Diary entries of Kerala lawyer expose domestic violence that led to her death

Aiswarya was subjected to regular verbal and physical abuse by her husband Kannan, which she recorded in shocking detail in her diary. Kannan was arrested on September 19 based on the evidence in the entries.
Aiswarya and some photos of her with Kannan
Aiswarya and some photos of her with Kannan
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Trigger warning: Suicide, Domestic violence

“She was like a butterfly, always spreading happiness and kindness wherever she went. She got trapped in a cave and suffocated,” says Sheela, mother of 26-year-old Aiswarya Unnithan, who died by suicide in Kerala’s Kollam on September 15. Aiswarya, a masters’ student in law, had penned journal entries that reveal vivid, shocking and minute details of three years of domestic violence by her husband Kannan Nair (29) and the silence that prevailed in her matrimonial house.

It was at their house in Peroorkada, Thiruvananthapuram that TNM met Sheela (57) and Athul Unnithan (24), Aiswarya’s brother. Aiswarya’s father Aravindakshan had passed away in 2015. The house was shrouded in silence, except for the occasional cries of Aiswarya’s one-year-old daughter and the barks of her dog. “The dog was an engagement gift from Kannan. Once during a brief fight between them, Aiswarya came to stay with us for a while. He took the dog away with him at that time. Later, he disclosed to a counsellor that he did that to make Aiswarya feel remorse over her decision,” Athul recalls. It was such things that Kannan did and didn’t do that plagued Aiswarya.

In one journal entry, she wrote, “He doesn’t know what love is”, while in another she wondered, “Do you need your father’s permission to buy something for your wife?” Some of the entries are addressed to herself while others are addressed to Kannan. “Reading her diary, we realised how much she endured. There are entries where she says her fingers were broken. My child went through all that pain and suffering on her own. The only thing I don’t understand is why she stayed in the marriage,” Sheela says, as she starts narrating what happened.

It was sometime in 2019 that Kannan came across a photo of Aiswarya on social media and expressed his wish to marry her. At that time, Kannan, who had previously completed BTech, was an undergraduate law student and an apprentice in the state-owned Keltron. Soon after, two of Kannan’s relatives came to Aiswarya’s house to talk about marriage. As Sheela was worried over the fact that Kannan did not have a job, Aiswarya wanted to talk to him in person. That was when Kannan first came to her house.

“I still remember how he looked when he came here the first time. He was quiet, with a calm and patient demeanour. He said that a post had been created for him in his company and he would soon be employed. As the proposal was agreeable to the two of them, we went ahead with it,” Sheela says, adding that Kannan never let the mask of ‘good man’ slip until much later. “During the engagement, he was the one who served food and drinks to everyone. My relatives were happy that we found a good partner for our daughter,” she says.

Watch: Diary entries of young Kerala lawyer expose domestic violence that led to her death

However, a few days before the wedding, Aiswarya told her mother that the marriage will not work and that Kannan had, during an argument, said that he would “break her bones” in no time after the marriage. However, when Sheela raised the issue with him, Kannan had claimed that he said that in jest. When the matter was taken to Kannan’s father Jayan, he assured Sheela that as she was giving her daughter in marriage to his family, he would be responsible for her well-being.

“Later, Jayan did not question Kannan even once when he beat Aiswarya or Athul, or spoke ill of me, right in front of his eyes. On the day of their wedding in August 2019, Kannan’s grandmother had warned Aiswarya to be careful with him. However, she was immediately sent away from the house. My daughter was scared from that day on,” Sheela recalls.

It was not until three months later that Sheela witnessed an act of violence meted out to Aiswarya. This happened when Aiswarya and Sheela were in a hospital where Kannan’s mother was admitted. “At one point, Kannan left the room and asked us to go with him. We were delayed by a few minutes as Aiswarya’s slipper went under the bed. When I stepped out after her, I saw Kannan grab her by her hair and hit her head on the rails. I froze at that instant and did not react. Later, I told him to hit the wall when he gets angry,” she recalls.

Sheela adds with remorse that she trusted Kannan even after she witnessed that violent act. “That was the extent and intensity with which he put on his good-person act,” she says. After this incident, Kannan had agreed to meet a counsellor, which he did once. The counsellor had told Sheela and Aiswarya that the marriage will be a difficult one, and that Aiswarya should decide whether or not she wanted to stay in it.

