Life had been extremely cruel to Baby Haldar, a mother of three children and a ditched wife. Then she decided to convert her tragedies into an opportunity - by writing a book on her experiences.
Now Haldar, a maid from West Bengal, is coming to terms with the fame that her book, Aalo Aandhari (Light and Darkness), has brought her.
Under normal circumstances, women in India such as Haldar, find it difficult to earn enough money for two square meals a day. A neglected daughter, abandoned wife and a breadwinner for her children as a domestic worker, Haldar lived in a world of grief and violence.
A school drop-out at the age of 12, married off to an elderly man at 13 and having the first child at 14 did not sap Baby’s zest for life.
Determined to save her children from her abusive marriage and to give them a good education,she decided to join her elder brother in Faridabad and took up the job of a domestic help in Gurgaon.“I had to take up the job of cleaning utensils and washing clothes as that was the only skill I had,” Halder told Deccan Herald.
Halder’s world changed when she found a new employer, Professor Prabodh Kumar, the grandson of the great literary luminary Munshi Premchand. The professor was curious when he noticed the immense love and care with which Halder cleaned the dust on his books.
“He was impressed with my way of handling the books and asked me whether I could read and write. I told him that I had read up to class VII and wanted to continue with my studies,” Halder said.
“Then one day he put a bunch of papers and a pen in my hands and asked me to write. I did not know what to write and he said write about yourself.” Prof Kumar also gave her a book by Tasleema Nasreen titled Amar meyebela (My Girlhood ) to read and Halder’s literary sojourn took off.
After her day’s work and sending her children to bed, Halder would take out her papers and write about her mother, who had abandoned her; her father,who had neglected her at the instance of her step mother; and her neighbours, who took her to hospital for delivery as her husband did not bother.
And the result is her book, Aalo (Light and Darkness ), which was published last year in Hindi. The Bengali edition of her book was published, with the release party hosted by famous Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasreen. The Hindi best seller was translated into English with the title A Life Less Ordinary was published by Penguin and Zubaan.
Today Halder is a happy woman, especially after her daughter has started introducing her, to her friends, as a writer. "What better reward can you give me?" she asked.