Friday, August 18, 2006

A Life Less Ordinary by Baby Halder


# Paper/Hardback : 250pp, 2005
# Author/Editor : Baby Halder, Translated by Urvashi Butalia
# Publisher : Zubaan Books, New Delhi


Links:

From Maid to Bestselling Author -BBC

Grime Pays -TimesOnline





I bought this book for two reasons: its unusual author and also because I always try to support Zubaan ( a non-profit publishing group in India with women's issues as its focus). I call the author of this book unusual because Baby Halder, although she went to school as a girl, is largely illiterate. It was while working as a maidservant in illustrious Hindi writer Premchand's grandson's house that it was suggested she try her hand at writing stories as a cure for the endless time she spent brooding on her past. What transpired is an evocative memoir of Baby Halder's childhood and early adulthood. As Baby was growing up her father was seldom ever at home. The mother, after years of trying to function as a single parent with perilously low funds, abandoned the household when Baby was only 4 years old. The father did return but he could never be the involved parent that Baby needed in her life.

The father, perhaps sensing he couldn't be a good parent to Baby, had her married at 12 years to a 26 year old man they barely knew and who took perverse delight in ill-treating her. What follows is days and months of agonizing hardships for this little girl trying so hard to accept her adult responsibilities (she had her first child at the tender age of 14)

I would classify this very simply-told story as a "must read". If you can't buy it, do borrow it from the library or a friend, for this tale can easily be the story of millions of Indian women.

The publication of this book is truly a unique event because the tale has been told by someone who is not used to words or indeed, to writing, but by making the effort to tell her tale (she would write late into the night after all her chores were over) she has now provided a voice to the millions of other voiceless domestic servants in India.

10 comments:

hellomelissa said...

hopefully the telling of this sad tale will help baby's future, and possibly the futures of other indian women. education must be the key to ending this cycle of desperation.

Angela in Europe said...

Wow, what a cool idea in order to get attention to such a large problem! If we could only get the women who iron their breast and who have had genital mutilation performed to do the samething, maybe the world would wake up and collective put its foot down.

Rosemary Esehagu said...

The author's story is remarkable, and what a great relief it must have been for her to be able to write about her life. It is my belief that writing is a great therapy, particularly for those who have faced significant struggles and helplessness in their lives.

Lotus Reads said...

Melissa You're so right. It's all about education. It breaks my heart to see little kids (some as young as 10 or 11 years) working instead of attending school only so that their families can make ends meet. What will their futures be without an education? And what does it say about people who employ these under age kids?


Angela Glad to have you back from holiday. Thanks for the comment. Isn't it sad that most of the time genital mutilation is propagated by the women themselves?


Rosemary Lovely to see you here! Yes, so true, writing is therapeutic - it's amazing what can pour forth from the heart once you put that pen to paper!

Anonymous said...

Hi:

The book A Life Less Ordinary by Baby Halder sounds great, can't find it here, has it been put out in English. Hope you are enjoying your vacation.
Sylvia.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sylvia!

Lovely to see you here. Yes, the book has been translated into English, but you're right, I don't think it's available on Amazon as yet. I have my own copy but will be leaving it behind for my mom and sister to read. I can always lend it to you after they return it to me!

Sylvia, Canada said...

Hi Again Anjali:

That would be so cool to loan your book, thanks so much. I am really enjoying your posts from India, love the last set of photo's especially you with your daughter.
Hugs, look forward to your next post.

Sylvia.

Lotus Reads said...

Hugs back, Sylvia!

I will probably have the book back in my possession around November or December - is that cool with you?

Thanks so much for checking my blog frequently. I am so happy you are enjoying the posts.

Anjali

Sylvia said...

Hi Anjali:
Will look forward to reading your book when it arrives from India...cool...
Nice to have you "Blogging" back here again. Missed you.

Hugs.
Sylvia.

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