Baby Halder

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Baby Halder
Born 1973 (age 40–41)
Kashmir, India[1]
Residence Gurgaon
Occupation Domestic worker, writer
Known for Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary, 2006)

Baby Halder (or Haldar) (born 1973) is an Indian domestic help and author, whose acclaimed autobiography Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary, 2006) describes her harsh life growing up and as a domestic worker,[2][3] later translated into 21 languages, including 13 foreign languages.[4]

Early life and marriage[edit]

Born in Kashmir,[1] she was abandoned by her birth mother at age 4 in Murshidabad, when her father's habitual drinking forced her mother to leave him.[5] Subsequently, she was raised by an abusive father, an ex-serviceman and driver and her step-mother, with whom she travelled from Kashmir to Murshidabad and finally to Durgapur, West Bengal, where she grew up.[6] She went to school intermittently, and dropped off after sixth standard,[4] when at the age of 12, her father married her off to a man 14 years her senior, and a small-time decorator.[7][8] She had her first child at the age of 13, and two more in a quick succession. Meanwhile, after her sister was strangled to death by her husband, she started working as domestic servant in the neighbourhood. Finally in 1999, at the age of 25, after years of domestic violence, she left her husband, escaping to Delhi on a train, with her three children on board. Now as a single parent, she started working as a housemaid in New Delhi homes, to support and educate her children, sons Subodh and Tapas and daughter, Piya; and then encountered several exploitative employers.[2][7]

Literary career[edit]

Her last employer, writer and retired anthropology professor Prabodh Kumar and a grandson of noted Hindi literary giant Munshi Premchand, living in Gurgaon, a suburb of capital New Delhi, seeing her interest in books while dusting his book shelves, encouraged her to first read leading authors,[7] starting with Taslima Nasreen's autobiographical Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood) about a tumultuous youth and deep anger on being born a woman in a poor society. This deeply moved Halder and turned out be a turning point, as it was to inspire her own memoirs, later on. She soon zealously began reading other authors.[8][9] Subsequently before going on a trip to South India, he bought her a notebook and pen and encouraged her to write her life story, which she did late at night after work and sometimes in between chores, using plain matter-of-fact language and writing in native Bengali. When Kumar was back after a month, she had already written 100 pages.[8][9][10]

After several months, when her memoirs was completed, Kumar also aided in editing the manuscript, shared it with local literary circle and translated it into Hindi. This version was published in 2002 by a small Kolkata-based publishing house, Roshani Publishers. Much to their surprise, the book turned out to be a best-seller from the start. It immediately got extensive media attention as it threw light on the hard lives led by domestic servants in Asia,[10][11] and within two-year it had published two more editions.[7][8] The Bengali original, Aalo Aandhari (Light and Darkness) was also published in 2004. A Malayalam version appeared in 2005 and the English translation was published in 2006, which became a best-seller in India, while the New York Times called it India's Angela's Ashes.[2] Soon it was translated into 21 languages, including 13 foreign languages, including French, Japanese and Korean.[4][5]

The book has been translated into German in 2008. It is expected that the author herself will be visiting Germany in the company of her publisher, Preeti Gill of New Delhi, India to present the book to audiences there and explain to them the present situation of women in India. The prestigious Georg-August University in Goettingen, Germany has arranged for a seminar to be held with the author and her publisher on 23 October 2008. Further seminars are being arranged in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Halle, Kiel, Berlin and Heidelberg. Her second book Eshat Roopantar in Bengali was also well received.[6]

Personal life[edit]

She lives in Gurgaon, with her son, Subodh and daughter, Piya. Her eldest Subodh now in his 20s has started working and lives separately.[12] As of 2012, Halder continues to work for Prabodh Kumar in DLF City, Gurgaon, while working on her third book. Though, she is building a house in Kolkata, with earning from her books,[5][13] she plans to stay on in the city[14]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Aalo Aandhari (Bengali, Darkness and Light), 2002.
  • Eshat Roopantar (Bengali).
  • A Life Less Ordinary (book)|A Life Less Ordinary, tr. by Urvashi Butalia. Zubaan, 2006. ISBN 818901367X.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "IN CONVERSATION: `Writing has to be classless'". The Hindu. 15 April 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Amelia Gentleman (2 August 2006). "In India, a Maid Becomes an Unlikely Literary Star". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Raka Ray; Seemin Qayum (2009). Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity, and Class in India. Stanford University Press. ISBN 080477109X. 
  4. ^ a b c "Baby's day out in Hong Kong". Daily News and Analysis. 19 March 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c "Maid to write sequel to autobiography". The Tribune. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Housemaid makes it big in literature". The Tribune. 27 March 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d "The Diary of Baby Haldar". Outlook. 24 February 2003. 
  8. ^ a b c d "From maid to bestselling author". BBC News. 21 September 2004. 
  9. ^ a b "From maid to star author". DNA newspaper. 16 July 2006. 
  10. ^ a b "Books: A life less ordinary: Tell-all book on a domestic's hard life". Sunday Observer. 30 August 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Ordinary women, extraordinary tales". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  12. ^ "Will & Grace: Indian women make it big, eye success in all fields: Write Choice: Baby Halder". India Today. 16 April 2007. 
  13. ^ "PHOTO FEATURE: Her Bill Of Writes". Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 21. 26 May 2012. 
  14. ^ "Domestic helps: The Word is Respect: Baby Halder, the help-turned-author, at home". Outlook. 23 April 2012. 

External links[edit]