Review – “Birds of Prey” by Archana Sarat

Almost daily we hear or read news about some kind of abuse against women and children. India is a hub of such activities, sadists, pedophiles, rapists, all have a hearty time in committing their acts and choosing their victims from the large, unaccounted population that survives in India. Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat is one such tale of a gruesome crime committed decades ago which went unpunished and unknown to the world.

Anton Pinto resigns from the position of ACP after he is nearly killed chasing a murderer for the sake of his family. Now living in Goa with his wife and 4 years old girl, he finds himself faced with a dire situation when his colleague comes asking for his consultation on the serial kidnappings of rich men happening in Mumbai. Despite his wife’s outright denial, Anton decides to have a look at the case and provide his insights without getting on the field. The only common link between the kidnapped men is that they all have daughters studying in different branches of the same school. What he doesn’t know is that once he is back in the scene, it will be difficult for him to stop himself from jumping at the core.
Swarna is the head of the kitchen of the most prestigious chain of schools in Mumbai. Her devotion to her work and the children are beyond any doubt. But unknown to all, she hides a dark past, a murky present, and an equally obscure future.
What will happen when Anton’s and Swarna’s paths collide? Will Anton be able to bring back the men from the kidnappers or himself face a predicament that will once again put his life in danger?

I had picked this book up when I read a fellow reader’s review and I was totally taken over. Impulse buy it was, and therefore, I had expectations touching the sky. Narrated in the third person, the plot is strong though it lacks proper formulation. What could have been a great thriller, remains just an average read because of what seems like haste in writing the story along with some editing errors that made me re-read the lines several times before I could understand the meaning of the unedited lines.  The story is fast-paced and short, and I finished it in just half a day. Considering the length of the story, there were too many characters and loose ends, which the author covers up with a deep characterization of the protagonists in the most minimum of words. I had guessed the anti-hero even before I was done with a third of the story and kept reading just to know how the hero is led towards the climax. I must admit it was kind of a spoiler. The writing, despite being average leaves a strong impact when it comes to the crime scenes, no details, just the effect. I could feel the pain inflicted on the characters, I could see the scenes unfolding before my eyes and it had such a profound effect on me that I couldn’t sleep the whole night and I just wanted to get the nauseating-cum-horrific feeling off myself first thing in the morning by writing this review.
I first came to know about crimes against women from the movies. During my growing up years, all the channels used to play movies from the 80s and 90s with similar plot lines, hero, sister/mother abused by the villain, and the revenge. It was from these movies that I understood what I should have been told about by my parents. As a young girl, these learnings made me stay in my shell, away from boys and men on the road. I managed well till the time I was a schoolgoing girl, but once I entered college life, everything changed. What I thought was enough for me to protect myself from unwanted attention didn’t seem enough when I found myself being ogled at, smirked at, winked at, and touched while traveling in public transport. It was then that I realized what it means to be a girl in a sexually frustrated country. I think by writing this review am joining the hordes of women from across the world, yes, #metoo, and I believe it will give me a sense of closure for every act committed to offend and humiliate me.
As adults, we understand the difference between the good and the bad. A child can not, and it makes it all the more important to arm them with the correct knowledge instead of shying away and letting learn half-truths from unreliable sources. When I was pregnant, I always said that I wanted a boy whenever anyone asked me or my preference. In my heart though, wanted a girl. When I was a young girl, I always saw my parents being protective of me and my sister. Then, I took it as their strictness, now as a mother and Masi of little girls, I know better. The country and the times we live in are not at all meant for a girl, and this was my foremost worry when I put my wishes aside and buried in the corner of my heart. God had other plans for us though, he blessed us with a sweet little girl, who we love immensely, but my worries and fears know no bounds today. Despite protecting my girl against anything that may cause her harm will not be enough. Can I always protect her? No. Can I keep her cocooned all her life? No. Can I watch over her always? No. What I can do is teach my daughter to protect herself for the times she finds herself in a dire situation and teaches her self-defense to arm her against the predators who are increasing with each passing second.
Keep yourself safe, and your kids safer.

P.S. This review in no way undermines the fact that not all men are criminals, there have been cases of women abusing too.


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