I was on the lookout for immigrant literature that is entertaining yet enlightening at the same time and ‘Erotic stories for Punjabi Widows’ came along. Now, before you snigger, the title of the book maybe considered a bit bold but the themes that it addresses are very real and sometimes quite hard hitting.
Nikki, a Sikh girl in her early twenties lands a job at a Gurudwara in Southall, England to conduct English classes and her students happen to be “elderly” widows from her own community. The description of Southall and its predominantly Sikh community is spot on right from the vegetable vendors to shops selling Indian wear and other trinkets. The importance of preserving one’s (and one’s family’s) honour or “izzat” stands out as a driving force behind a lot of the behaviour that is seen in the different characters and their stories.
The cohesiveness that develops during the course of Nikki’s classes which in fact turn out to be story telling sessions amongst the group has been beautifully drawn out by the author. Apart from a welcome smattering of these stories throughout the book, the empowerment of women, Nikki’s own struggle with finding herself and her determination to seek justice for a young Sikh woman who appears to have died under mysterious circumstances give the book some very solid content.
Character development has been given a great amount of thought which is rather difficult when there are so many characters to contend with. At no point did I feel confused about the characters or their stories. Nikki’s character requires special mention along with Kulwinder Kaur who offered Nikki the job to run the classes at the Gurudwara.
The quality of writing is very engaging and I found it hard to stop reading the book. I have to say that there were times when I had to begrudgingly draw myself away from the book to carry out mundane chores. Further, the book and its characters provided me with some much deserved respite during the process of moving houses which almost always is a stressful experience.
I enjoyed this book and I am certain that it can also be adapted to a film as it has all the elements that would make it successful. I am thankful to the author and publisher Harper Collins UK for giving me the opportunity to review this wonderful book.