“There’s a whole Yar-yilaqi quarter of Khaufpur, the women in that district wear high heels under their burqas and lipstick under their veils, but if you upset one of them with some Eve-teasing type of remark she’s liable to out with a knife and stick you, this too Farouq told me, in which case it’s a shameful miracle that he has lived so long.” (Sinha, 88)
Let’s take a closer look at the role of women in this book. These veiled women with the ability to stick Eve-teaser with a knife actually exist in India. They go by the name ‘The Gulabi Gang’ (The Pink Gang). Founded by Sampat Pal Devi, The Gubali Gang is a group of Indian women vigilantes and activists who pay visits to abusive men around India and threaten to beat them with laathis (rods/sticks) if they continue to abuse their wives. They also question corrupt policemen and officials, forcing them to return bribes that they have received to cover up the truth about what has happened to burn and rape victims. The Indian media portrays these women extremely positively, causing the gang to gain immense popularity worldwide. In 2012, a well-received documentary was created on the group which also became the inspiration of a Bollywood movie that was released earlier this year.
With prominent characters such as Nisha and Elli taking control of unjust situations in the novel, we have to consider the role they play in questioning the law and uncovering truths about crimes committed against the people of Khaufpur. We’ve seen that on the other hand, the men in this novel (specifically officials, judges and the Kampani owners) run away from justice rather than delivering it.
“The ever-swelling crowd is full of energy, it wants to do something, but no one can agree what. The women, possessed by nothing’s power, begin their chants, “We are flames not flowers. With our brooms, we will beat the Kampani, we will sweet them out from Khaufpur. Out of India we will sweep them. Out of all existence.” (Singa, 311).
Since the introduction of Ma Franci and her love, Nisha and her charity, Elli and her attention to strangers’ health, the women in this book are portrayed as being strong individuals with honest, respectable and moral goals. Why was there a brief mention of the mysterious veiled women? Is the author intentionally depicting the women of this book to be wise and good while portraying the men as ‘bad’ and unjust? What role do they play in delivering justice and uncovering the truth about what happened ‘that night’?