Mail from Zubaan’s Urvashi Butalia:

On the 11th of May Zubaan and Penguin India will be launching an
unusual book, and in an unusual way.

The book is called A Life Less Ordinary, and is an account of her life by Baby Halder, a young woman and a domestic worker in a home in Gurgaon. Baby wrote this book in Bengali some years ago when, encouraged by her employer Dr Prabodh Kumar she began to read afresh, and then to write.

Baby’s life story is, in many ways, an “ordinary” one. From her difficult childhood, spent moving from place to place, coping with domestic responsibilities thrust upon her by an absentee father and a mother who abandoned the family when Baby was just a small child, to her marriage–at the age of 13 to a man nearly twice her age–and becoming a mother when she was still just a child herself.

However it is “less ordinary” in that she battled against the odds, left her violent and abusive husband, and determined to build a better life for herself and her children in an unknown city.

Baby’s search for work led her finally to the home of Dr Prabodh Kumar, a retired professor and grandson of Premchand, the well-known Hindi and Urdu writer. With his encouragement and support she wrote her life story, which was published in Hindi and Bengali as Aalo Aandhari, and became a bestseller in both languages.

On Thursday, 11th May, Zubaan and Penguin India, co-publishers of the English edition (translated by Urvashi Butalia, with an introduction by Sheela Reddy), will hold a special session of Zubaan’s monthly programme, Words of Women, where we will show a short (24 minutes) film on Baby, which will be followed by a conversation between Baby Halder and actor and activist Nandita Das. The evening will begin with tea at 6.30 pm, and the actual programme (roughly an hour and a half) at 7 pm. It will be held at the Habitat Centre in the Casuarina Room in the basement.

We do hope you will come. We’re proud to be publishing this book, which
comes from someone not used to words, or indeed to writing, someone who
belongs to a group that is usually voiceless. We’d like to honour Baby
for her courage and determination. We’d like to ask you to join us in
welcoming a new and unusual writer into the world of books.