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An Educated Woman In Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit (Calcutta, 1929)

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‘But now, having travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, I no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in my heart.’ Manada, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, Miss Mukherjee – the jostling identities of our beguiling and charming protagonist as she glides through a life that can be seen as exploitative yet, also, curiously, empowering and honest. Manad ‘But now, having travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, I no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in my heart.’ Manada, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, Miss Mukherjee – the jostling identities of our beguiling and charming protagonist as she glides through a life that can be seen as exploitative yet, also, curiously, empowering and honest. Manada’s fascinating life story takes her from her wealthy cossetted upbringing to a life of debauchery and prostitution after she elopes with her married lover when in her mid-teens. She is capable, attractive and doesn’t ask for pity as she struggles with illness, poverty and abandonment, but ensures that she emerges relatively unscathed and carves a niche for herself in her profession. Manada matures and settles into a life of prostitution, entertains barristers, doctors and other men of high society. She describes her colourful life with relish but is often introspective as she places her own position as a sex worker in the context of the times, calling out young sanctimonious patriotic men who maintain a high standing in society yet secretly fancy prostitutes. Rather tantalisingly she takes no names, only occasionally hinting at their identities, to avoid scandals and protect the double lives of men who are well-known in Calcutta in the 1920s. Weaving together multiple strands, looking beyond ideas of morality and accusations, we are presented a life of immense beauty and endurance, which is both grand in its scope and deeply intimate in its portrait.


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‘But now, having travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, I no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in my heart.’ Manada, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, Miss Mukherjee – the jostling identities of our beguiling and charming protagonist as she glides through a life that can be seen as exploitative yet, also, curiously, empowering and honest. Manad ‘But now, having travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, I no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in my heart.’ Manada, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, Miss Mukherjee – the jostling identities of our beguiling and charming protagonist as she glides through a life that can be seen as exploitative yet, also, curiously, empowering and honest. Manada’s fascinating life story takes her from her wealthy cossetted upbringing to a life of debauchery and prostitution after she elopes with her married lover when in her mid-teens. She is capable, attractive and doesn’t ask for pity as she struggles with illness, poverty and abandonment, but ensures that she emerges relatively unscathed and carves a niche for herself in her profession. Manada matures and settles into a life of prostitution, entertains barristers, doctors and other men of high society. She describes her colourful life with relish but is often introspective as she places her own position as a sex worker in the context of the times, calling out young sanctimonious patriotic men who maintain a high standing in society yet secretly fancy prostitutes. Rather tantalisingly she takes no names, only occasionally hinting at their identities, to avoid scandals and protect the double lives of men who are well-known in Calcutta in the 1920s. Weaving together multiple strands, looking beyond ideas of morality and accusations, we are presented a life of immense beauty and endurance, which is both grand in its scope and deeply intimate in its portrait.

30 review for An Educated Woman In Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit (Calcutta, 1929)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chandana Kuruganty

    "It appears a "fallen" woman is valueless. Insulting her cannot lead to a claim of slander in the eyes of the law. But the same law works for "fallen" men, for men write the law." The memoir is an articulate, truthful and reflective piece of writing, which must be judged specifically in its context: written in 1900s, by an educated bengali woman who was compelled into prostitution due to her circumstances. What appealed to me was- the author's level of honesty, self-reflection along with criticis "It appears a "fallen" woman is valueless. Insulting her cannot lead to a claim of slander in the eyes of the law. But the same law works for "fallen" men, for men write the law." The memoir is an articulate, truthful and reflective piece of writing, which must be judged specifically in its context: written in 1900s, by an educated bengali woman who was compelled into prostitution due to her circumstances. What appealed to me was- the author's level of honesty, self-reflection along with criticism for her shortcomings coupled with an eye for detail and the book's clear presentation of the Bengal society in the 1900s. However, the afterword mentions of changes that were needed to be made keeping in mind the obscenities and references to rich and honourable people of society. I'm inclined to think if they were presented, maybe this would have been a more comprehensive read on why the author is making a specific statement about any person. Recommended read for those who enjoy nuanced writing and social commentary of an imperfect Indian society of 20th century by a society-shunned and self-accepted "imperfect" person.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chandra Sundeep

