A masterly and agenda-setting inquest into how the deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation
Katra Sadatganj. A tiny village in western Uttar Pradesh. A community bounded by tradition and custom; where young women are watched closely, and know what is expected of them.
It was an ordinary night when two girls, Padma and Lalli, went missing. The next day, their bodies were found – hanging in the orchard, their clothes muddied.
In the ensuing months, the investigation into their deaths would implode everything that their small community held to be true, and instigated a national conversation about sex, honour and violence.
The Good Girls returns to the scene of Padma and Lalli’s short lives and shocking deaths, daring to ask: what is the human cost of shame?
The first thing that hit me when I was a little way into this insightful and compelling piece of investigative journalism was how little I knew about the intricacies of Indian culture and social attitudes. I was dazzled initially by the sheer number of people involved in this small community tragedy, their relationships to each other and standing in social terms, but luckily for me Sonia Faleiro writes with an intelligent, informative style that is also hugely compelling.
Padma and Lalli (not their real names) go missing one evening and are later found hanged in a tree. What ensues is a complicated, intensely disturbing tale of poor investigation, political agenda and hidden secrets, a story of social media spotlight and scrutiny, playing into the wider, incredibly complex issues that face women in India every single day.
I could write a long review encompassing all my thoughts and emotions about the events covered here but that I think that I can’t do it justice so the best thing I can do is encourage you to read it yourself. The author takes you through every aspect of what happened here, often including other cases to weave a web of higher understanding and never once losing sight of the important people here, two girls who never had the chance to grow up.
The wider themes of poverty, misogyny, sexism and corruption are all brought home here and it is breathtaking and melancholy. The final decisions in this case are disturbing and just felt so wrong in context.
Sonia Faleiro has given me so much to think about. Unpalatable truths about women in the wider world facing a huge mountain to climb to get to a place I take for granted. The danger they face every day. I will leave you with this quote from the author’s own notes and once again encourage you to read this book. I highly recommend it.
“The story of Padma and Lalli revealed something more terrible still – That an Indian woman’s first challenge was surviving her own home”