Journalist and scriptwriter Kishwar Desai felt there is not enough being said about gender issues in art or in the media. This is why she chose to make abuse of women the focus of her first work of fiction, Witness the Night.
“The book has a lot of anger that I felt about the issue of girls being abused, and I want the masses to feel that anger,” said Desai at the book launch at a Andheri bookstore on Friday. The book has come more than two years after her first non-fiction literary work, Darlingji: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt.
“After years of experience with journalism and non-fiction, I found fiction writing to be very liberating,” said Desai, who grew up in Punjab and is now based in London, Delhi and Goa.
Though fictionalised, Witness the Night is based on a real life story of a young girl in Kolkata accused of murdering 13 members of her family — an incident which haunted Desai for years before she made it part of the novel, which she finished in a month in 2007. “After much thinking, I realised that when women are made victims in so many ways, it is not really surprising if one of them expresses rage.”
The novel, published by Harper Collins, is being translated in Hindi, and Desai is happy to reach out to a wider audience.
“The purpose of any art is to communicate, and the distinctions made between mass art and high art are just words,” said actress Shabana Azmi, during the discussion moderated by author and Hindustan Times Resident Editor, Mumbai, Soumya Bhattacharya.
Though Desai did not set out to do so, her novel takes the path of crime fiction. And soon, she will be writing a whole series in that genre. “The character of the social worker in Witness the Night will reappear in the series, looking at different social issues each time,” she said.