Pan Macmillan, India, Delhi, 2021
For generations, domestic servants in India have been subjected to neglect, apathy and cruelty. Though they are known nowadays as the domestic ‘help’, ‘aid’ or ‘staff’, often merely to meet the requirements of political correctness, their condition remains unchanged for the most part as the country’s privileged classes have failed to truly address the most pervasive inequalities in their households.
In Lesser Lives, Nitin Sinha and Prabhat Kumar collect short fiction from the Hindi heartland that turns the gaze onto these continuing disparities. The eleven stories in the book, including Premchand’s ‘Maidservant’, Mahadevi Varma’s ‘Rama’, Saadat Hasan Manto’s ‘Blouse’, Amarkant’s ‘Bahadur’ and Shekhar Joshi’s ‘Dajyu’, offer both timeless classics and little-known literary gems, some of which have never been published in translation before.