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Abandoned by her mother, beaten by her father, and hurriedly married off at twelve to an abusive man twice her age, Baby Halder's early life was marked by overwhelming challenges and heartbreak. Exhausted and desperate, the young mother finally fled with her three children in 1999 to Delhi, where she found work as a maid in some of the city's wealthiest homes. Expected to s Abandoned by her mother, beaten by her father, and hurriedly married off at twelve to an abusive man twice her age, Baby Halder's early life was marked by overwhelming challenges and heartbreak. Exhausted and desperate, the young mother finally fled with her three children in 1999 to Delhi, where she found work as a maid in some of the city's wealthiest homes. Expected to serve her employers' every grueling demand, Halder faced a staggering workload that often left her no time to care for her own children. The young woman's luck finally turned when she started working for Prabodh Kumar, a retired anthropology professor who noticed Halder's interest in his library. Kumar helped her to read his books and newspapers—which she devoured enthusiastically—then suggested that she write down her own life story. In A Life Less Ordinary, the fascinating result of her writing sessions with Kumar, Halder speaks for a multitude of Indian women, revealing a world of poverty and subjugation few outsiders have heard about. Halder writes simply and candidly of her life as a young girl, and later as a struggling mother. Without a trace of melodrama or self-pity, she describes her experiences of growing up poor and neglected, struggling to manage children and a violent husband while she herself was only fourteen years old, and, finally, of escaping her past ultimately to triumph as a writer. Already a huge success in India, where it has been published in Hindi, Bengali, and several other languages, A Life Less Ordinary is an astonishing story of strength, courage, and determination that continues to inspire readers everywhere.


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Abandoned by her mother, beaten by her father, and hurriedly married off at twelve to an abusive man twice her age, Baby Halder's early life was marked by overwhelming challenges and heartbreak. Exhausted and desperate, the young mother finally fled with her three children in 1999 to Delhi, where she found work as a maid in some of the city's wealthiest homes. Expected to s Abandoned by her mother, beaten by her father, and hurriedly married off at twelve to an abusive man twice her age, Baby Halder's early life was marked by overwhelming challenges and heartbreak. Exhausted and desperate, the young mother finally fled with her three children in 1999 to Delhi, where she found work as a maid in some of the city's wealthiest homes. Expected to serve her employers' every grueling demand, Halder faced a staggering workload that often left her no time to care for her own children. The young woman's luck finally turned when she started working for Prabodh Kumar, a retired anthropology professor who noticed Halder's interest in his library. Kumar helped her to read his books and newspapers—which she devoured enthusiastically—then suggested that she write down her own life story. In A Life Less Ordinary, the fascinating result of her writing sessions with Kumar, Halder speaks for a multitude of Indian women, revealing a world of poverty and subjugation few outsiders have heard about. Halder writes simply and candidly of her life as a young girl, and later as a struggling mother. Without a trace of melodrama or self-pity, she describes her experiences of growing up poor and neglected, struggling to manage children and a violent husband while she herself was only fourteen years old, and, finally, of escaping her past ultimately to triumph as a writer. Already a huge success in India, where it has been published in Hindi, Bengali, and several other languages, A Life Less Ordinary is an astonishing story of strength, courage, and determination that continues to inspire readers everywhere.

30 review for A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glitterbomb

    This is an inspirational and moving story. Baby Halder recounts her life growing up poor in India, and being married to an abusive and neglectful man; unfortunately, a common and familiar theme. I applaud her braveness and perseverance to overcome her struggles, to pack up herself and her children and try to make a better life for her family. She eventually finds work in the home of a kind, educated man. He and his friends encouraged Baby to write her story, and I am grateful that they did. You g This is an inspirational and moving story. Baby Halder recounts her life growing up poor in India, and being married to an abusive and neglectful man; unfortunately, a common and familiar theme. I applaud her braveness and perseverance to overcome her struggles, to pack up herself and her children and try to make a better life for her family. She eventually finds work in the home of a kind, educated man. He and his friends encouraged Baby to write her story, and I am grateful that they did. You get the feeling as the story progresses that in writing her tale, Baby is able to start the healing process. A good story, but for me, not a great one. I struggled to get into the book as I found the language, familial hierarchy, and the choppiness of the story quite challenging to read and understand. This improves as the story progresses, and it becomes much more readable as Baby's writing techniques improve and evolve. 3 Stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pushpam Singh