“She stayed with me for a while and I had asked her not to go back, assuring her that she can live here peacefully. She was educated and a university topper. She did freelance jobs after her marriage too. But he never let her keep a single penny she earned. Yet, she went back to him. Neither did he take up a job nor did he allow my daughter to go out,” Sheela says, adding that that was when Aiswarya became pregnant. “She hoped that a child would bring change to her life,” she says. Sheela further says that during the pregnancy, Kannan did not provide any support and left Aiswarya distraught.

Even after the child was born, Aiswarya was subjected to verbal and physical abuse regularly, which she did not disclose to anyone except in her diary. Athul says that there were three diaries, but the one for 2022 could not be found.

“Even after everything that happened, my daughter would not come back. She used to say that it was easier said than done. I still don’t know why she stayed there nor can I understand the chemistry between them. She was expected to do whatever he demanded, exactly as he said. Even a small deviation would invite his wrath,” says Sheela. She also adds that Kannan had demanded dowry from Aiswarya. “He wanted a car and land here. He used to taunt her about that frequently.”

While Sheela was aware that Aiswarya was physically abused, she says that she did not know its intensity or regularity. Athul, on the other hand, witnessed the physical abuse only in 2022. “It was Aiswarya’s daughter’s birthday on September 6, and we were there at Kannan’s house for a party. He got irked by the fact that some leftover tea was left on the stove. For such a silly reason, he broke some tea cups and started hitting Aiswarya. That day, she came crying to me and said that she was scared. She asked me to take her with me and I agreed. But she changed her mind and stayed behind. Later, I learned through the diaries that he assaulted her multiple times. I knew that fights were happening, but was unaware that she was assaulted,” he says.

Aiswarya had never allowed anyone from her family to stay with her in her matrimonial house, according to her family members, as she feared the gross insult they would have to face at the hands of Kannan and Jayan. Sheela says that Kannan’s mother was ill and was not in a position to question anything as Kannan hit her also.

In the days leading up to her daughter’s death, Sheela had accompanied Aiswarya, Kannan and his parents on a religious tour between September 8 and 12. It was on September 12 that Athul saw Aiswarya for the last time. Sheela visited her daughter on September 13, when Kannan had called her to cook fish for him at his house. That turned out to be the last time she saw her daughter alive in person.

On September 15, Aiswarya video-called her family at 8.20 am, as was usual practice, and spoke to them for 20 minutes. Both Sheela and Athul say that Aiswarya rarely called when Kannan was around. “Even if she called, she had to put it on speaker. When she talked to her friends, Kannan would be listening to the entire conversation,” they say.

Later that day, Sheela went to Aiswarya’s university to get her degree certificate. Aiswarya called Sheela at 10.30 am to know if she had reached the university. At 10.56 am, Sheela called her back to ask for some details. She made another call at 10.58 am to clear another doubt when Aiswarya sounded irritated and cut the call. That was the last time anyone spoke to her, Sheela says. “Sometimes I could sense that something was wrong from the way she said ‘amma’. But that day, I thought she talked like that as she had cramps,” Sheela says.

It was Kannan who called Athul to inform that Aiswarya had attempted suicide. “I thought she made an attempt but was stopped and admitted to the hospital. I called again and he said that she was fine. So I called my mother and said that she slipped from the staircase and was in the hospital. When I went to the hospital, I was sent to the mortuary. That was when I realised what happened. Nobody from Kannan’s family was present there. The hospital staff told us that they admitted her in a very nonchalant manner and left the place,” Athul says.

“How hurt must she have been to do this in front of her child whom she loved so much? She was eager for her child to talk and walk, and was happy watching her grow. Why did my daughter face all this?” Sheela asks. They later read in Aiswarya’s diary that she knew she might have to do this at some point in life, Sheela says.

“She was an active person and a happy soul. She didn’t know how to say no to anyone, especially to those she loved. She found happiness in small things. But after marriage, she became isolated and kept to herself. Even today, I remember the Aiswarya who would always have a smile on her face, even when facing a problem,” Athul says.

Sheela says that she can try to understand why Aiswarya didn’t leave the marriage - maybe she feared that Kannan might harm her family if she did. Even as they pledge to go to any extent to get justice for Aiswarya, Sheela and Athul are worried about the custody of her child.

Watch: Diary entries of young Kerala lawyer expose domestic violence that led to her death

Based on the evidence in Aiswarya’s diary entries, Kannan was arrested by the police on September 19. “An initial First Information Report (FIR) was registered under section 174 (unnatural death) of the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 498A (domestic violence) were later added. Kannan, who was initially absconding, has been arrested and remanded. Further investigation is underway,” Investigation Officer Biju told TNM.

Edited by Maria Teresa Raju

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584


Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222


Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.


State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.    

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726

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