    It’s a universally known fact, society frowns upon prostitutes. Often treated as ‘less human,’ they are a shunned and neglected lot. Rarely do we empathize with them, or even try to get to know the story behind the face. This book is a poignant narration of the lives of prostituted women, as narrated by someone who is a part of this community. Originally published in 1929 in Bengali, this edition is an English translation by Arunava Sinha. Set in the 1900s, in erstwhile Calcutta, An Educated Woman It’s a universally known fact, society frowns upon prostitutes. Often treated as ‘less human,’ they are a shunned and neglected lot. Rarely do we empathize with them, or even try to get to know the story behind the face. This book is a poignant narration of the lives of prostituted women, as narrated by someone who is a part of this community. Originally published in 1929 in Bengali, this edition is an English translation by Arunava Sinha. Set in the 1900s, in erstwhile Calcutta, An Educated Woman in Prostitution is the life story of Manada, a girl born in a Bengali Brahmin family. Leading a happy, carefree life, Manada’s life takes a turn with her mother’s demise. Her father’s neglect and lack of motherly love and affection pushes her to seek solace outside. She finds joy and comfort because of her friendship with Kamala, cousin Nanda dada, tutor Mukul dada and a distant cousin Ramesh dada. Lack of an appropriate and virtuous education blinds her to the harsh realities of life. And at the tender age of 15 she goes astray, and runs away from home with Ramesh dada, the first in many of the mistakes she makes in her life. In no time she realizes the futility of her decision, but by then it’s too late to return to her father. ‘Illegitimate love is always born out of passion. But passion is by nature short-lived, and not the result of discernment. Therefore, a love that arises swiftly ends swiftly too.’ Left by her lover, and shunned by society, Manada embraces prostitution as the way of life, entertaining men of high society. She even joins the non-cooperation movement, but her lack of self-constraint and insincerity dilutes her intentions. Overwhelmed by temptation and unrestrained, she sinks into the immoral life, blaming it on her destiny. Entertaining several Babus, trading her body for goods, exchanging pleasure for money Manada becomes Feroza Bibi, and over time Miss Mukherjee. The memoir though set in early 1900s is not very different from today. There are many instances where I could draw similarities with our current times. Manada’s experiences clearly highlight the society’s hypocrisy. While society shamed and shunned the prostitutes, the men visiting these very women continued to be held in high regard, and led happy lives with no shame or guilt. Unfortunately, we have progressed little even today. A thought-provoking emotional read. BLOG | INSTA

  3. 4 out of 5

    Megha

    The book left me very confused. It is a well-written social commentary, apt and telling for its time. The translation is smooth, never jarring, and at times makes you forget that it is not the original text. I definitely appreciate the use of woman in prostitution or prostituted woman instead of the term prostitute. I like how it does not presume all prostitutes to be woman, which people often do. Really appreciate that. Now the confusion bit - I have worked with victims of sex trafficking wh The book left me very confused. It is a well-written social commentary, apt and telling for its time. The translation is smooth, never jarring, and at times makes you forget that it is not the original text. I definitely appreciate the use of woman in prostitution or prostituted woman instead of the term prostitute. I like how it does not presume all prostitutes to be woman, which people often do. Really appreciate that. Now the confusion bit - I have worked with victims of sex trafficking who have been pushed into the sex trade. The non-governmental organisation that I worked at believed in using the term 'victims of commercial sexual exploitation/sex trafficking and not sex workers. This is because in the organisation's three-decade experience of outreach in Kamathipura, Mumbai (one of the biggest red-light districts in Asia at some point), they have only worked with women and children who have been forced/lured into the sex trade deceitfully and without their informed consent. I understand that this is not a universally accepted viewpoint. There are people and organisations who support sex work (consensual, of course) in the agency of the person. Okay at this point I can write arguments from both sides but that goes beyond what I am trying to say here. I think I started the book with expectations about the debate between sex work/forced sex trade - which is where it went wrong. Or more specifically, the perspective of a person in prostitution on personal agency/freedom of choice. The book is a memoir from 1929 Calcutta and attempts to portray the lived reality of some people existing at the time. The book promises and delivers this ably. I also appreciate the feminist nature of the book, discussing female desire at a time when it was definitely not an easy subject to discuss (I don't think it still is, although it desperately should be.) I am not sure if the narrative gets preachy with the whole immoral or fallen woman or is that just the writer echoing the collective thoughts of the time? I do not know. I think I personally had difficulty in absorbing the conservative tone of the book, given how I was reading it in 2021 (and dealing with a similar orthodox mindset during my course of work) - but this should not have any bearing because the book is strikingly accurate for its time. I also do not know what to make of the end, where it is contested whether this book was actually written by a Manada Devi, whether such a person even existed. All these thoughts so now you know why I am confused and why this 'review' is even more confusing??? Ugh, so many muddled thoughts and feelings. If you are still here, reading this, I sincerely apologise and would rather request you to read the book, or any other book, definitely would be better than this scribbled mess! Shout-out to Subhankar Roy for gifting me the copy and continuing to spoil me with books. Not complaining, keep 'em coming :D Did you know that it is not easy to just say that prostitution is legal or illegal in India today? The law defines prostitution as the sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes. It penalises the person who facilitates and procures people for it. If any person over the age of 18 years willingly sells their bodily sex in their private premises (not within 200 metres of a place of worship/hospital/educational institution) to another person over 18 years - it will not be punishable. It is progressive if you think about how the law does not define or limit the gender of either partner.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Krutika Puranik