    My friend Aditya recommended me this book and told me this book is one gem of a memoir. I ordered the book straightaway from online bookstore. I took me 3 days to finish this book but the feeling while I was reading the book can't be explained in life time. The book has been written in such simple tone and words that anyone can read it at ease. I found the incidents heart touching and at times felt disgusted at the treatment women gets in this society. Baby Halder author of the book, starts her My friend Aditya recommended me this book and told me this book is one gem of a memoir. I ordered the book straightaway from online bookstore. I took me 3 days to finish this book but the feeling while I was reading the book can't be explained in life time. The book has been written in such simple tone and words that anyone can read it at ease. I found the incidents heart touching and at times felt disgusted at the treatment women gets in this society. Baby Halder author of the book, starts her book from the time she was in Jammu with her father, then they move to other place and then to Durgapur, where they are forced to live a abject life. It was a sad account of life story but that's the harsh reality maximum people face. She was married at the mere age of 14 when most of girls go to school and play with their classmates. She was forcefully married and was expected to act matured as per instructions of his husband who was atleast 12 years elder to her. He used to drink and lot and all he cared about was to have intercourse with her. She wasn't allowed even to talk to any male. She is beaten almost every other day for no fault of hers. Finally one day she decides to move to Delhi. As soon as she lands in delhi she is anxious about her future but after a lot of troubleshooting she finally gets a job in a nice home, where she is encouraged to read and write. This is how she converts her leisure writing into a beautiful book. Great are those soul who inspite of all stones kept in their way climb to the top to witness sunrise. Baby Halder is one of them

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sushmita P

    As I reached the end of the book, I was moved because I have never heard a story like this before. How often do you get a chance to read about a maid's life and that too, in her own words (the book was originally written in Bengali and was then translated to Hindi and English)? I had to take a break for two days because the domestic violence parts are quite disturbing. But the way Baby came out of hell is inspiring. I had few issues with the book though: I somehow didn't like the way Baby jumps As I reached the end of the book, I was moved because I have never heard a story like this before. How often do you get a chance to read about a maid's life and that too, in her own words (the book was originally written in Bengali and was then translated to Hindi and English)? I had to take a break for two days because the domestic violence parts are quite disturbing. But the way Baby came out of hell is inspiring. I had few issues with the book though: I somehow didn't like the way Baby jumps suddenly from one incident to another. But then, it's good to remember that Baby used to write after completing her work as a domestic help and taking care of three children! Whenever I feel like giving up, I will make sure I read this book, because Baby's life is certainly not ordinary. There are people who say that feminism is for the elite, upper class women. This book proves that there are women out there fighting the patriarchy..without even knowing that there is a name to their beliefs.

  4. 4 out of 5

    misha

    I feel like an evil, evil person - I hated this book. Baby's story is striking (and sadly not at the same time- there are far too many abused people in this world), and I applaud her for finding the courage to write it herself. However, having a tough life and a pen and paper does not a writer make. She's very brave, and there are moments of true beauty in her writing, but for the most part I found her style very uncomfortable. I found myself almost itchy from the writing - especially when she t I feel like an evil, evil person - I hated this book. Baby's story is striking (and sadly not at the same time- there are far too many abused people in this world), and I applaud her for finding the courage to write it herself. However, having a tough life and a pen and paper does not a writer make. She's very brave, and there are moments of true beauty in her writing, but for the most part I found her style very uncomfortable. I found myself almost itchy from the writing - especially when she talks about herself in third person. I applaud her for her courage, but I wish her story had been told with more help from another writer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robynn

