Anil Aggarwal's "The Mystery of the Burnt Bride" (short story, environment, free): Could air pollution be affecting human evolution?
A much better variation of author's "The Mystery of the Drowned Man".
Some years back, there were two events in India that attracted a lot of media attention:
- A series of murders - mostly in the North - of young recently married women. Suspects were in-laws. Cause - dowry. And with similar methods of killing - a staged fire accident in kitchen. Over the years, I've sometimes heard of convictions, but they inevitably get less media attention than gruesome murders.
- Some citizen groups in Delhi took the government to courts over the quality of air in the city. I doubt Delhi still has great air quality, but virtually all (half-hearted) air quality norms of municipal corporations in India happened after this. Or such is the impression I'm carrying.
Story makes a reference to a law that in certain crimes, it's accused who has to show innocence in court rather than prosecution proving his guilt. I'm no lawyer, but I think the author is extending imagination here. Even the anti-terror laws discussed in parliament in the wake of Bombay terror attacks in November 2008 threw out proposals that would have placed the onus of proving innocence on accused; it's always prosecution's job. Of course, there are cases where cops are biased.
Story summary.Sarita, a recently married woman, has died in a fire accident in kitchen at home, & the police officer has formed the opinion that it's a dowry murder.
Doctor doing the postmortem (narrator) has to find out weather she was dead at the time she came into contact with fire - which will be conclusive proof of murder. Or if she was still alive at the time, which kind of leaves the possibility of a genuine accident open.
Normally a straight-forward autopsy procedure, some events complicate it. But result is a new medical discovery - the dead woman was carrying a genetic mutation that made her better cope with carbon monoxide pollution in the air.
Fact sheet.First published: Spandan, 1996-97.
Download full text from author's website.
Related: Stories of Anil Aggarwal.