    // An Educated Woman in Prostitution by Manada Devi transl. by Arunava Sinha. Manada Devi's existence has been a subject of debate ever since this memoir came out. This book dates back to 1900 but it often doesn't feel that way. This perhaps has to do with Devi's modern and unapologetic manner of owning up to her past and present deeds. Some say, Manada is a man who wrote under the pen name of a woman. But others strongly believe that it is indeed a woman. Published multiple times, this book has // An Educated Woman in Prostitution by Manada Devi transl. by Arunava Sinha. Manada Devi's existence has been a subject of debate ever since this memoir came out. This book dates back to 1900 but it often doesn't feel that way. This perhaps has to do with Devi's modern and unapologetic manner of owning up to her past and present deeds. Some say, Manada is a man who wrote under the pen name of a woman. But others strongly believe that it is indeed a woman. Published multiple times, this book has managed to cause ripples in the society. An important and a brave memoir, An Educated Woman in Prostitution is a terrific read. Hailing from a wealthy and quite renowned family, Manada had everything at her beck and call. But as she later recalls this was exactly the reason which eventually caused her downfall. In the grand scheme of things, Manada could have eventually lived a rich life because she was well educated and had grown up enjoying literature and theatre. But without a mother and an almost absent father, Manada desired for other things at a very young age. After eloping with her cousin, Ramesh dada, Manada initially tastes love and indulgence. But when the facade crumbles, she is left alone to pick up the mess. This was the tipping point that marked the beginning of her life as a woman who had nothing to lose. A major chunk of the book showcases how people view prostitutes as untouchables yet the very same men with families paying nightly visits to their tiny rooms. From professors to other well respected men, they all seeked entertainment in secret while publicly shunning the women. While Manada did meet certain kind people who helped her at times, there were also those who turned her away. Set during the pre-independence era, we also learn about political fervour that had gripped the country. Manada holds nothing back in her memoir. She spares no one too. Not even herself. From recounting her regrets to being accountable for her life, this memoir is incredible. It's hard to believe that this book is quite old because of her unflinching ability to hold a mirror back to the society. The transl. is flawless as always.

  5. 5 out of 5

    liberosis

    “Now that I am sinking into hell, I reflected, let me go as deep as possible to examine the various currents flowing in its layers.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Preksha

    "how blind you are society, when it comes to men" a wonderful memoir from the 1900s. I did wish for the woman to have lived longer and seen the world now. She constantly blamed herself all through this book which I definitely did not agree with. Our choices are not free and independent in this world and I wish she wouldn't have blamed herself and her "bad traits" for falling into a profession that exploited her when it was men and the society that pushed her into this. Everything aside, a great c "how blind you are society, when it comes to men" a wonderful memoir from the 1900s. I did wish for the woman to have lived longer and seen the world now. She constantly blamed herself all through this book which I definitely did not agree with. Our choices are not free and independent in this world and I wish she wouldn't have blamed herself and her "bad traits" for falling into a profession that exploited her when it was men and the society that pushed her into this. Everything aside, a great commentary on different standards of morality and "goodness" that are enforced on men and women.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Antara Vinayachandran

    The social commentary of the early 1900s leading up all the way to 1929 is illuminating! Manada Devi memoir provides much context to the life of an upper class, Brahmin girl in the 1900s. Her privilege, her position vis a vis what’s the right age for a girl to marry (before 14 as it stood in 1929, and she’s got her reasons), her turning to prostitution and staying in a life that she abhorred, perhaps in hindsight, her calling out the hypocrisy of a male-dominated society where the rules of engag The social commentary of the early 1900s leading up all the way to 1929 is illuminating! Manada Devi memoir provides much context to the life of an upper class, Brahmin girl in the 1900s. Her privilege, her position vis a vis what’s the right age for a girl to marry (before 14 as it stood in 1929, and she’s got her reasons), her turning to prostitution and staying in a life that she abhorred, perhaps in hindsight, her calling out the hypocrisy of a male-dominated society where the rules of engagement were vastly different for women than they were for men... A translation from the Bengali, there has to be the expected loss of essence, of spirit... but there’s much to learn about Calcutta and bangali culture, women in that milieu, and the swadeshi waves sweeping across the country, that interplayed with Manada’s individual narrative.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ✨H✨