    Written by a poor woman trying to survive in India. She was married at a young age to an abusive, indifferent man. Finally she left with her children to find work. After a time she found employment in the home of an educated and kind man. He and his friends encouraged her to write and this is her first book. In a straight forward style she has told her life story. An important book which provides a glimpse into the life of one poor woman, and perhaps insight into the lives of struggling women ar Written by a poor woman trying to survive in India. She was married at a young age to an abusive, indifferent man. Finally she left with her children to find work. After a time she found employment in the home of an educated and kind man. He and his friends encouraged her to write and this is her first book. In a straight forward style she has told her life story. An important book which provides a glimpse into the life of one poor woman, and perhaps insight into the lives of struggling women around the globe.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This is a very inspirational story - one I know I'll remember for a long time. The reason I didn't LOVE this book is that the writing was so spare; I believe that is also part of its charm (for those who really love it). Myself, I would've liked more details about situations that were mentioned but not explained fully. I would've loved more descriptions. In any case, this book is certainly recommended - just reading the dust jacket you can see that it's an amazing story. Reading through the auth This is a very inspirational story - one I know I'll remember for a long time. The reason I didn't LOVE this book is that the writing was so spare; I believe that is also part of its charm (for those who really love it). Myself, I would've liked more details about situations that were mentioned but not explained fully. I would've loved more descriptions. In any case, this book is certainly recommended - just reading the dust jacket you can see that it's an amazing story. Reading through the author's life story (to this point) is really a great opportunity.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chokyi chokyi

    This probably may be the first ever book I finished reading within 24 hrs. Felt like I watched a movie. I found it very inspiring and must read book for people who don’t see hope & are deemed themselves unworthy

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aditi Krishna

    Simple and has the capacity to move you to tears.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Solaceinbooks

    A Life Less Ordinary is the English translation of Baby Halder’s autobiography, originally written in Bengali titled, Aalo Andhari. The story of Baby Halder will resonate with the lives of many women we know around us, but what is expectional about Baby is her courage and determination despite the saga of continuous exploitation and harassment. It is a tale of unending oppression that women face due to patriarchal sturctures. After being abandoned by her mother, Baby's life takes changes for the A Life Less Ordinary is the English translation of Baby Halder’s autobiography, originally written in Bengali titled, Aalo Andhari. The story of Baby Halder will resonate with the lives of many women we know around us, but what is expectional about Baby is her courage and determination despite the saga of continuous exploitation and harassment. It is a tale of unending oppression that women face due to patriarchal sturctures. After being abandoned by her mother, Baby's life takes changes for the worse. Her father marries twice and unable to take care of Baby after she reaches puberty, Baby is married off to a man 14 years older to her. The married life is devoid of any happiness and is marked with continuous abuse and violence Like any other patriarchal family, the man is the breadwinner and controls the finances making Baby dependent on him for all her needs. Finally, putting her foot down, Baby with her 3 children decides to come to Delhi to take control of her own life and this is where she gets to write her story. The book is a testament to the position of women on society and how they are continuously slut shamed. Is the value and respect of a woman tangaible only when her life has the 'male' (read husband) as the central figure is the raging question that she keeps throughout her story. Baby's story is powerful as it talks about reclaiming agency and autonomoy over ones life. Whether it was deciding to not go back to her husband depite the continuous societal pressure or her decision to tie up her tubes so as to not bear any more children are instances of gaining independce for herself. The book carries the message that the struggle of women's rights does not take place only within the selective echelons of the society but it lies powerfully in the everyday acts. resistance carried by women at the margins. It is a story that effeced me deeply. In the simplest of manner, Baby's life tells us the need for women to be educated and independent. In a society which judges the every act of women, that is rampant with violence and abuse over women's bodies, this is the story of courage and liberation and that's what makes this memoir a must read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nikhil

