THIS is a sensitive portrayal of life in the Diwanchand family, which is proud of two God-bestowed gifts – the first is that only boys are born in the family for generations and second, every person has been bestowed good health thanks largely to the water they drink – water, the elixir of life drawn from a special well in the family’s huge ancestral farm. Though brought up in the city, Gurmi or Gurmeet is sent by his parents to spend three months on the family farm. Mother leaves him on the farm strictly forbidding him from leaving the house in the dark without informing the servants. Why? Because a pack of six Rottweilers guard the farm.
However, without informing anyone, one day Gurmeet sets out to explore this well and after weaving his way through thorny bushes and thickets, he finds the well. On peeping through the rusty grille on top of the well with a hinged door and latch, he sees the reflections of three girls -Mohini, Nandini and Baby. Mohini tells him that she and Nalini are his elder sisters who had been dumped in the well after birth for being born as daughters by Gurmeet’s father and Surinder aunty. The girls leave him saying that they have to go and study for their school exams and suddenly they disappear. Gurmeet peers down but there is no sign of the three girls.
The aim of the book is to show to what extent adult human beings can go to appease the society’s insatiable hunger for a male child and how the family is willing to sacrifice the girl child to pay the price for maintaining the family tradition.
(Puffin Books, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017; www.penguinbooksindia.com)