    In its rawest form, it is infact a social commentary on the hypocrisy of our society. It shows how much men can get away with while women are condemned and shunned for those very same sins. It also uncovers the double life of the men who are graciously alloted a high pedestal by our society. How these men who condemn the women in prostitution openly, declaring them a lesser human , have no problem spending their time in their very brothels. “How blind you are, society, when it comes to men.” What In its rawest form, it is infact a social commentary on the hypocrisy of our society. It shows how much men can get away with while women are condemned and shunned for those very same sins. It also uncovers the double life of the men who are graciously alloted a high pedestal by our society. How these men who condemn the women in prostitution openly, declaring them a lesser human , have no problem spending their time in their very brothels. “How blind you are, society, when it comes to men.” What stood out to me was that this book talks about the treatment of women in an early 19th century India but if we look around ourselves we still find the condition eerily similar barring a few progress in the Urban areas. There were also few things that I didn't understood which could very well be due to the generation gap. I really failed to understand why she thought that the prostituted women should not have been involved in Non-coorperation movement . No chaste men or women can be lured if they have high morals. Presence of women in prostitution in an extreme could only fasten the process of them losing their way. India belongs to these high society men /women as much as it belongs to the women in prostitution. The author does mention that the prostitutes participated in these movements more so because it gave them a chance to openly speak in the public rather than their patriotism. But I still think it was better than the fake nationlism of some traitors. Given the title of this book one would expect to know why did Manada and so many other educated women mentioned in the book took to prostitution when they could have tutored someone given their good education but these topics were just left in the air. I would have loved to have it discussed in detail for the mere 2-3 lines on this topic dosen't explain much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chitra Ahanthem

    First published in 1929, An Educated Woman InProstitution: A Memoir of Lust,Exploitation, Deceit by Manada Devi and translated by Arunava Sinha defies genres,style and even intent. That the book sold out when it was published in Calcutta to much public scrutiny is no surprise given the manner in which the supposed author, a woman belonging to a well to do upper caste and class family falls into prostitution and then writes a tell all about the higher echelons of society who come to her in the de First published in 1929, An Educated Woman InProstitution: A Memoir of Lust,Exploitation, Deceit by Manada Devi and translated by Arunava Sinha defies genres,style and even intent. That the book sold out when it was published in Calcutta to much public scrutiny is no surprise given the manner in which the supposed author, a woman belonging to a well to do upper caste and class family falls into prostitution and then writes a tell all about the higher echelons of society who come to her in the dead of night while spouting idealism during day time. The catch? While the book gives a true reflection of Calcutta in terms of the socio political backdrop of the time it is set in, while it touches on the winds of change blowing through the elitist society, it is well possible that the author did not exist but is actually a composite of many real women who took on prostitution because of the circumstances that pushed them into it. It’s no Fanny Hill for there is little that is steamy or scandalous in terms of intimate details about the world of prostitution. Rather, it is more of intellect and philosophical wisdom that drives the narration and a very telling commentary on the real socio politics of Calcutta behind the overall liberal and progressive outlook it was presenting. The writing is presented in simple language in the able hands of the translator who makes it a provocative read in that it makes you examine social mores.  The writer puts the spotlight on social hypocrisy by asking who pays the price when ideals are lofty and the flesh weak. This is a book that needs to make its way to discourses on gender and feminist studies in the country.  Full review here: https://bookandconversations.wordpres...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jelena

    Manabi Devi, autorka, u svojim memoarima daje pregled političkih, ekonomskih i društvenih promjena u Indiji s početka XX vijeka. Manabi je iz bogate kaste, pripada imućnom sloju društva i nakon niza nesrećnih okolnosti postaje dio lanca prostitucije. Ono što Manabi izdvaja od ostalih jeste činjenica da je obrazovana, da razumije i koristi bonton imućnog sloja što joj omogućava mnogo bolji tretman (koliko je to moguće) u odnosu na ostale. Manabi razmišlja dugoročno. Kroz njen "pad" posmatramo pre Manabi Devi, autorka, u svojim memoarima daje pregled političkih, ekonomskih i društvenih promjena u Indiji s početka XX vijeka. Manabi je iz bogate kaste, pripada imućnom sloju društva i nakon niza nesrećnih okolnosti postaje dio lanca prostitucije. Ono što Manabi izdvaja od ostalih jeste činjenica da je obrazovana, da razumije i koristi bonton imućnog sloja što joj omogućava mnogo bolji tretman (koliko je to moguće) u odnosu na ostale. Manabi razmišlja dugoročno. Kroz njen "pad" posmatramo previranja i formiranje moderne indijske države. Mijenjanje društvenih normi, političkih struja te ekonomsko stanje države koja je još kolonija V. Britanije. Manabi to priča jednostavno, bez uvijanja ili žaljenja nad samom sobom. Ona je na kraju izabrala taj put, ali se dotiče pitanja duplih standarda kada je u pitanju prostitucija. Međutim, interesantno je da se postavlja pitanje autorstva. Iako se tvrdi da je Manabi autorka i da priča iz svog iskustva, ipak se javlja sumnja da je u pitanju više autora pod jednim pseudonimom. U svakom slučaju, zanimljivo čitanje. Lišeno finesa i glazura tekstova koje sam navikla čitati.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Madhumeet Kour

