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Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
February 2014

Baby Halder, 39, has published two best-selling books, and her third book hit bookstands in India last month. But don’t call her a writer. “I am a domestic help, not a writer,” she told the Hindustan Times. For the last 14 years, she has worked as a maid in Gurgaon. Her employer, Prabodh Kumar, now 80, encouraged her to do some writing, recognized her talent and became her literary mentor and translator.

Married to an abusive husband when she was just 13, Halder had an unhappy life until she started working for Kumar. She writes in Bengali, whenever she has time between her duties as a maid. “I am not organized or disciplined as far as writing is concerned. I write anytime, anywhere,” she said.

Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. The English translation of her first novel A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir brought her much acclaim in 2006, and her second novel Eshast Rupantar is set to be published in English this month. The success has allowed her to build a house in Kolkata from her royalties, but she continues to cook and clean for Kumar.

“I need not work as a domestic help anymore, but I am not comfortable leaving my employer who is a father-like figure to me,” she said. If she’s loyal to a fault, it’s partly because she was mistreated by a previous employer and knows how lucky she is to have gone from a tormentor to a mentor.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips and more.]

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