Seldom does one encounter such an awe-inspiring story as Baby Halder’s. Her story reminds people that talent and success do not depend on your social stature. A domestic help – a lady maid sweeping and cleaning people’s houses, a school dropout, a victim of acute poverty but firm in resolute; Baby Halder decided to pen her own life in ink and the world is proud of her for that. Her book named “Aalo Andheri”(A life Less Ordinary) proudly boasts of being one of the best sellers in the global literary market. Such huge is the acclaim that it was later translated into 17 Indian and 7 foreign languages!
“When I wrote, I felt like I was talking to someone, and after writing, I would feel lighter, as if I had taken some sort of revenge against my father, who never took care of me as a father should, and against my husband. I never thought that other people might be interested in reading my story”
Baby Halder lived a pathetic life. One full of hatred, enforcement, revolt and terror. Life never gave her an opportunity to live. Born in the Indian rag, residents of which exhibit a typical mindset towards girls; Baby Halder broke all stereotypes. She was born to a labour family, where life gets caught between four corners of the house. Her stubborn parents kept maltreating her. Abandoned by her mother, at the age of 4; Ms. Halder never felt the warmth of a mother’s arm or slept peacefully under a soothing lullaby. Frequent thrashings at the hands of her cruel father was a common sight for her. She did try to retaliate on a number of occasions, but all to no avail. Leading a depressing life as hers and battling newer ordeals everyday can easily stress anyone’s nerves and turn one lunatic; but Ms. Halder coloured her nails to the mast. She kept her calm and worked her daily chores.
Fate wasn’t ready yet to let her have her way. Bound by the cultures and customs, she soon fell prey to child marriage at the age of 12. Her struggles intensified post-marriage. She was married to a man twice her age who frequently raped her. A lady married at such tender age, a marriage where every speck of the bride’s soul is haunted by the barbaric acts of the taken man; destroyed her teen age. What educational qualification can be expected of a woman who bears her first child at the age of 13? After battling her fate for a couple of years, Ms. Halder decided to call it a day. She decided to break free of the cage she had till now been trapped in. She with her three children, flea away from West Bengal to Delhi.
She finally succeeded to leave the dark life. The city of destination never gave her anything in the beginning. Having no experience in field or work never fails to land you up in a problem of finding a permanent job. The life which has given nothing but taken most of it; what sort of experience could be expected from it? The best job for her then was to work as a maid. She worked hard – moving around the whole day in and out of the kitchen, cleaning the floor, tables, arranging the thing in their proper places, laundry etc. Silently and sweetly, she did all her works. The tragedy came when the owner of the house, Mr. Prabodh, a retired anthropologist noticed her having a soft touch for the dust papers. Sweeping the floor hard makes it shining, but when it came for removing the waste paper fallen around – she used to grab them softly and inspected as if something very important is written on it.
Out of curiosity, Mr. Prabodh tried to find out the reason behind such a behaviour. Some days later, when asked about the matter, she expressed her desired to learn words. Elated by her zeal to be educated, Mr. Prabodh imparted her the fundamental knowledge of phonetics and letters. She barely remembered any Bengali letter studied during primary schooling. Reading and writing fascinated her. Once while passing through Mr. Prabodh’s library, she went through “Taslima Nasreen’s Amar Meyebela” (My Girlhood) which made her empathise with the protagonist.
“It was as if I was reading about my own life. Recalls Baby”
The free time between her work and after work were used for studying and writing . One could now find note copies all around kitchen . Mr. Prabodh once asked her to write about herself . Her first words worked their own magic – they unlocked her past. All her agony, suppressed memories of her mother who abandoned her, that awful night when her husband climbed into her bed and raped her, the terror and anguish of delivering her first child at 13, memories she had never confided to anyone; didn’t even realize she had, brimmed into the notebook. Then there was no stopping for Baby. Then finally after some months of hard work, she produced a phenomenal work of art. An account drenched in energetic emotions rightly portraying the life of a million Baby Halder(s). Mr. Prabodh recognised this sheer piece of brilliance but he did not trust his own judgement. After consulting his friends Ashok Seksariya and Ramesh Goswami with whom he shared a common interest in literature; he was persuaded to translate it into Hindi. Aalo Aandhari was thus ready to fly.
When I wrote, I felt like I was talking to someone, and after writing, I would feel lighter, as if I had taken some sort of revenge against my father, who never took care of me as a father should, and against my husband. I never thought that other people might be interested in reading my story.
The rest as they say is history. Aalo Aandhari became a best seller. Everyone from the sweeper to the retired headmistress next door wanted to buy a copy. The other books of her include Eshast Rupantar, published in 2010, a sequel to her first book is also about her life, but traces the period after her first book was released. Her third book Ghare Ferar Path – the story of her progression from childhood to teenage was published recently in 2014. Since then, Aalo Andhari has been translated into 24 languages, including French, German and Japanese. She has also been on book tours to cities such as Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong and is often invited to speak at literary festivals across the country.
Baby Halder strongly believes that as God has created man and women equally, therefore women can also perform work that man can do. Female’s caring and loving nature makes them more dedicated to their work and that makes them more successful in their chosen field. Passion plays a big role on why women can do more other than household chores.