Literacy and Liberation in Baby Halder’s A Life Less Ordinary

Main Article Content

Himanshu Kumar


Autobiographical narratives offer a platform for marginalised voices to express their experiences. A Life Less Ordinary, translated into English in 2006, portrays the life experiences of Baby Halder and sheds light on the experiences of Dalit women. Born into a poverty-stricken family, Halder is forced into marriage and motherhood — a reflection of the expectations imposed on women in her community. The title of the memoir underlines the remarkable journey of a marginalised woman who is anything but ordinary. Due to adverse circumstances, Halder was compelled to leave her home and venture out in search of employment. Becoming a domestic worker helped her earn a living. Her book takes us on a turbulent journey from a childhood in a broken family to being forced into marriage at the tender age of twelve, enduring an abusive husband, and ultimately defying societal norms by leaving him and starting work outside her household. According to Ranajit Guha’s definition of the subaltern, Baby Halder embodies three “attributes of subordination”: gender, caste, and poverty. Halder’s wish to fill the gap left in her formal education motivated her to read and write her life story. This paper explores how literacy opens up opportunities for knowledge, self-discovery, and critical thinking, enabling her to question and challenge the norms that once defined her life. It showcases how education can bring about transformation in the life of a marginalised woman striving for personal and social liberation.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

How to Cite
Himanshu Kumar. “Literacy and Liberation in Baby Halder’s A Life Less Ordinary”. The Creative Launcher, vol. 8, no. 5, Oct. 2023, pp. 176-88, doi:10.53032/tcl.2023.8.5.17.
Research Articles


Anderson, Linda. Autobiography, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2010. DOI:

Banerjee, Swapna M. Men, Women and Domestics: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Colonial Bengal. Oxford UP, 2004.

Bhoite, U. B. Foreword. Dalit Women: Issues and Perspectives, edited by P. G. Jogadand, Gyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. vii-ix.

Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments. Princeton UP, 1993. DOI:

Chatterjee, Sreya. “Dialectics and Caste: Rethinking Dalit Life-Writings in the Vernacular, Comparing Dalit Narratives.” Comparative Literature Studies, vol. 53, no. 2, 2016, pp. 377–399. JSTOR, Accessed 7 Nov. 2023. DOI:

Christopher, K.W. “Between Two Worlds: The Predicament of Dalit Christians in Bama’s Works.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol. 47, no. 1, 2012, pp. 7-25. Sage Journals, Accessed 9 Nov. 2023. DOI:

Couture, Pamela. Child Poverty: Love, Justice, and Social Responsibility. Chalice P, 2007.

Desai, Sonalde, and Gheda Temsah. “Muslim and Hindu Women’s Public and Private Behaviors: Gender, Family, and Communalized Politics in India.” Demography, vol. 51, no. 6, 2014, pp. 2307–32. JSTOR, Accessed 9 Nov. 2023. DOI:

Freire, Paulo, and Donaldo Macedo. Literacy: Reading the Word and the World. Bergin & Garvey, 1987.

Guha, Ranajit. Preface. Selected Subaltern Studies, edited by Ranajit Guha and Gayatri C. Spivak, Oxford UP, 1988, pp. 35-36.

Halder, Baby. A Life Less Ordinary. Translated by Urvashi Butalia, Zubaan and Penguin, 2006.

Kremer, Gary R., editor. George Washington Carver: In His Own Words. U of Missouri P, 1991.

Kumar, Raj. Dalit Personal Narratives. Orient Blackswan, 2010.

Kumari, Parveen, and Anupama Vohra. “Mother’s Story: The ‘Third Space’ for Emancipation in Dalit Women’s Life Narratives.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol. 22, no. 10, Oct. 2021, pp. 68-80, Accessed 5 Nov. 2023.

Mazumdar, Vina. Education, Equality and Development. Pearson, 2012.

McGee, Caroline. Childhood Experiences of Domestic Violence. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001

Mukherjee, Sharmila. Modern Language Studies, vol. 47, no. 2, 2018, pp. 81–85. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Nov. 2023.

Nandi, Jayashree. “Baby Haldar Turned a Page, and Broke Free.” The Times of India, 7 Nov. 2013, Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.

Pasupathi, M., et al. “Developing a Life Story: Constructing Relations between Self and Experience in Autobiographical Narratives.” Human Development, vol. 50, no. 2/3, 2007, pp. 85–110. JSTOR, Accessed 9 Nov. 2023. DOI:

Ramanthan, Sheela, editor. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act: A Commentary. HRLN, 2010.

Rangachari, Jamuna. “A Voice from the Void.” Life Positive, June 2007, Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.

Ray, Raka, and Semin Qayum. Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and Class in India. Stanford UP, 2009.

Sarkar, Tanika. Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation. Permanent Black, 2001.

Terr, Lenore C. “Childhood Traumas: An Outline and Overview.” Focus: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry, vol. 1, no. 3, July 2003, pp. 322-344. Psychiatry Online, Accessed 8 Nov. 2023. DOI:

Verma, Nidhi. “The Question of Self, the Question of Life: Identity in the Autobiographical Narratives of Domestic Workers.” Fortell, no. 41, July 2020, pp. 74–83, Accessed 5 Nov. 2023.

Wainryb, Cecilia. “Moral Development in Culture: Diversity, Tolerance, and Justice.” Handbook of Moral Development, edited by Melanie Killen and Judith G. Smetana, Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006, pp. 211-240.

Zedner, Lucia. Women, Crime and Custody in Victorian England. Oxford UP, 1991. DOI: