I am celebrating October as a #gratitude month on my blog and wish to give thanks to Soumya for her generosity in sending me this amazing book – Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows which had me in splits while reading it. I will let you read my review and then decide if this book is for you.
Title: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Indian Fiction
Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal
Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore and raised in Japan, Philippines, etc. Her stories are spun around the British Sikh community and she has been felicitated with several writing nominations and awards. She has studied creative writing in the United States.
Nikki is a second generation Sikh girl, born and brought up in London who isn’t too keen to get involved with her roots and traditions. Even though both her parents were college educated, they were still stuck in the inherent cycle of studies – careers – security and wished both of their children to do the same. When Nikki drops out of law school, it results in a huge fight with her otherwise supportive father who stops speaking to her.
Mindi, the older one, is a nurse who lives at home and takes care of her mum. She is also on the look out to “settle” down with someone from her community. She requests Nikki to go post her matrimonial advert on the noticeboard of the Southall gurdwara – the hub of Punjabi community in London. Nikki scoffs her sister over this and begs her to reconsider this decision.
But Mindi is adamant. Off goes Nikki to Southall and the trip refreshes her childhood memories of being unwillingly dragged there to first pray and later shop in the local Indian shops. As she peruses the board, she reads quite a few matrimonial ads and is disgusted by them. She pins her sister’s ad under another flyer to not make it prominent in the hope that no one responds to it.
Suddenly a flyer for Creative writing for adults catches her eye and she immediately decides to pursue it. Off late she had been wondering about her future and this seemed like a step in the right direction.
On the first day of the class, Nikki is aghast to find that her students are elderly widows who don’t know how to read and write English. They converse in Punjabi and can read and write in it too. Only one young widow (Sheena) seemed fluent in English. Undeterred, she tries to teach them the English alphabet; only to be met with great disdain and reluctance from the ladies.
Sheena stumbles on an erotic book that Nikki had brought as a joke for her sister and begins to read that with gusto for the entire class to hear. This sets a roller coaster in motion as it seems that the ladies were tingling with such tales of their own.
Soon, the class starts narrating their “stories” to Sheena, who translates them into English for Nikki to read and grade. What follows is a hilarious encounter with the secret world of the widows which was also flush with grim truths and dark realities. Nikki is soon drawn into this world and starts to re-think the entire concept of “arranged” marriage.
The stories are creative, spun from their personal issues and most seemed to stem from some sort of truth which further throws a wrench in the thinking gear. Soon the stories are being circulated via emails and messages, resulting in a broader audience.
But Nikki fears the notorious “Brotherhood” – a self-proclaimed moral police which bullies young Punjabi generation into submission of following traditions and uphold the “honor” of their family. What will happen if they find out about such tale-telling?
On top of it all, a dark tragedy unfolds from this seemingly well-knit community, which threatens to unravel everything Nikki built up via this class. It seems the head of the women centre at the gurdwara was hiding a deep secret of her own.
Will the Brotherhood leave them alone? Why are the widows so disdainful and untrusting of one of their own? Will Nikki succeed in her mission?
You will need to pick up this book to know more about how the tale unfolds.
Lasting impression on me:
Jaswal has brought alive the world of Punjabi immigrants and their tug of war with their decision to live away from their roots; yet wanting to retain the connection. It’s a quandary as the next generation certainly rebels in following the traditions which the parents are now remotely observing. No familial influence can be seen in them and religious occasions pass off without much fanfare. So the kids grow up oblivious of their roots and can’t seem to understand their parents mooning over such issues.
Then there is the Southall community where the devotees seem to be barely clinging to their old world rituals and rules. Some have branched off into a mafia of sorts which use scare tactics to make the youngsters toe the line. Women can be seen fighting the male dominated arena for an opportunity but barely making a dent.
The world of the widows is what is the highlight in this book for me. These large-hearted women who have graciously accepted their fate, have so much life and laughter left in them. Their sexual lives are bold and fresh in their hearts; never mind that they are not to even utter such thoughts. They are brave in supporting each other and don’t shy off from sharing their hearts desires. The stories are real and will put to shame many a erotica writer!
Much of the laughter came from the way the widows talk about sex, their husbands and mother in-laws. I have new-found respect for Ghee and many veggies which they have used gloriously in certain “references” 😉
I have given this book an unequivocal 5 star rating as it truly warmed the cockles of my heart and I shall be gifting this to some of my friends for a total laugh riot experience.
Another tale where the felines take over and spill out the secrets of their world, is one of my favourite finds which you could check out here