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