Goa has been making headlines since the 1990s for the existence of organised gangs of paedophiles where both locals, domestic and foreign tourists have sexually abused children in hotels, spas and beach shacks. Young girls and boys are brought here from other states in the country and forced into child prostitution by coercion, threats and payoffs to their poor parents. Exploring this theme, Shashi Warrier’s The Girl Who Didn’t Give Up is all about paedophile gangs in Goa and brings to light the issue of human trafficking in our country.
The trauma of young girls and boys kidnapped by organised gangs and sold for money to politicians and people in high places has been highlighted through the case of Suchitra who is transported from Moodigere in Karnataka to the dark sordid world of child traffickers in Goa. The author writes how politically influential people give a complete web of support to run these organised gangs and how difficult it is to track, trace and rescue the abused children in view of the lax attitude of the police and authorities.
The author has written about this burning issue in a pacy narrative but falters with the introduction of too many unnecessary characters. Further, he touches upon a few real life incidents in Delhi and other places to highlight another issue that seems to be conveniently buried and is of interest to nobody. The story is all about Suchitra, a 10-year-old girl who after being trapped in a paedophile ring, is imprisoned in an old house in Goa. Her call for help is discovered in a diary by an economics professor from the US who is on a sabbatical and comes to live in this house three years later.
When Professor Krishna decides to move for a few months to Goa from the US, he hopes to be able to do some research and perhaps try and recover from the death of his wife. But in the house he rents, he finds a roll of papers which he discovers is the diary of a 10-year-old girl, Suchitra. Through the heart-rending entries, he discovers that she is one of several young children brought to Goa as part of a paedophile ring run by someone clearly influential.
The young girl appeals in one of her entries, “My home used to be in Kallur, near Moodigere. I used to go to the village school there and study and play and do whatever other girls like me do. Now I am a prisoner in a house with five other children. We are alone here. We do not know what is happening outside. Whoever you are, please help us. Please, God, help us.”
The subsequent letters written by the girl depicts the horrendous situation of Suchitra and other children. “In the morning, they took me to the ice cream man’s house. The ice-cream man left me with his friend ..........who said he wanted to give me a surprise. He kept smiling. Do you want to make me do what I tell you to?, he asked. I got scared, and closed my eyes and opened my mouth. I thought he was going to give me something to eat. What he put in my mouth smelt of urine and tasted really bad. He put it right in and it filled my mouth and went further into my throat. I thought I was going to choke ...........I opened my eyes and vomitted. He slapped me hard on the cheek, so hard that I fell off the chair and hit my head on the floor. I hate these people, I don’t believe in God because if there were a god he wouldn’t do this to me or other children.”
Each letter written by Suchitra unfolds more horrors as the professor begins his quest to find and help this girl. But it is easier said than done as he is beaten, arrested and threatened by some people, police and officials. His decision to try and find the girl propels him into a web of intrigues and machinations. As he tries to grapple with a world far outside his field of experience, he must decide whom to trust, what secrets to keep and most of all, how he can bring some justice to a little girl who was abused and tormented three years ago.
Unfortunately, in his quest for truth and justice, the professor’s actions leave behind a trail of abductions, killings and unforeseen violence. Since the narrative is simple, one can read this book as it is not only interesting but also makes a successful attempt to focus on the rising problem of crimes against children in our society.
Book: The Girl Who Didn’t Give Up
Author : Shashi Warrier
Publisher : Tranquebar Press
Price : Rs 350