    A must read. It encompasses how the narrator turned to prostitution and how she condemns each act she did. Explores morality and the delicate fibre of purity.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karandeep

    It's as if the author takes a moral high ground - may be she was well off financially to write what she did - yes, there was regrett in the tone but other than that - what I read between the lines was - she didn't stress much upon the poverty/violence/STIs and and diseases - an aspect of work which most of them end up in. Here she calls out Indian men in that era - nothing has changed in over 100 years really. Read Umrao Jaan Ada - a better tale of a traditionally 'educated' worker. It's as if the author takes a moral high ground - may be she was well off financially to write what she did - yes, there was regrett in the tone but other than that - what I read between the lines was - she didn't stress much upon the poverty/violence/STIs and and diseases - an aspect of work which most of them end up in. Here she calls out Indian men in that era - nothing has changed in over 100 years really. Read Umrao Jaan Ada - a better tale of a traditionally 'educated' worker.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deepan Maitra

    ‘An Educated Woman in Prostitution’ deserves a thought over whether education and prostitution are really in conflict. Is there an intersection point between proper grooming, a mature mentality and the entry into so-called vulgar professions? Manada Devi’s memoir makes us wonder if the society is infested with double standards like no other, inspecting spaces where wronged women can gleefully thrive. Born into a noble family, and having been educated with history, literature and the arts—Manada’ ‘An Educated Woman in Prostitution’ deserves a thought over whether education and prostitution are really in conflict. Is there an intersection point between proper grooming, a mature mentality and the entry into so-called vulgar professions? Manada Devi’s memoir makes us wonder if the society is infested with double standards like no other, inspecting spaces where wronged women can gleefully thrive. Born into a noble family, and having been educated with history, literature and the arts—Manada’s life took a steep turn when she eloped with her cousin, Ramesh-dada. What followed was blatantly a sequence of events where she was made to roam around like nomads, where she was thwarted and flung by agencies that disabled independent women from asserting their independence. She lost it all—her re-married father who had grown distant to her after his second marriage, her tutor, even her closest friends. But for what? Soon enough she was tempted to sell her body, earn her living through a profession that is ancient yet squinted upon—and most importantly, she lost respect. Manada traces the roots that paved the way for each of the hasty steps she took, she travels down her memory lane to discover what had sown in her the seeds of going beyond the norm. The absence of parenting was massive a cause, and more was the emptiness of a maternal figure, who could have held her close and shown her ways. Upon careful thinking, it comes to me how any guidance or advise is missing from Manada Devi’s life at all. Her most decisions were impulsive to the core, and they were borne out of desperation and loneliness. In her opinion, her education in literature and the arts never taught her restraint, neither did they teach her the qualities of making ‘better choices’. Her life was always kind of like the free wind, that races up and down the mountains in spree, never caring to tame itself. This wind’s whole essence is freedom, but it’s also dangerously feisty—the kind that tall figures and influential personalities do not really like. Manada’s life was laden with oppression, with dozens of hypocrisies pinning her down. In the end though, when she sheds her past as a prostitute and enters a new life, what shines are her qualities of resilience and honesty. ‘An Educated woman in Prostitution’ is violently bold and honest, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. It’s a meditation of speech that shakes solid foundations, and exposes the double standards of people. It is a guiding light for women who are still supressed and silenced each day, who are trampled upon by contagious notions of purity, morality and faithfulness. This memoir dates back into the colonial times of the early 1900s, and I shudder to think that this writing is so old. I feel so because the spirit of this book is so modern and unanimous, that it emerges victorious across a range of unsaid wordings. Be it Manada’s accurate introspections over her life, or the justifications she lays down, and also the way she accuses the societal standard’s—this book shouldn’t be read like a eulogy to prostitution, neither like a abolition of such a profession, it should be read like a woman’s voice who had the courage to own up to her choices, jump over set norms and still kept her held high. Thanks Simon and Schuster India for the copy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    V.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (non spoiler review) This book is fantastic on so many levels! I am so glad that I ran into this book at a bookstore. When I bought it, I thought it's a memoir so perhaps it would be written around the personal experiences of a Sex Worker in India. It is however much more than that! There is a lot to unpack from the perspective of an educated Sex Worker in early 1900s India about not only her inner musings but also the society at large in the region. Pleasantly surprised. Kudos to Arunava Sinha fo (non spoiler review) This book is fantastic on so many levels! I am so glad that I ran into this book at a bookstore. When I bought it, I thought it's a memoir so perhaps it would be written around the personal experiences of a Sex Worker in India. It is however much more than that! There is a lot to unpack from the perspective of an educated Sex Worker in early 1900s India about not only her inner musings but also the society at large in the region. Pleasantly surprised. Kudos to Arunava Sinha for translating the volume so well! Looking forward to more translations by him ahead. (spoilers ahead) I have been wondering, why has the Author called her memoir "An Educated Woman in Prostitution"? Why is being "Educated" central to the Author's