Pinki Virani

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Pinki Virani
Born 1959 (age 56–57)
Bombay, India
Occupation Journalist, writer
Nationality Indian
Ethnicity Gujarati; Ismaili Khoja
Notable works Once was Bombay

Pinki Virani (born 30 January 1959) is an Indian writer, journalist, human-rights activist and author who has won critical acclaim for her four best-selling books Once was Bombay (frequently referred to as a "cult book"); Aruna's Story; Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India (which won the National Award) and Deaf Heaven.[1]

Pinki Virani has also been instrumental in being the fulcrum for the bringing of two major laws for India: POCSO (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012) and Passive Euthanasia.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Virani was born in Mumbai, India, to Gujarati Muslim parents. Her father owned a shop, and her mother was a housewife. She attended school in Mumbai, Pune and Mussoorie. She went to the US to study for a Masters in Journalism, from Columbia University, on the Aga Khan Foundation scholarship. She did an internship at The Sunday Times, where she reported extensively on the race riots in Britain.


She returned to Mumbai and joined MiD DAY as an editor. Deaf Heaven is her fourth book and first work of fiction.


The books she has written have all been to highlight some issue.

  • "Aruna's Story" is about the rape of a nurse that left her in a coma. A leading critic described it as "India's answer to Truman Capote's 'In Cold Blood'."
  • "Bitter Chocolate" is about child sexual abuse in India.
  • 'Bitter Chocolate' a play performed by Sutradhar and directed by Vinay Varma, is based on this book.
  • 'Once Was Bombay' is reference material for sociology specialists and was cited by then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in his speech on collapsing cities. 'Once Was Bombay' is one of the first books in English publishing to present the megacity of Mumbaai in a non-romanticised, frills-shorn narrative in the faction genre (facts presented in fiction format with underpinnings firmly in non-fiction). The template of 'Once Was Bombay' – the vicious pillage of a city's cosmopolitanism by provincial politicians in the name of religion and language – has proved particularly prescient.
  • 'Deaf Heaven', her first work of fiction, experiments with form and style to warn off the danger of the tipping over of a modern country into neo-fascism. The parables unfold through the voice of a sutradhar who comes to life to narrate stories over a weekend, of women who know each other through six degrees of separation. Respected literrateur Khushwant Singh reviewed 'Deaf Heaven' as "profound and profane, all at once!"

National award-winning writer and social campaigner, Pinki Virani, is among India's best-selling authors whose single-handed work gives voice to individuals who have none.

It also leads to landmark legislation, not just once but thrice. Her tireless campaigning for human dignity has led to landmark laws for three of the most vulnerable times of a human being's life—in the beginning as a child, during sexual assault, and at the end as a terminally ill patient.

Pinki Virani's sustained crusading since 2000 has resulted in India's Parliament passing a law against sexual abuse of children (The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences) in May 2012. The law includes four of her suggestions to the Standing Committee, it also encompasses several suggestions from her book 'Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India’. The book and a part of its contents has also been quoted in a Madras High Court judgement.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court of India, passed a historic judgement permitting passive euthanasia in the country. This followed Pinki Virani's plea to the highest court in December 2009. The corollary of this same landmark judgement is that there could be a boost in organ donations, once again positively helping millions of Indians. The judgement provides clarity on the definition of brain-death since healthy vital organs are wasted while arguments rage over the medico-legal definition of brain-death.

And on December 23, 2014, Government of India endorsed and re-validated the Passive Euthanasia judgement-law. It issued a Press Release as follows: “The Honble Supreme Court of India in its judgment dated 7.3.2011 [WP (Criminal) No. 115 of 2009], while dismissing the plea in a particular case, laid down comprehensive guidelines to process cases relating to Passive Euthanasia. Thereafter, the matter was examined in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice and it has been decided that since the Honble Supreme Court has already laid down the guidelines, these should be followed and treated as law in such cases. At present, there is no proposal to enact legislation on this subject and the judgment of the Honble Supreme Court is binding on all. The Health Minister, Shri J P Nadda stated this in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.”

The Government of India’s Parliament has also accepted, in its strengthened anti-rape law in March 2013, Pinki Virani’s recommendations that (a) the law include a “vegetative clause” (b) the perpetrator who puts the victim in a vegetative state before, during or after sexual assault be categorised as “rarest of the rare”, therefore treated on par with being a murderer (c) repeat rapists be punished with the maximum sentence of life-unto-death or death penalty.

The above was also achieved because the Passive Euthanasia Law recognised, for the first time in , a persistent vegetative state (PVS) as a valid medical condition. Therefore, a legal one. The law in , till then, did not recognise anything between “attempt to murder” and “murder”.

