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HerStory

How Baby Halder went from being a mother at 13 to a bestselling author at 40

Think Change India
posted on 25th April 2017
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Forty-three-year-old Baby Halder has published three books, which have been translated into 24 languages and she frequently travels across the country to speak at literary festivals.What makes her story inspiring and significant is the struggle she went through to be where she is today.

Image: (L) – Behance; (R) – Friday Magazine

Brought up by an abusive father, she was pulled out of school and married off to a guy twice her age when she was 12 years old. Before even knowing what it really meant, she became a mother at the young age of 13. She had three children with her husband, before deciding to run away from his constant abuse. She ran away from West Bengal to Delhi and started working as a domestic help. Initially, she had to work for families that were looking for ways to exploit her. Talking about the plight of young domestic help, she told The Times of India,

"If a child feels like eating a biscuit and steals some from the employer's shelf, what crime has she committed? I remember an employer had banged a kid's head for eating biscuits."

But all this changed when she came to work for Prabodh Kumar, a retired anthropology professor. He noticed her genuine interest in reading and motivated her to read books in her free time and eventually start writing too. According to the Hindustan Times,

"When she started working at my house, she had enormous interest in books. She would pick Bengali books from the bookshelf and avidly read them. As I interacted with her, I realised that she had a story that needed to be told...What she wrote had enormous depth. In fact, I showed it to my friends and they agreed with me."

Prabodh helped her publish her first book and even translated it into Hindi titled Aalo Andhari. Originally published in 2002, it was translated into English in 2006 titled A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir. The English translation was both critically acclaimed and sold millions of copies. She has written two more autobiographical books since then which have been widely received.

In spite of all the fame and the money she received through publishing books, she still works as a domestic help for Prabodh because she has come to look up to him as a father figure and doesn't want to leave him alone in his old age. She also still prefers to call herself a domestic help instead of a writer.

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