perspective? The Author often introspects about her relationship with being educated and her clientele, her political activism, and of-course her personal life and outlook to life. She consistently maintains a tone of regret and self-pity about her past as a Sex Worker. She attempts to reconcile her broken childhood, fervour of adolescent romance, and a deceiving lover - which in together in succession led to her misfortunes - as her passage to Sex Work. She believes that the very education she received during childhood liberated her so much that she "went out of control". Her exposure to film, theatre, and poetry "clouded" her judgements in her youth; she wonders if had she been under a guardianship of a stricter father or brother, or if her mother was alive, she would have not taken the “missteps” that she did. A lot of these calls for stricter and more guarded upbringing of girls come from a place of remorse within the author, for it becomes very clear very soon in the book that she despises herself for being in this profession wherein one does not only indulge in their own desires but also brings ruination to men and society, as has been the Author's conviction. (My personal views differ on the matter) There are also several discussions on the dichotomies of realities of Men and Women in Sex Work at brothels, regardless of degree of education either party has received. Academic, Poets, Revolutionaries, Merchants, Lawyers, men of high social prestige, Religious heads and priests, Brahmins (the so called most cultured of all castes) - all men who frequent the Brothels rarely face any consequences for their sinful transgressions; for indulging into extra-marital affairs; for their hypocrisy in their conduct as they chant slogans of piety, purity, and nationalism in daylight and spend nights with multiple mistresses; for committing assaults, robberies or even murders of Sex Workers. All of this happens while women in Sex Work are at odds with the system at every moment for survival, protection, and dignity. The self-loathing and depression among Sex Workers has also featured regularly in the volume. Another key discussion along the lines of education is how these so called highly educated men become slavish to their mistresses; how they are also manipulated and debauched by their carnal desires or simply a touch of Love from a woman in a brothel. The author is amused and astonished how education among these men makes no difference as such from her other clientele. However, the fact that she herself is educated (and a voracious reader), she is able to mingle among the crème of the social, political, financial elite. Lastly, the Author is able to leverage her “educated” mind to voice her political opinions, network with like minded elite, organise Sex Workers into the Women’s Protection Association, and mobilise a change in society’s perception of Sex Workers which has already dehumanised them on several levels. It’s ironical that the Author often seems aloof of the gift of education she had received in childhood, and rather remains disdainful of the same fact for she believes the very liberation education had provided her had also corrupted her in her youth. In my reading, I have found that “Education” is one of the axes along which the Author has analysed the society, her own self, and the nationalist movement as well in some regards - which cumulatively makes it a very interesting read. The book provides some amazingly fresh perspectives into the lives of women in early 1900s and the relationships between Sex Workers and society at large. The book is structured in a way short memoirs are often structured - which quick recapitulations of childhood followed by detailed descriptions of events in recent past. Arunava Sinha has done a fantastic job translating this volume and I would like to see more coming from this in this space. Translation is a herculean task from Day 1 - granted - but I’d still prefer a different of words for some translations. However these minor pet peeves can be over looked as the book is quite well paced and you never feel stuck at any given page. Overall, highly recommended. 4.5/5 stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    thebookscrazylover |veenita jeph

    It's time for another book review. After reading this book, my perspective change to look at the thing and people who live in brothel areas. {TW: This book is about the situation of women who work in brothels.} Manda Devi An Education Woman in Prostitution a memoir of lust, exploitation, deceit translated By Arunava Sinha. This book was originally published in 1929, in the Bangla language. The story plots in the early 19’s in Calcutta. A girl who is a lovely child of the family grew up with love an It's time for another book review. After reading this book, my perspective change to look at the thing and people who live in brothel areas. {TW: This book is about the situation of women who work in brothels.} Manda Devi An Education Woman in Prostitution a memoir of lust, exploitation, deceit translated By Arunava Sinha. This book was originally published in 1929, in the Bangla language. The story plots in the early 19’s in Calcutta. A girl who is a lovely child of the family grew up with love and independence. But her mother changes many things in her life. Especially, her father remarries changes things in her life. A father who loves her, taking her everywhere with himself now not looking at her. Manda was brought up with his maternal cousin and her father, who always takes her in theater and movements to hear the speeches. Latterly, she falls in love with a known relative man and runs away from home. After running from home with him, they traveled the whole of India in six months period. Then, they moved to Prayagraj where she knew the partner's bitter truth and found her pregnant. One day, she found he left her alone here, with the option not to go anywhere. This moment is the turning point of the story. After that situations and circumstances came across to her, where she is been a prostitute in Bengal. Where she met with different Babus and adopt a different lifestyle. 1920s Brothel participated in many national movements and collect funds to help the people who lost everything in Bengal Flood to support the people. Follow Gandhi JI non-corporation movements also. Highly recommended to everyone as a must-read. The author does such good work in translation. book rating:5/5

