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Interview: Baby Halder, a maid in Gurgaon, also a bestseller author
There is no dearth of rags to riches stories in India, which are qualified enough to inspire anyone. The fame of real - life heroes have a life of a firefly and thus are forgotten in a jiffy. Although, there are some who may not be born with a silver spoon but have climbed the ladder of success with their hard work and have made a special place in everyone's heart. One such encouraging story is of an author born in Kashmir, brought up in West Bengal and now residing in Gurgaon.

The author I am talking about is Baby Halder (40) who works as a domestic maid in Gurgaon and is an acclaimed author famous for her books in Bengali such as “Aaloo Andhaari” and “Eshast Rupantar.” The books throw light on her journey of battleships, her woes, her survival and her peace of mind. Baby Halder, married at 12 and mother at 13 has successfully defeated the hardships of life. Her mother abandoned her at the age of four and when she left her alcoholic husband; life has been treating her bad since then. She is happy that her two children Tapas (20) and Piya (17) are studying. Baby Halder's life took a flight when she picked up a pen and paper to express herself and that's when she realized this is what she finds happiness in.

Anyone would love to know about the journey of domestic maid cum author and I was no different. She gladly accepted my request to interview her. Baby Halder lives in a single room with her two kids on a terrace. The house is owned by Prof. Prabodh Kumar - her literary mentor, her friend, teacher and the one who gauged her interest in books.

She welcomed me with a decorous smile and offered me a chair with an intention, not to waste any time for the interview (since she is a domestic maid and a author as well). She comfortably takes her chair and avoids eye contact before we kick- off the interview. Excerpts from the interview.

Q. Who is Baby Halder as an individual? How would you like to describe yourself?

Baby Halder (BH) - (Laughs... ). This is a very interesting question. Baby Halder has two separate personalities altogether. One as a domestic maid and other as an author. I get completely engrossed when I pick up my pen and recollect my thoughts and that's when Baby Halder as an author completely takes over me. I am entirely a different person when I am not writing and engaged in household chores. I am a very simple person and loves to engage with people who understand me. Some people greet me as an author and some as an normal individual.

Q. When were you first introduced to the idea that you should pen down your thoughts?

BH- Honestly, I never speculated about writing a book. When I was newly employed with Dadu (that's how she greets Prof. Prabodh Kumar), I used to have a look at the extensive collection of his books and gradually he figured out that I am little inclined towards the world of literature. He made me read a book written by renowned author Taslima Nasreen and within next few days he handed me a pen and a notebook and asked me to write anything, which I felt like.

Initially, I was a bit skeptical about the same because I was already managing household chores and my kids as well. However, it was a lifetime experience when I took it seriously. I let the cat out of the bag and wrote something, which was always hidden like a treasure inside me. I started loving this whole new experience which ended up as my first novel.

Q. Your first book/ memoir came out in 2002. What did you feel when it became a best selling novel?

BH- I never expected it to be a best seller, reason being it was my own story and I expressed it the way I wanted to. There are innumerable people like me who has faced the same trauma and therefrom, I never took it as an exceptional story. I penned down what I went through and I am glad I could share my story globally.

Q. Why do you still continue to be a domestic maid when you can devote your full time as an writer?

BH- This is something which I am doing willingly. No one is forcing me to do anything and to be really honest, it's very difficult to leave daadu at this point of time. He is an aged person and moreover my kids are very close to him. Whenever, we talk about leaving Gurgaon and shifting to West Bengal, my children and I always dedicate a thought to daadu. Even though his family is here to take care of him but I am very close to daadu and can't imagine to leave him.

I have built my house in Bengal and I am aware of the fact that someday or the other, I have to leave this place. Daadu is everything to me. He is a father figure, a friend in need and a mentor as well. My life saw the sunlight only because of him. Daadu holds a great importance in my life. Another reason is certainly my children. I also have to devote time to take care of them. These are one of the key reasons why I am not devoting my entire time as a writer.

Q. Do you think “A Life Less Ordinary” has been your best work till date? What is next on your cards?

BH - My work is to write and I won't title it as best or worst because I simply wrote about my life and coincidently the masses loved it. Currently I am working on my third novel, which takes the new changes in my life into spotlight. It talks about how people used to treat me earlier and how I have managed to change their perception as an individual.

The book has been submitted in the press to publish and will hit the stands in the first week of February and will be launched in the Kolkata Book Fair. My first priority is to read and write and because I always want to flourish as a writer. I am still in a nascent stage.

Q. Have you revealed all the secrets of your life in the novel - “A Life Less Ordinary” or you still have few secrets buried in your heart?

BH - (Laughs.....) It is palpable to hide few things because I was writing for the very first time and I felt a little awkward sharing my life story to the entire world. However, I would like to add that if I would have written my first novel now, I would have revealed more secrets. On the contrary, many feel that the book would have sold less copies, if written today. I personally feel I have grown a lot as a writer and my perception has taken a new direction in the last few years. I confess that I have not revealed everything but the truth should undoubtedly be revealed.

Q. How has life changed after becoming an author and have you changed after becoming an acclaimed author?

BH- I am not changed at all. I still believe in living a simple life, however my life has certainly changed for the better. I never expected to build a home in my native town and to secure the future of my children. It is ultimately a step for the betterment for my children. I got a wonderful opportunity to travel in the country and out of the country as well. It's a surreal feeling when people already know about me. They respect me.

According to me, if one can achieve anything if he/she educate themselves and walk in the right direction. Even people who has a similar background like me can also see better days. I gathered my courage and stood against the bad times of my life. Everything is a part and parcel of life.

Q. How was the experience when you met renowned authors and actors in the Jaipur Literary Festival?

BH- I could not imagine that author Salman Rushdie knew me and had read my novel. We discussed about my life and about my novel. I always knew them as in, they exist , but I never speculated that even they knew about me. I also met Deepti Naval (actress) and we spoke about literature, my life and asked about my future plans.

Q. Would you like to convey any message for women who went through the same trauma like you did?

BH- I would like to convey only one message to women who faces lot of bottlenecks - one should rise like a phoenix and continuously strive to achieve their goals. Women should not be classified as inferior sex as they are capable enough to do anything which men can. One should be independent and should avoid relying on others. Move out of your shell and breathe openly.

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