Uncategorized, writing

Just a Maid ? Sure ?

This time in the afternoon is actually the best. Lunch over. No utensils to wash anymore. Kids in school. Watering plants in the garden is also over.


And, her employer is sleeping.

Next work : Cooking around 8 PM.

Till then, it’s her own little world. Very peaceful one. The world of books. She took out the book ‘Amar Meyebela’ from the bookshelf.

Sat down on the chair. Started reading. A few pages over and suddenly that strange force.


As if, something from the book is dragging her. Very strongly. Where ? Who is that ?

“No..No..I don’t want to remember. Stop…Please..”

She closed the book.


(A few months earlier..)

She came to this house in Gurgaon, to work for him. As a domestic help.

That means, all work. Right from cooking to washing utensils. The employer is an old man. 65+. Seems to be gentle enough. Not like the earlier one, who never missed an opportunity to touch her indecently.

Few months passed. She is comfortable. Very much comfortable. What more she can ask ? The employer never looked at her badly or, talked to her indecently. Treated just like a normal human being. One day, when she was dusting the book shelf, he even noticed that she tries to read the books. Dusting the book shelf is visibly her most favourite work in the entire house.

Next morning, he gave her a book – ‘Amar Meyebela’ by Taslima Nasrin. She started reading in the afternoon, that only time to relax after the usual household chores.

How stupid..She is trying so hard to control, but can’t..Why ?

Sometimes silently, sometimes like a child, but non-stop she cried while reading. Onion is not so bad, she realised – at least nothing as compared to this book. Her face literally looks swollen.

After completing she returned the book to her master. On one hand he took the book, another hand gave her a notebook and pen.

“Why ?” She asked.

He: “From now on, whenever you get time try to write down, whatever is there in your mind.”

She: (Blank look..Didn’t get the point)

He (….Continued): “Your motherless childhood, adolescence, adulthood.

That everyday torture by your step mother, your struggle as a rape victim,

your helplessness to get married to someone twice your age, forced motherhood when only 13 ,

your struggle to tolerate the domestic violence for years, then desperation to leave your abusive husband, your courage to escape to Delhi for work in that train; with your small children despite knowing nothing about the outside world,

your struggle to raise them as a single parent..everything. Just write. You will cry, you will laugh, you will lose direction, might feel blank, still never let the pen stop.”

She came back to her room. Opened the notebook. Removed the cap off the pen.

Closed her eyes. Few minutes passed. Opened the eyes. The pen started moving on the notepad.


A couple of months passed.

It’s complete now. She handed over the notebook to him. Bengali, being her mother tongue – she wrote in that.

Frankly, he did not expect this. Such depth in her writing who barely studied up to 7th Grade. Simple language, straight from heart. He showed it to his friends. They agreed too. This needs to be published. He translated it into Hindi.

The book got published. And, became a bestseller.

Now, the same book got published in English.

And, again a bestseller.

Now, in Bengali, Malayalam.

And, Bestseller.

Finally, in total 21 languages across the world including Korean, German, French, Japanese.

And, she is an established author now. Rubbed shoulder with many popular writers at literary festivals across the world.She does not need to work as a domestic help anymore. Built a house in Kolkata with earning from her books. Has a plan to settle there finally. But not now. Why ?

She does not want to leave her 84 years old employer, who is a father-like figure to her. Much more than her real father, who gifted her only abuse.


Her name ?

Baby Halder.

The 42-year-old Indian domestic help who shot to fame in 2006 with her acclaimed autobiography Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary) that describes her harsh life growing up and as a domestic worker, later translated into 21 languages across the world. She has been on book tours to Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, France and Germany and is often invited to speak at literary festivals across the country.

Abandoned by her mother at age 4, she spent her traumatic childhood in Durgapur. Being married to a man 14 years her senior, she was raped in her wedding night. Had her first child at the age of 13, and two more in the following years. Started working as domestic help in the neighbourhood areas, until in 1999, after years of domestic violence, she left her husband, escaping to Delhi on a train, with her children. There she started working as a housemaid in New Delhi homes, to support her kids – Subodh, Tapas and Piya ; and then encountered several exploitative employers until she met her last employer Professor Prabodh Kumar (grandson of Munshi Premchand) who ultimately became her literary mentor and translator. He gave her to read Taslima Nasrin’s ‘Amar Meyebela’ (a book based on the trauma on being born a woman) which deeply moved Halder as it rekindled her own memories.

In 2010, she published her second book ‘Eshat Rupantar’ – a sequel to her first book. Her third book is about the story of her progression from childhood to teenage. Her favourite author Arundhati Roy, Taslima Nasrin and Jhumpa Lahiri.

This Women’s Day, my ode to this braveheart who proved;

Sometimes the place we are used to is not the place we belong.

One belongs where one believes he/she belongs.

Search, Where is that for you ?

recitation, writing

An Ordinary Girl: My Recitation

Because today is International Women’s Day, sharing a poem based on an ordinary girl !

Concept: After being betrayed by her affluent boyfriend Naresh, an ordinary girl Malati requests Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, to write a story on an ordinary girl – about her suffering, insult, dream & heartbreak.