  16. 4 out of 5

    UnoriginalInspiration

    “How blind you are, society, when it comes to men.” "But now, having travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, I no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in my heart." Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, Adult/Minor Relationship, Alcohol, Colonisation, Domestic abuse, Greif, Miscarriage, Pregnancy, Prostitution. Review: The life of a prostitute in 1920's India is probably something that none of us have thought about. The thought provoking story of Manada's life takes “How blind you are, society, when it comes to men.” "But now, having travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, I no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in my heart." Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, Adult/Minor Relationship, Alcohol, Colonisation, Domestic abuse, Greif, Miscarriage, Pregnancy, Prostitution. Review: The life of a prostitute in 1920's India is probably something that none of us have thought about. The thought provoking story of Manada's life takes us on a journey through her wealthy, privileged upbringing to a life of prostitution after she elopes from home in her mid-teens. This is a tale of illness, poverty and abandonment as she goes on to make a living, by means considered shameful to her. We are presented a life of endurance and beauty as she talks about social constructs, the Indian fight for freedom, religion and a life lived without family, subtly calling at the prominent men from Calcutta in the 1920's, without directly revealing their identities. Having said that, I didn't agree with all the things the narrator said. But I think that makes a nice insight into the difference in the mindset of people then and now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aayushi Jain

    An Educated Woman in Prostitution is a book that will grip your hand tightly to show you around the dark hypocritical society we surround ourselves with. It's a mirror that will reflect the hard-hearted world through which the writer Manada Devi is struggling to get out of. Although Devi has kept her clients and family background private, what definitely wasn't private were the deeds and all her sufferings. The memoir also explores the very desire of female sexuality that is always seen as not n An Educated Woman in Prostitution is a book that will grip your hand tightly to show you around the dark hypocritical society we surround ourselves with. It's a mirror that will reflect the hard-hearted world through which the writer Manada Devi is struggling to get out of. Although Devi has kept her clients and family background private, what definitely wasn't private were the deeds and all her sufferings. The memoir also explores the very desire of female sexuality that is always seen as not natural to women. Here, we see Manada Devi who wanted to explore her desires. Prostitution is one 'profession' that is considered a sin yet we find most of the men visiting a brothel every day. This type of hypocrisy is what Manada Devi's memoir embarked upon. I do not rate memoirs and autobiographies, therefore, I'll ask you to pick this book if you'd like to read about an educated woman in prostitution. Thank you to the publisher for the gifted book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    PJ

    The book gives you an insight into a different yet familiar kind of India at the turn of the 20th century that you won’t get from history books. With Sharda Act at the precipice, you still read about the struggle of a society to accept improving the life of women. Independence of women is blamed for rising prostitution even though bad sexual health awareness is imminent. The author thinks an early marriage would prevent this evil which might seem bizarre to a reader however her worries are based The book gives you an insight into a different yet familiar kind of India at the turn of the 20th century that you won’t get from history books. With Sharda Act at the precipice, you still read about the struggle of a society to accept improving the life of women. Independence of women is blamed for rising prostitution even though bad sexual health awareness is imminent. The author thinks an early marriage would prevent this evil which might seem bizarre to a reader however her worries are based on a fact that we face even today - struggle between giving freedom to women similar to men but the burden of shame of illicit relations or romances or their consequences being left unshared. It is a good read to ponder upon the differences and similarities we see today.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Asif

    ‘Illegitimate love is always born out of passion. But passion is by nature short-lived, and not the result of discernment. Therefore, a love that arises swiftly ends swiftly too.’ Society frowns upon Prostitution, they are treated as less human and neglected. Rarely we do empathise with them and get to know their side of the story and perspective. A poignant memior of a prostitue. The book tries to draw a fine line between morality and purity. Manda travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, ‘Illegitimate love is always born out of passion. But passion is by nature short-lived, and not the result of discernment. Therefore, a love that arises swiftly ends swiftly too.’ Society frowns upon Prostitution, they are treated as less human and neglected. Rarely we do empathise with them and get to know their side of the story and perspective. A poignant memior of a prostitue. The book tries to draw a fine line between morality and purity. Manda travelled to the frontier of the world of sins, and she no longer hesitated in trampling over the remnants of the goodness in her heart. Opinion differs whether an actual woman has written this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arya

