A domestic help in Delhi, 35-year-old Halder stands a class apart from most Indian bestselling writers
Sometimes, simple words capture raw emotion more effectively than the most lyrical prose. Baby Halder’s works are defined by precisely such directness and austerity of prose. A powerful story needs little else.
A domestic help in Delhi, 35-year-old Halder stands a class apart from most Indian bestselling writers. Her first book, Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary), a moving account of life with an abusive husband and exploitative employers, was well received by critics and readers alike. This encouraged her to continue writing—she’s working on her third book now. Guiding her through all this is her employer, Prabodh Kumar, a retired anthropology professor.
“My second book, Isat Rupantar, is sort of a sequel to my first book. It is about the sea change in my life after Aalo Aandhari was printed,” she says. Isat Rupantar is now set to be translated from Bengali to Hindi. Her third book, a set of short stories, draws inspiration from her observations of life. “All stories are connected. One is about the transformations brought about by the mobile phone. It has killed letter writing, but also brought people a lot closer. There are also stories about other domestic helps,” she says.
Halder’s success has certainly made quite an impression on people around her. The daughters of a labourer working next door were inspired enough to start writing themselves. “Another domestic help in Kolkata read my book and started writing. It feels great when people decide to do something about their lives instead of letting the grime of unhappiness taint it forever.”
The change in Halder is obvious. Putting her thoughts down on paper has made it easier for brave words to emerge from within. She wants to work in the field of women and child rights. The passion and conviction of Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar inspire her the most. “Maybe in a couple of years, I could hope to be like them,” she says.