sacks and keeping a finger as a trophy. What starts off as a pretty cool (and fun) story panders to some sad clichés by the end. The vigilante has a back story and of course some Bollywood style family drama.
S.T.A.L.K.E.D gives you Tara Bakshi, a young lawyer with a difficult boss, who starts getting followed and threatened when she takes on a top-secret project. Her life falls apart as she tries hard to make some sense of the danger around her. The core thought seems to be one of ‘keep your friends close and enemies closer’ but by default it becomes - ‘your enemies are stalking you anyway’. Sorry. The book just doesn’t work.
Finally, Fraudster – the death of one girl coupled with the death of a corporate doyen gets two ladies up and about to find justice. The story isn’t half bad. The execution fine till the end gets bungled up. Hackers, murderers and whistleblowers come together in the book to create a good story but the characters are horribly unidimensional.
The problem we had with almost all of the books was the fact that all protagonists were forced to take a stand or pick up arms to get revenge. The past or the present must scar to give birth to a protagonist and beget action. So unless-it-happens-to-me-I-don’t-care logic is the main reason why women still need to be ‘empowered’.
Empowerment should have happened decades ago when crimes were still in their nascent stage and a dialogue, an act, a law could have made an impact exponentially much higher than what it does now. Nowadays it is just hearsay.
But better late than never eh? Half-heroines are better than no heroines.