    I found this book difficult to read, and not because of the content. The writing improves throughout the book, becoming much more readable around page 80. I understand that this reflects the evolution of the author as a writer and that the author is telling her story in the words she deems best at the time of her writing. However, this understanding does not aide comprehension. I found myself confused throughout the text by the web of social networks and hierarchies the author finds herself embe I found this book difficult to read, and not because of the content. The writing improves throughout the book, becoming much more readable around page 80. I understand that this reflects the evolution of the author as a writer and that the author is telling her story in the words she deems best at the time of her writing. However, this understanding does not aide comprehension. I found myself confused throughout the text by the web of social networks and hierarchies the author finds herself embedded in throughout her life. Everyone is constantly in everyone else's business except when it actually matters: stopping domestic violence, making sure people get to the hospital, etc. Her social network do help her find jobs and occasionally provide her small transfers of cash, and perhaps that is reason enough to keep them. I also could not understand the social (transactional?) relationship between the author and her final employer, who ultimately helps her publish her manuscript. The relationship between employer and domestic servant seems inherently difficult to govern using solely contract ethics, given how repeated and high variance the work can be. In her story, her final employer functionally transfers more resources to her than she could earn in comparable employment elsewhere, but couches their relationship in terms of parent-child. It is the latter aspect of the interaction that makes little sense to me, but perhaps this is what condescending paternalism looks like. I did enjoy, in the final third of the book, that even as the author begins to interact with her final employer and his literary friends, she remains cognizant and questioning of their class distinctions. For example, the author questions whether her pen pals interact with their own domestic servants in the same way they interact with her, or if she is just some curiosity. I wonder how much of her actual thoughts regarding her final employer are self-censored in this manuscript.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Loren

    I'll start by saying that I appreciate that books like this exist, and I think it's important that women like Baby Halder are given a voice and the ability to share their story. Unfortunately though, just because there's an admirable story behind the book it doesn't automatically make it well-written or even enjoyable. I wanted to like this book but it was slow-paced and very simply written, to the point where - at the halfway mark - I've decided to close it for good. It's nice to know that a wo I'll start by saying that I appreciate that books like this exist, and I think it's important that women like Baby Halder are given a voice and the ability to share their story. Unfortunately though, just because there's an admirable story behind the book it doesn't automatically make it well-written or even enjoyable. I wanted to like this book but it was slow-paced and very simply written, to the point where - at the halfway mark - I've decided to close it for good. It's nice to know that a woman like Baby Halder had a 'happy ending', but I'm sorry to say that I'm not interested in this book enough to find out the details of what that ending is.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shikha

    The premise of the memoir was interesting, but poorly translated - jumping unpredictably from first to third person, and adding a sappy ending that was clearly not part of her original work in Bangla. More than anything, this story reminded me how most women in this world have struggled, first as daughters and then as wives, shouldering additional burden as teenage mothers.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Johnston

    **2.5** A simple written memoir of a courageous woman in a world of indifference and brutality. And yet with a little compassion and encouragement she has been able to share the existence of her 'ordinary' life and shine. **2.5** A simple written memoir of a courageous woman in a world of indifference and brutality. And yet with a little compassion and encouragement she has been able to share the existence of her 'ordinary' life and shine.

  14. 5 out of 5

    anjana

    this book was striking she writes in a very matter-of-fact manner, when she’s talking about scarring events and that really gives to the whole reading experience

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deepali Bhardwaj

    Happy such books are coming out of India. Ofcouse kudos to Zubaan for bring in the stories less heard of. Must read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chiro Pipashito T H

    Not a huge literary piece.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Arathi

    It is a remarkable story. I feel horrible to give book an OK rating. It is a quick read, has a very simple story line but the way it is written is very abrupt, with confusing dialogs and choppy at times. The author switches from first person to third person and it is distracting but I guess at the same time, that is part of the appeal for many. It could also be because it was translated from Bengali. The book could have used a lot of editorial assistance but I guess they chose to leave it as is. It is a remarkable story. I feel horrible to give book an OK rating. It is a quick read, has a very simple story line but the way it is written is very abrupt, with confusing dialogs and choppy at times. The author switches from first person to third person and it is distracting but I guess at the same time, that is part of the appeal for many. It could also be because it was translated from Bengali. The book could have used a lot of editorial assistance but I guess they chose to leave it as is. However, I am not sure it will even get past the red pen of the middle school English teacher. As for the story of her life, unfortunately, it is all too familiar and common in India and in other developing countries. I truly wish every one of those unlucky women gets blessed by an employer who can empathize, support and mentor them

