Indian servant’s tell-all book on a domestic’s hard life

NEW DELHI, July 12, 2006 (AFP) – For many affluent Indians, the ideal servant is one who is seen and not heard, rises early to get the kids off to school and uncomplainingly serves the family their last cup of tea at night.

They don’t want to hear any heart-wrenching or even mundane details of their servants’ lives.

But the kindly employer of 34-year-old Baby Halder was different.

The retired anthropology professor, noticing her interest in his books as she dusted his volumes, gave her a notebook and told her: “Write down your life.”

A tale of poverty, hardship and violence emerged as Halder scribbled at night in a school exercise book after the meals were cooked, dishes washed, house cleaned and her own children abed.

Readers follow her as she is abandoned by her mother at four, married off by her father at 12, becomes a mother herself a year later, then finally flees her violent husband and takes her children to New Delhi to seek a better life.

Halder’s memoirs, translated from her native Bengali, have now appeared in a book jointly published by Penguin and Indian publisher Zubaan entitled “A Life Less Ordinary.”

Nowhere does Baby Halder voice resentment against employers who treate