Pinki Virani's work – seamlessly blending her journalistic and writing skills – places her among the few international authors whose writing results in rendering direct service towards Indian citizens, sometimes one at a time.

She is author of four books, three of which are non-fiction best-sellers. 'Aruna's Story' which lead to the Passive Euthanasia Law. 'Once Was Bombay', quoted by then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in his speech on collapsing cities, and the National Award-winning 'Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India'.

Adaptations:'Bitter Chocolate' has been staged as a play all over the country and abroad. Adaptations: 'Aruna's Story' forms part of a 52-minute documentary, produced by PSBT (Public Service Broadcasting Trust)titled 'Passive Euthanasia: Kahaani Karuna Ki'.

‘Deaf Heaven’, her first work of fiction, was listed among international contenders for the Impac Dublin Literary Prize. This novel has earned her praise as a writer who is willing to take literary risks. For those who might want to read differently, she introduced several firsts in ‘Deaf Heaven’ to experiment with literary arrangements. 'Deaf Heaven' subverts form and structure to experiment with a deceptively simple narrative underlining an urgent perspective on contemporary India, its internal terrorism and the superficiality of contemporary politics pushing the nation at tipping point into modern-day fascism. Critics called it “a truly Indic work”, Outlook magazine placed it among best ten books of the year. Eminent litterateur Khushwant Singh praised the style of story-telling as "ingenuous" and described 'Deaf Heaven' as "profound and profane, all at once". 'Deaf Heaven' is also the first work of fiction in the Indian subcontinent to be a Literary Cell-Novel and an Adult Audio-Mobile Book.

Aruna Shanbaug case[edit]

Main article: Aruna Shanbaug case

Pinki Virani is known for filing a petition in Supreme Court of India on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug which resulted in a judgement by the Court that legalised passive euthanasia in India. Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse working at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai on 27 November 1973 when she was sexually assaulted by a sweeper. During the attack she was strangled with a chain, and the deprivation of oxygen has left her in a vegetative state ever since. She has been treated at KEM since the incident and is kept alive by feeding tube. On behalf of Aruna, her friend Pinki Virani filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that the "continued existence of Aruna is in violation of her right to live in dignity". The Supreme Court made its decision on 7 March 2011.[3] The Court rejected the plea to discontinue Aruna's life support but issued a set of broad guidelines legalising passive euthanasia in India. However, the Supreme Court judges held Pinki Virani in high esteem as seen in the judgement. However, the Supreme Court refused to recognise Ms. Pinki Virani as the next friend of Ms. Aruna Shanbaug, a description she had used to file the petition. The Court observed in paragraph 14 of the judgment, "Ms. Pinki Virani who claims to be the next friend of Aruna Shanbaug and has filed this petition on her behalf is not a relative of Aruna Shanbaug nor can she claim to have such close emotional bonding with her as the KEM hospital staff. Hence, we are treating the KEM hospital staff as the next friend of Aruna Shanbaug and we decline to recognize Ms. Pinki Virani as her next friend. No doubt Ms. Pinki Virani has written a book about Aruna Shanbaug and has visited her a few times, and we have great respect for her for the social causes she has espoused, but she cannot claim to have the extent of attachment or bonding with Aruna which the KEM hospital staff, which has been looking after her for years, claims to have."[4][5]

We also wish to express our appreciation of Ms. Pinki Virani who filed this petition. Although we have dismissed the petition for the reasons given above, we regard her as a public spirited person who filed the petition for a cause she bona fide regarded as correct and ethical. We hold her in high esteem.[4]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to noted journalist, public intellectual and author of Accidental India, Shankkar Aiyar. Their 25-year-old union is often mentioned for its nationally-integrated nature (he's a devout Hindu Tamilian Brahmin, she a Gujarati Muslim Ismaili Khoja); the fact that he is three years younger to her; that they have jointly chosen to be child-free. The couple divide their time between Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.[6]



  • Aruna's Story:the true account of a rape and its aftermath. Viking, 1998.
  • Bitter Chocolate: child sexual abuse in India, Penguin Books, 2000
  • Once was Bombay. Viking. 1999. ISBN 0-670-88869-9. 
  • Deaf Heaven, HarperCollins Publishers India, 2009. ISBN 81-7223-849-5.


  1. ^ R. Krithika (19 July 2009). "As we see ourselves". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Govt. endorses SC guidelines on passive euthanasia". The Hindu. 25 December 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "After 36 yrs of immobility, a fresh hope of death". Indian Express. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Supreme Court decision on Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug versus Union of India" (PDF). The Hindu. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "India court admits plea to end life of rape victim". BBC News, Delhi. 17 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Virani saga". The Tribune. 1 August 2009. 

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