Indian.English. A Memoir

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Author: Jillian Haslam
Publisher: Mehta Publishing House, Pune
(Pp 168, ISBN: 978-81-8498-4930, Rs 240)

Indian.English is not merely based on a true story; this is indeed a true story recollected by an English woman, the author, who along with his ailing parents and starving siblings struggled for survival in the slums of Calcutta (the then name of present Kolkata) under unbelievable hardship of abject poverty, racial and physical abuses during the post-independence India. Her intolerable days continued even after she moved to New Delhi during her grown up years. Today, 44 years old ‘Jill’, as she is lovingly called, has penned down this hard-hitting autobiography which every reader may get shocked to the way how a society looked down upon a community for a simple reason of being different in origin and skin colour. But for every atrocity described in her story is perhaps a parallel kindness which she received from kind-hearted people around.

Despite the fact that Jill’s father served in the British Army and had been rewarded of exemplary services, he could not help his family due to failing health and extreme poverty, because of which he also lost four of his nine children. Jill recollects a vivid memory of a shopkeeper who gave free milk to feed her dying sister Susan. And among the other kind-hearted ones include a dhabawala who threw hot oil on Jill and her sister Donna for simply staring at the delicious meat he would cook in his huge vessel, but would give them some mutton to eat every day.

Jill left India in 2000 after two-decade of successful career in banking for an ultimate settlement in the UK. It didn’t mean that she erased all her memories about hardship she faced – shifting several houses, begging, picking food from garbage to eat, beaten, bruised and abused by men and neighbours. With a vision to bring betterment to those underprivileged people in India, she came again with her devoted energies for helping poorest of the poor to improve their lives in the country where she was born. She is now founding director of Help Yourself Associates, a corporate and self development training company. In London, she visits schools, trainings, women’s work groups, alcoholic centres and others to conduct workshops and related activities to bring a difference.

–Jyaneswar Laishram

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