Unheard voices

This little book (though little, only in size and not in the quality of its content) looks at post-Godhra events from an ordinary citizen’s perspective which has been to some extent neglected in the past, amidst the hullabaloo created around the topic by the media and the politicians.

Esther’s fluid narrative of her first-hand experience of the terror and trauma of Gujarat riots takes the reader straight to the heart of violence and evokes empathy for the victims. Cooped up in her house during the days of curfew and violence, Esther started writing this book as an outlet to vent her frustration, fear and helplessness at being a silent witness to the ghastly events happening around her.

Seeing her city of Ahmedabad turn into an inferno, as innocent people are butchered on the streets, she recalls the past glory of the city, that once celebrated life in all its splendour, colours and beauty of which communal harmony was an integral part. She wanders through the dusty bylanes of Ahmedabad and brings to the reader stories of the walking dargah and the shaking minarets, of the coughing saint of Ahmedabad, the kite-flying frenzy that grips Gujarat during Uttarayan, the numerous festivals and many shrines dedicated to unusual deities, including dogs! As the reader is still soaking in these warm, enchanting images of Ahmedabad, the book shifts focus to the riots and the reader sees the horizon turning red with the reflection of blood spilt on the streets of the city throttled by communal hatred.

If the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, were to be alive today, he would hang his head in shame seeing the barbaric acts committed in the name of religion in his own state of Gujarat. And in Esther’s imagination, he becomes ‘the man with enormous wings’ who is desperately trying to bring sense to the frenzied mobs and helping the affected with his characteristic compassion. As people are thrown into the bonfire of religious fanaticism, their throats slit, heads smashed, bellies ripped open, and worst of all, brutally raped, ‘the man with enormous wings’ hovers over the scenes of crime, witnessing with a heavy heart the atrocious acts committed against innocents.

Esther recounts the most talked about acts of crime from the Gujarat violence like, the killing of pregnant Kausar Banu, the story of Parsi boy Parzan who went missing during the riots, and the gruesome murder of Jafrisaab who was set ablaze by a blood-hungry mob. However, she doesn’t forget to add the acts of kindness by people who chose humanity above religion during the violence. And the book ends with ‘the man with enormous wings’ inspiring courage among the affected to stand up for truth in the face of injustice.

The Man with Enormous Wings gives the much-needed human perspective to one of the most shameful episodes in the country’s history and stresses why love and compassion are the only hopes for humanity. Esther’s book readily strikes a chord with the reader for its honest portrayal of real emotions. It is a story that needs to be told.

The Man with Enormous Wings
Esther David
Penguin
2010, pp 122
Rs 199

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