Dateline: March 2015. An accomplished Tamil writer announces his ‘death’ on Facebook. He grimly pens a poem announcing his anger that could make him ‘sing a song of curses at all of you’. The gifted writer expresses his anguish at being vilified by accusations of insulting the sentiments of the residents of Tiruchengode. He faces threats to his life from the fringe right-wing groups that demand a ban on his book. Trial by Silence picks up from where his previous controversial novel Madhorubhagan, published in English as One Part Woman, had left readers on a cliffhanger.
The story is set in the countryside around the simple lives of Ponna and Kali, who after 12 long years of being together are unable to have a child. The story revolves around how during a customary visit to a festival, Ponna meets a young stranger, who looks so much like Kali. He proceeds to hold her hands and gently drapes them around himself. ‘The moon was spreading its sweetness all over the world. There was not a spot of cloud in the sky. The moon had no obstacle in reaching across the vast heavens. The earth, drunk on the nectar of moonbeams, lay in stupor. An intoxicated expanse.’
Meanwhile, Kali’s world has imploded leaving him indignant, fuming and stunned at this turn of events. How could this woman, who he thought was a part of his body and a part of his soul, go out, just like that, and return home smelling of another man. He decides to put an end to his suffering, but fate intervenes and the moment passes. Kali is determined to punish Ponna for what he sees as an absolute betrayal. On the other hand, Ponna too is equally upset at being forced to atone for something that was not her fault. In the wake of the temple festival, the two of them grapple with the harsh reality of changed circumstances. His solution? He gives vent to his frustration by hitting the oxen, chasing the sheep and throwing stones at the dog.
Given her predicament, thoughts of ending her life come visiting: should she call it a day by drowning herself and the baby in the Kaveri river? It would be the kindest way to take the baby away. The child should not be left behind lest he be forced to grow up alone only to be one day reviled as one born out of wedlock. With deft hands, the author takes the narrative to a whole other level and a dramatic conclusion. In a single sentence, there’s a twist to the tale that shall leave you breathless, gasping for more.