by Dr Shayan Haq and Santosh Avvannavar

Read time: about 6 minutes

Set in 1990, in the City of Calcutta “She” is a small insight into the life of Kusum, and the struggles she endures due to her blurred sexuality.


Enveloped in a crimson jacket , which may be signifying womanhood and the sexuality of a woman which is frequently represented using this color in India, “She” has a plain cover page with the title , with a reversed S maybe signifying that she is unlike others, and is superimposed with the Howrah Bridge- which is often used as a symbolic representation of the city in which it is set.

With the aim of the story and the name of the author etc mentioned in bold white letters, the cover doesn’t appeal to me too much as it is neither thought provoking nor raising any curiosity in me , & on the contrary the white bold lettering are rather putting off.


The book revolves around three significant characters – Kusum - the protagonist, Raj – a professor she meets and Debu her love interest. Other characters in the book mainly comprise of the family members of these three, who play small yet significant parts in the story.


“She” is the story of Kusum, who recites her saga of love and betrayal and how the narrow mindedness of our society takes from her everything that she once belonged with and leaves her in the lurch to fend for herself.

It is a documentation of her life – trails and tribulations, and how she battles them all and slowly walks on, constantly inspired by Tagore’s “ekla cholo re” at different stages of her life.

Raj, a Professor finds her stranded on a deserted road, and there begins their friendship. He is an audience to Kusum while she confides in this stranger her life, her journey of love and loss of not just the man she adored, but her family and her identity and how she trods on, paving a path for herself, even if it meant walking alone.

If they answer not to your call walk alone
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open your mind and speak out alone.

If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.

If they shut doors and do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart,
and let it burn alone.

“She” is inspired from this very famous poem written by Tagore.


Simple & clean English is used, with a hint of Bengali here and there to add a more intimate feel to the content. Mostly seen from Kusum’s perspective, it is predominantly a first person narrative.

Good points

The attempt by the authors to write on such a sensitive topic is worthy of appreciation. The loss and grievances of Kusum are relate-able not just for someone who is haunted by their sexuality but also any other person who is constantly brought down by the narrow minded society we belong to.

The map of her journey of growth, from discovering herself to becoming Kusum, and making small but noteworthy attempts to better her life are inspirational.

Bad points

As much as I am pleasantly surprised by the topic covered in the book , I for one am saddened by the sheer length of the book. We are talking about a journey, the trails, struggles, and victories of this brave woman, all confided to a mere 50 pages?

Every genre demands a certain pace, some plots demand it to be fast paced and some others are meant to be savored and contemplated on, and for me she would fit in the latter category.

This book covers a myriad of emotions, but merely touches upon each.The reader is not even allowed the time to taste a certain emotion before the plot already trudges along. A story like this, and the thought from which it is born deserved a little more analysis .

Constantly mentioned as Kusum is neither a he nor a she, it seems like the rest of the society the authors themselves dread Kusum’s sexuality. Why is it called blurred sexuality? It is almost like the authors , who want to portray Kusum as a brave-heart are shying away from who she is.


As earlier mentioned, “She” was probably conceived with a great intention. The aim of the story is to bring to us the struggles faced by her, but that intention seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.

A story on a topic like this, a topic that is barely written about should have shown a greater depth and insight on her life. After all, how often do we get to read about the lives and struggles of these innocents?

Who do I recommend this to

It is a rather short read, and hence the people who like reading a more concentrated version of life events and drama might find this interesting.

However, bibliophiles seeking the true joy of book reading- the journey of laughing and crying with the characters would not find it here.

The book was provided by the author for review. It has not influenced the review at all.

Quotable Quotes

After accepting the bitter truth of society, I set myself out to lead a life for myself entirely. I realized that the poisonous tentacles of society does not spare anyone, especially people like us. Once I realized that, I became strong from within.

I kept throwing different sized pebbles, the larger one created more impact by creating larger ripples. If the same pebble was thrown at an angle, slightly horizontal it would touch the superficial layer of water. Some pebbles made their way to the shore. This repetitive task gave me answers to all my questions.These questions were raised because I am like a pebble that fell deep into the society (water) that would know to sallow through making noise and creating disturbance ( ripples ) on ones choices. But I forgot in fostering trust with loved ones that destiny is in my own head like the same pebble that did get touched by water, passed through the hurdles of ripples without sinking easily to make a way to the shore.

It wasn’t just heartbreaking but it broke my identity! All that anguish that was deep hidden in me because rejections from family and friends started to pour out like a current in the sea that would seem destructive.

For us, life is very simple as we only acknowledge two categories- male and female – and we mock and rebuke someone stuck in between. We hardly understand the pain of remaining trapped in someone else’s body- a boy trapped in a woman’s body and/or vice versa.

We are mere puppets in the hands of our social conditioning.

Gazala Amreen

Logophile, bibliophile, writer, designer, high on wanderlust and all things pretty.

Bangalore, KA