“Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows balances darkness and light, social commentary and ecstatic escapism… funny and moving tale of desire and its discontents.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Before I start my review, I would like to inform everyone – this is NOT exclusively erotica! So those who were going to read this or not going to read this, based on the impression the title gives – this information is for you.
This is a book of women, by a woman. This novel easily transports the reader to Southall and it’s Punjabi/Sikh community. One can smell the spices, hear the gossip, see the gender bias that prevails and most importantly feel the pain of the widows, who are shunned from society (restricted to their white outfits), with only themselves to talk amongst.
Nikki is a British-Punjabi, a law-school drop out, and currently a bartender living in a flat above the pub where she works (of course, to the dissatisfaction of the family). While visiting the Southall Gurudwara (temple), on an errand for her sister Mindi, she spots a job advert to teach creative writing classes twice a week. She applies, and being the sole candidate, is accepted.
The class comprises of Punjabi widows (each widowed at different ages) who are, by-and-large, illiterate. They are a bunch of women who are lonely and these classes are meant to give them something to look forward to in their daily mundane life. Creative writing is a far cry; they need to be taught the basics of English. However, they aren’t interested with the ABCs and indulge in storytelling, having chanced accidentally on a book of erotic stories, which Nikki had bought for her sister as a joke.
And so start the erotic stories. They are born from their suppressed desires, their inability to mingle with the opposite sex, from their vivid imagination and maybe some from personal experience too. Initially Nikki is shocked, but then she realises that she too is being judgemental of these women. And slowly she becomes more involved with their stories, in the community and in their lives. Of course, all this has to be hidden from Kulwinder, the course organiser (and Nikki’s boss), who is dealing with the grief of her daughter Maya’s suicide. And no way should The Brothers find out either – The Brothers are a group of men who have taken the onus of morale policing i.e. ensuring women “behave properly”.
Amidst all this, there are some dark secrets revealed surrounding the death of girls in the community, something which Nikki cannot ignore. Add to that a new complex relationship she finds herself in and perils at the bar where she works, Nikki realises she has more on her plate than she can handle.
So where is the erotica in this? In the stories told by these women – of which there are a handful.
Full of wit, warmth, humour and tender moments, this story is of women and companionship. Their unity, their sexuality, their desires and all the small nuances they experience in the community.
A thought-provoking and heart-warming tale of immigrants trying to accept the foreign culture and in turn be accepted.
I really enjoyed reading this and fully recommend it to everyone.
4.5/5 for me.
Added 27th June 2017