If you enjoyed the movie *The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel and you’re up for a bit of naughty, then you’ll love reading Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. When we start reading a new book we usually have an idea of what it’s about from reading a book review or getting a recommendation from a friend. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was a title that kept popping up but I had no idea what it was about when I downloaded it and was wonderfully surprised that I loved it right from page one. Set in London, England, the story starts with second generation Indian sisters discussing a decision by the older sister Mindi to advertise for a husband—to facilitate her take on an arranged marriage. She can’t find a husband on her own and she wants to get on with her life. Her younger sister Nikki, a law school dropout who works as a bartender and lives in the flat above the pub where she works is appalled by her sister’s plan. As a practising member of various feminist groups and rejecting her family’s traditional ways, Nikki is still exploring her own way in life but it sure doesn’t involve an arranged marriage, particularly with a husband picked by her traditional Punjabi-born mother.
When Nikki reluctantly goes to the local temple to post her sister’s advertisement for a husband on the marriage bulletin board, she spots an ad for someone to teach writing classes and language workshops two evenings a week. With no experience and no other candidates applying for the position, Nikki is hired by a community services worker who has problems with English. Neither of them is entirely sure what the job involves but the community worker who hired Nikki knew the widows in the community who frequent the temple were in need of education, entertainment and something to do to fill their time. Nikki thought she was going to be teaching a class in creative writing, not knowing that most of her students were illiterate and unable to read or write either Punjabi or English. The resulting syllabus the group concocts is hilarious.
Nikki soon discovers that her students are frustrated, illiterate, smart women who want to relive their youth through sharing erotic, soft porn stories they either make up or have secretly experienced. Even modern Nikki is shocked by their output but goes along and arranges for the ladies to dictate their stories, all done covertly to avoid the community morals overseers. The popularity of the classes takes off and it becomes increasingly difficult to hide what they’re actually talking and writing about.
Underlying the salacious stories they produce at each class, we learn about the restrictions, culture and gossipy nature of their tight community. There’s a mysterious death or two, exposed family secrets and plenty of insights into the conflicts and tensions between traditional Indian immigrants and their British-born offspring. The stories are told with humour, sensitivity and first-hand insights. There are some delicious minor plots and character studies that kept me engrossed from start to finish. I loved this book and rate it 9 out of 10.
To order Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal from Amazon, click here. (The Kindle edition is only $1.49 and the paperback is just $13.28.)
*The movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is based on the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach and I considered the book far better than the movie, which, of course, everyone loved. The characters in the book were more multi-dimensional, funnier and far more textural than what could be conveyed in a 90-minute movie. Do yourself a favour and also read These Foolish Things.
To order These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach from Amazon, click here.