  18. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Baby's story is a real-life Cinderella story, Indian style. She's abandoned by her mother. Her father marries her off to a brutal, abusive man when she's only twelve years old. Her tales of her early youth are heart-wrenching. But this brave young woman perseveres and overcomes against all odds. Baby's prose is a bit elementary and she would have benefitted from more editorial assistance, especially when she's referring to herself in the third person. However, her story held my interest and is w Baby's story is a real-life Cinderella story, Indian style. She's abandoned by her mother. Her father marries her off to a brutal, abusive man when she's only twelve years old. Her tales of her early youth are heart-wrenching. But this brave young woman perseveres and overcomes against all odds. Baby's prose is a bit elementary and she would have benefitted from more editorial assistance, especially when she's referring to herself in the third person. However, her story held my interest and is worth reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir by Baby Halder is a personal memoir about a woman growing up poor in India. She gets married off to a man that does not love or appreciate her. Eventually she is able to leave her husband and finds work as a maid in Delhi but that does not end the hardships for Baby. Now she has to work a demanding job and take care of her own children on her own. Even though she faces a lot of challenges in life, Baby does not pity herself. http://strawberrycowbookcafe.blogspot... A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir by Baby Halder is a personal memoir about a woman growing up poor in India. She gets married off to a man that does not love or appreciate her. Eventually she is able to leave her husband and finds work as a maid in Delhi but that does not end the hardships for Baby. Now she has to work a demanding job and take care of her own children on her own. Even though she faces a lot of challenges in life, Baby does not pity herself. http://strawberrycowbookcafe.blogspot...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sheela Word

    Moving and convincing narrative. A young woman who is betrayed by nearly everyone close to her makes a brave, but risky, decision that nearly ends in disaster for herself and her children. She is literally saved through the kindness of strangers, or rather, a particular stranger, who recognizes her worth. What gives this story heft is the reader's knowledge that Baby (her real name) represents legions of mistreated girls and women in India. I'll probably read the sequels. Moving and convincing narrative. A young woman who is betrayed by nearly everyone close to her makes a brave, but risky, decision that nearly ends in disaster for herself and her children. She is literally saved through the kindness of strangers, or rather, a particular stranger, who recognizes her worth. What gives this story heft is the reader's knowledge that Baby (her real name) represents legions of mistreated girls and women in India. I'll probably read the sequels.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Translated from Hindu. Written very matter of fact by a poor woman in India. It is the story of her life from when her abusive father married her at age 12 to an abuser. She finally left alone with her 3 children to make a better life for her and her children. International acclain. Borrowed from Olivia.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ian Sergeant

    A very simply worded narrative, purely chronologically arranged. No reading challenges, compexity or subtly. The only potential interest comes from the plot, and personally I didn't find the story inspirational. Unfortunately I didn't find it surprising or shocking either, just familiarly depressing. A very simply worded narrative, purely chronologically arranged. No reading challenges, compexity or subtly. The only potential interest comes from the plot, and personally I didn't find the story inspirational. Unfortunately I didn't find it surprising or shocking either, just familiarly depressing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carey

    currently reading this...just started.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pratima

    An amazing story of this woman's tragedies in life and her strength to endure and survive it all, and finally become a writer with considerable merit. An amazing story of this woman's tragedies in life and her strength to endure and survive it all, and finally become a writer with considerable merit.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    Given the background of the writer this is an amazing book but compared to many other popular memoirs, this is pretty unfinished.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    it was alright. kind of sad.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Was a lovely story, although by no means revolutionary.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bimal Mohta

    Good book in simple language portraying struggle of an ordinary women.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Yufan

    sad story , but good ending.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Conrad Barwa

    A somewhat disappointing read, surprised that it is so well-known.

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