Maid Becomes an Unlikely Literary Star in India

Amelia Gentleman in the New York Times Book Review:

Screenhunter_2_9Abandoned by her mother at 4, married off at 12 to an abusive husband, a mother herself at 13 — there is little in Baby Halder’s traumatic childhood to suggest that she would become an emerging star on India’s literary horizon.

A single parent at 25, struggling to feed her three children by working as a maid for a series of exploitative employers, Ms. Halder had no time to devote to reading or to contemplating the harsh reality of her existence until she started work in the home of a sympathetic retired academic, who caught her browsing through his books when she was meant to be dusting the shelves. He discovered a latent interest in literature, gave her a notebook and pen, and encouraged her to start writing. “A Life Less Ordinary,” this season’s publishing sensation in India, is the result of her nighttime writing sessions, squeezed in after her housework duties were finished, when she poured raw memories of her early life into the lined exercise books.

Prabodh Kumar, the retired anthropology professor who discovered her, was impressed with what he read and encouraged her to continue. After several months, he sat down with her and helped edit her text into book form.

More here.