WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
Confusing as it sounds, the name Nalini Jameela does comes from two different origins. The fact that the author does not identify herself with one religion, speaks a lot about how she also cannot identify herself with her people, her caste, her kind and her kith and kin. Tragic as it is, the tale of all sex workers, in a country like ours, remains just the same as it was in the pre-independence era. Once bound by shackles of the ruling class, they are now bound by even worse – manacles of poverty, social stigma and unacceptance. Where many such women shy away and live a life of seclusion, Nalini Jameela has set forth an example of self-acceptance and unexceptional valour by writing, The Autobiography of a Sex Worker which have been hailed as one of the most sensational and controversial books in Malayalam literature.
First written in Malayalam, The Autobiography of a Sex Worker became an overnight hit and soon found its way to cater to a greater audience when it was first translated and published in English. However, one should not be misled by the controversial sounding title, because what the book really contains is a simple story of an ordinary Indian woman who happens to have chosen an unconventional occupation as a source of her livelihood. How such a woman is no different from any other Indian woman, and how easily anyone can be hoodwinked into choosing such means of living, are the two most basic questions which this book will make you reflect upon. Considering my own perception of the book, when I first picked it up at a Flipkart sale, I can surely say that even I was misled by the title. The lesson learnt from this is summarized by this old, but still relevant saying, never judge a book by its cover. To say so, for cravers of some high drama masala or scandalous thrill, this book will be nothing but disappointing.
For those who expect the real story, and on that note, even a boring one, which is full of nothing but reality, The Autobiography of a Sex Worker is surely a good pick. It is a candid and outspoken memoir of a girl who started as a worker in a clay mine, got married and settled into a household and much later became a sex worker in order to ensure the survival of her child. It offers deep insights into the way a woman without a husband is still looked down upon and treated by our society. It also offers a deep understanding of the ways of this industry in earlier times. For those of us, who crave for inspirational reads, this is a story of a woman who was never content with the way she was treated. She stood up for all that was wrong and for the benefit and betterment of other women in her profession. This is well illustrated towards the end of the book when Nalini becomes a social worker and supports an NGO who works towards the same goal.
Overall a good read, I recommend it to anyone who can stomach a dull but true story.