Written By: Rabindranath Tagore

Translated in English By: Arunava Sinha (https://arunavasinha.in/)

Performed at the prestigious Indian Institute of World Culture (IIWC), Bangalore on 4th March, 2017.


This Woman’s Day, make a difference.

Good figure. Bright eyes. Soft nature. A charming young lady, she was.

Soon caught attention of the men, staying in the neighbourhood. She was my favourite. Used to protect her from lustful eyes, as much as I can. Not sure, if anybody among them had true love for her.

Months passed.

Suddenly discovered she is pregnant.

Another few months.

And, she is a mother now.

Adorable babies. Soft head, small eyes.

People around us did not like them obviously.

Seeing her perplexed about where to bring up them properly;

I requested my mother so that she could stay with us, in our house..

Maa agreed.

She started staying in our house. Beside my room.

Everyday, after coming from school, my first work used to be to cuddle the kids. What they are doing ? How much they grew up ?

Days passed.

The kids are little big now. Healthy. Naughty.

Named them, ‘Babli’ + ‘Jhimli’.

That day was my exam. Came back home, the paper was not good. Sure, won’t score much.

Sad mind badly needs a booster. Where are the kids ?

Babli ? Jhimli ?

Nobody there. Searched my house, then neighbourhood, then locality.

Nowhere they are. Came back home. Blank mind. Tensed.

Sat down beside their bed. Helpless. Their mother came.

‘Miaao’ ?

Saw the same tension + question + sadness in her eyes, which are supposed to be seen in human eyes, such time.

She did not eat that night.

Next day, offered her my piece of fish.

She didn’t touch.

For the consecutive few days, I saw her roaming in & around the locality, with a bizarre Meowing, searching her babies.

Took few more days for her to come back to normalcy.

The male cat ate her babies. A fact, common in the feline world.

20 years passed.

And, still when I recall that bizarre staring of her – asking me, “Where are my kids ?” I feel kind of shivering.

That day, for the first time, I realised,

Language is secondary.

Despite having over 6500 languages, Only one language rules in this world. Across genre, species, class, phylum.

The language of heart.

And, thereby basic emotion is same too.

This Women’s Day, come, let’s do a little bit for the other women too, who are not so human.

A small piece of fish, little milk, may be dipped in honey ?

And, if mother, providing something extra ?

so that she doesn’t have to endure the pain of losing her babies ?

The pleasure you will get would be nowhere close to an expensive gift gifted by your man.

This Women’s Day,

Come, make a difference.

Spread Womanism.

Not Feminism.


Women’s Day and some thoughts

She was beautiful. Full of life. The only daughter of her parents. Pampered as much as every other kid.
Her parents Rich. Aristocratic. Cultured. No wonder why everybody in that area knew about them. And, their daughter off course.
Her wardrobe used to possess neatly embroidered clothes. Diamond earrings for that crafted face. And who doesn’t love flowers ? She is no different. Jasmine being her favourite, sometimes marigold too to wrap around those long curls.
Years passed by. The little girl is now a lady. An attractive one. Marriage proposals started pouring in. The parents chose a guy. He is tall, fair, handsome, rich, nice family background and obviously belongs to the same caste.
D-Day arrived. They got married. Everybody is happy. The bride, bridegroom, parents n relatives of both sides. Also, the invited ones who enjoyed the grand meal. Each n every preparation was lip smacking, they said with a big grin.
11 years passed by. No good news. Everybody worried. The girl too. Though nobody knew the actual reason behind the delay.
Another year spent. Everybody happy. The good news, finally. Now, it’s time to wait for another few months.
A strenuous labour pain. And, it’s a boy. Very cute, big eyes, curly hair just like his father. She held her cub around those weak arms. Kissed in his little forehead.
Physically exhausted, she fell asleep soon. Next morning arrived. One of her relative too. To give her the news.
Her husband left her. And, her newborn son. Why ? She doesn’t know. Asked the lady. She told her about his new agenda. Neither she, nor her baby fits into that agenda. That’s why the12593873_995882140485234_590552638370494740_o decision.
She didn’t cry. Became silent. For that day and for the following days also. Being offered help by relatives, she gently refused. Not to forget, she was still young and pretty. Some men proposed to marry, kind enough to accept her with the child, but she refused them as well.
Started wearing a single coloured cloth only. Light colour. Cotton. Discarded her jewelleries. Reduced her meal to once a day only. Raised her son properly.
One day, the son left her too. Joined his father. By that time, his father got well established in his domain.
She became alone. Again. Till death.
Her name is Yashodhara. Some relatives used to call her Gopa too.
Her son is Rahul.
Her husband is Siddhartha. People lovingly address him as Gautam Buddha, till date.
If I get inspired by any woman other than my mother, then Yashodhara is that personality. Everybody is curious about her husband. And, why not ? He got fame, served for humanity, struggled to make people aware of the very concept of ‘Nirvana’. He is extraordinary.
And, nobody wants to know about the ordinary. Yashodhara was an ordinary girl, with some ordinary desires. Some ordinary expectations. Some ordinary dreams. Some ordinary disappointments.
Still in my eyes, she is extraordinary. For what she has to bear. Silently. She didn’t complain. Because she loved. Truly.

This Women’s Day (8th March), my tribute to this forgotten lady, whose sacrifice was (may be, still is) taken for granted.