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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 00:21 GMT 01:21 UK
From maid to bestselling author
Baby Haldar
A school dropout, Haldar's life has changed
An Indian woman who used to sweep and mop other people's floors found her life transformed overnight when she became a bestselling author.

Baby Haldar worked as a maid in a home in Gurgaon, in the state of Haryana, before turning her attention to a more creative passion.

Her first book, Aalo Aandhari (Light and Darkness), was published last year in Hindi.

Since then, two editions of the book have been printed.

Recently the Bengali edition of her book was published, with the release party hosted by famous Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasreen.

Literary benefactor

Ms Haldar's fortunes changed when she ran away from an abusive marriage and went to Gurgaon to make a new beginning.

She started working as a maid to support her three children.

Society just saw me as a maid and did not even look at me and then suddenly everyone was eager to talk to me
Baby Haldar

Among those she worked for was Professor Prabodh Kumar, the grandson of one of the greatest literary figures of the Hindi language, Prem Chand.

The professor noticed she spent a lot of time dusting his large collection of tomes, especially those written in Bengali.

"One day he caught me handling one of the books and asked me to read out the title," Ms Haldar told BBC Hindi Online's Alok Prakash Putul.

"I was a bit hesitant. The book was Taslima Nasreen's Amar Meyebela [My Girlhood]."

Professor Kumar gave her the book and asked her to read it when she had time.

"Later he gave me a notebook and pen and asked me to write my life story."

Into the night

For Baby Haldar, who dropped out of school, putting pen to paper was a great trial - confronting the past that she had run away from.

Light and Darkness
Haldar has received an offer to turn her first book into a film
She started writing after finishing her daily work and would continue late into the night.

She wrote about her uncaring father, the mother who abandoned her, her stepmother and the man double her age she was married to when she was just 13.

"Professor Kumar would read my writing, make corrections and photocopies.

"And I continued to write and write. I think I wrote for months."

The professor showed her writings to his friends who were moved by the memoirs.

He then translated her writing into Hindi and a Calcutta-based publisher decided to print it.

Attention

Ms Haldar has now completed her second book.

"My new book is about the sea change that took place in my life after Aalo Aandhari was printed.

"Earlier society just saw me as a maid and did not even look at me and then suddenly everyone was eager to talk to me."

Ms Haldar gets hundreds of letters every day.

Some are interested in translating the book into other languages and she has also received an offer to turn the book into a film.

Her life and the book have become a talking point in newspapers and on television.

Ms Haldar was taken aback by all the attention.

"I am not a writer, I am just a maid. I still cannot understand why my life story is causing such a stir," she says.

But one thing, she says, has changed.

"Earlier my children were ashamed to introduce me. But now they proudly say, 'My mother is a writer'. "


SEE ALSO:
West Bengal bans 'offensive' book
28 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Bangladesh bans new Taslima book
13 Aug 99  |  South Asia
Bangladesh police hunt feminist writer
26 Sep 98  |  South Asia
'Potter in Calcutta' banned
30 Apr 03  |  South Asia
Naipaul's anger at Indian writers
22 Feb 02  |  Entertainment
Indian festival debates local talent
19 Feb 02  |  Entertainment



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