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April 30 , 2010

River of Flesh and Other Stories

The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction


River of Flesh and Other Stories brings together twenty-one stories about trafficked and prostituted women by some of India’s most celebrated writers—Amrita Pritam, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Indira Goswami, Ismat Chughtai, J. P. Das, Kamala Das, Kamleshwar, Krishan Chander, Munshi Premchand, Nabendu Ghosh, Qurratulain Hyder, Saadat Hasan Manto and Siddique Alam, among others.

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Jugnu, in Kamleshwar’s ‘River of Flesh’ (‘Maas ka Darya’)—stares at a lifetime of servitude as age and disease take hold; Ismat Chughtai creates the unforgettable character of Lajo in ‘The Housewife’, a carefree young woman who must conform to society’s idea of decency, or risk being branded a whore; in ‘Heeng-Kochuri’, by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, a boy growing up near a red-light area discovers the adult world of patrons, connoisseurs and customers—as well as savouries offered to young boys as bribe; and in Manisha Kulshrestha’s ‘Kalindi’, a son looks in through a window and his life falls to pieces around him.

An unprecedented anthology—for its subject, as well as for the range of authors and translators who are part of it—River of Flesh and Other Stories offers a harsh indictment of this practice of human slavery, too often justified—and occasionally glorified—as the ‘world’s oldest profession’.

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