Review: Arup Kumar Dutta’s The Blind Witness

(The review of this book was written as a part of an academic assignment)

Arup Kumar Dutta. The Blind Witness. New Delhi: Children’s Book Trust, 2012. 96p.

Arup Kuma Dutta is an Indian writer and journalist based out of Guwahati in Assam. He is a master storyteller who has authored thirty-one novels for both children and adults. The Illustrated Weekly of India rightly called him “India’s own Enid Blyton”. His fiction piece The Blind Witness is considered to be one of the classics in Indian children’s literature, at par with Anita Desai’s The Village by the Sea and Ruskin Bond’s Adventures of Rusty.

The Blind Witness is a novella that describes the adventures of a blind boy who is the only “witness” to a cold blooded murder. His sharp sense helps the police nab a gang of smugglers. The central character of this story is Ramu. The Blind Witness provides a moving and realistic portrayal of blindness and follows Ramu’s determination to convince those around him that he is a credible witness.

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The cover of the book featuring Ramu

The novel displays the exemplary courage of a blind boy Ramu who helps in solving a murder mystery. Although he is blind, yet he can sense everything around him to perfection. He has the power and ability to portray a person with highest accuracy by hearing his voice or by measuring his tone. This unique ability separates him from a normal person and makes him the hero he is. Dutta’s interest in marginality seems to be constant in fiction. In this novel too, through Ramu’s character Dutta shows us how with a strong heart and courage in mind, anyone can achieve in life. One should not underestimate people who are blind because they are gifted with abilities different from normal people. They do not deserve sympathy, rather equal treatment in society.

Just like other mystery novels, The Blind Witness too is written in a traditional format where one incident leads to the unfolding of another one. The story grows as the novel progresses and captures the readers’ attention and interest. It unveils the mystery step by step, one at a time. Reading the novel ignites the same level of excitement, both to a young reader and as well as to a mature one.

The description of the events in the novel is profound. Each scene depicts Dutta’s mastery of the language. The presence of minute details and facts throughout the novel shows us the author’s level of precision in presenting his case. Arup Kumar Dutta presents an opportunity to his readers to experience deepest sense of human senses. The systematic description of the plots and mysterious unravelling of the events force the readers to delve deeper into the storyline. The idea of the author is clear and are reinforced with simple words and sentences. The suspense is maintained throughout the story and the book keeps the reader in the edge of their seats.

Arup Dutta’s portrayal of a blind persons’ world deserves much appreciation. He very beautifully presents the psyche of a blind boy and his constant struggle against the world he live in. The trials and tribulations faced by a blind boy right from mundane things like crossing the road to walking the steps, which often gets unnoticed is portrayed with impeccable brilliance.

The title of the novel is an oxymoron. The author tries to highlight the element of suspense and mystery right from the title of the novel as it evokes a sense of eagerness in readers to learn how a blind boy became a “witness”.

The novel is not aimed only for a definite audience; but can be enjoyed equally throughout all age groups. Dutta’s portrayal of the life of the people of North East India who often gets neglected in mainstream Indian literature makes the book an important document of the land. He makes an attempt to open and bring out North East through his literature not only to India but the entire world.

The Blind Witness was made into a Hindi feature film titled Netraheen Sakshi by the Children’s Film Society of India. Among the languages it has been translated to are Russian and Japanese, while it has been converted to Braille for blind readers in Japan. It finds mention in the New York Publication 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare. The Blind Witness is also featured in the “Literature of the World Series” brought out by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on 2nd October, 2001, along with books of Satyajit Ray and Ruskin Bond.

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