    I knew what to expect when I picked this up. I did so not just because the titles intrigued me but also because this is a short memoir, and I have a particular inclination toward memoirs. A short one that brings you to sit tight. This isn't a literary marvel, but I can see that Arunava Sinha has given it his best like his every other work. Manabi Devi's story is on a thread I've visited many times. But what stands out is the reality in her characters. The portrayal was restrained yet real. It is I knew what to expect when I picked this up. I did so not just because the titles intrigued me but also because this is a short memoir, and I have a particular inclination toward memoirs. A short one that brings you to sit tight. This isn't a literary marvel, but I can see that Arunava Sinha has given it his best like his every other work. Manabi Devi's story is on a thread I've visited many times. But what stands out is the reality in her characters. The portrayal was restrained yet real. It is at most a one-time read, but I'm glad I read this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kamakshi

    The title does not suit the book at all. It seems that the book has been written at two very different times or by two very different people. The first half of the book was very engaging and I personally found the second half too descriptive and disengaging.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sudeshna Panigrahi

    "Prostituted women may not be pure, but they are not devoid of human ideals. Considering that the fallen woman can be simple at heart, spiritual, godfearing, compassionate and generous, why does she have to an object of scorn? The fault lies with society, not with the woman." . A story of a woman, who lost her mother at a really tender age, who got herself learned with arts literature, didn't receive any care and affection eventually from her father, was like a free wind without any curtailments, "Prostituted women may not be pure, but they are not devoid of human ideals. Considering that the fallen woman can be simple at heart, spiritual, godfearing, compassionate and generous, why does she have to an object of scorn? The fault lies with society, not with the woman." . A story of a woman, who lost her mother at a really tender age, who got herself learned with arts literature, didn't receive any care and affection eventually from her father, was like a free wind without any curtailments, at a delicate age couldn't help but eloped with a man whom she considered her love of life and who could help her fulfill all her desires and the man does nothing but leaves her berserk, and after all this, eventually falls into the spiral of the unfortunate turn of events . The story of a woman who although regrets her own decisions throughout life but with proper justifications accepts whatever she was at the moment . The story of a woman who slips into the so-called dark and cataclysmic world of prostitution finding no other path to go . . The title itself is so thought provoking, breaking stereotypes which says women who aren't educated sell their bodily services into prostitution; whereas the story highlights how many women fall prey to it . . Manada Devi has a fierce personality who takes stand for whatever she does, whatever happens. She blatantly showed mirror about how the society has double standards and how men coming as customers are still respected in the society and women are disrespected in almost every sphere of life. She is bold enough to have written something like a slap on the hypocritical societal institutions like the Brahmo samaj and the so-called elite section. This book also shows how deep-rooted the patriarchy is our general public. . This book is sharp, honest and straightforward and can be called an eye-opener for everyone to have respect for every human irrespective of what profession they are into.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sabia khan

    Rating -3.5/5 An Educated Women in Prostitution (Manada Devi) is a translated version of a Bengali Literature. A Memoir of Manada known by varoius name's Maani didi, Feroza Bibi , Miss Mukherjee and Manada. It's a story of a young girl coming from a wealthy family in Pre-independence Calcutta . After the demise of her mother , soon her father marries a girl of almost her age. She is raised with all the amenities and luxuries but lacking a proper care and love. She elopes in her mid-teens with 'Rame Rating -3.5/5 An Educated Women in Prostitution (Manada Devi) is a translated version of a Bengali Literature. A Memoir of Manada known by varoius name's Maani didi, Feroza Bibi , Miss Mukherjee and Manada. It's a story of a young girl coming from a wealthy family in Pre-independence Calcutta . After the demise of her mother , soon her father marries a girl of almost her age. She is raised with all the amenities and luxuries but lacking a proper care and love. She elopes in her mid-teens with 'Ramesh dada' , a married cousin and lover which leads to a life of debauchery and prostitution. She is a women of strength and resilience. She matures and settles in her profession and entertains men's from high society. She introspect's the hypocrisy as she places herself as a sex worker and that the men coming from high society possess great respect and stand high in their work areas and in social affairs yet they secretly fancy prostitutes. She even mentions her participation in Non-cooperation movement as a prostitute and working for social causes. This memoir presents to us a life of a women who is exploited yet she is empowered and honest.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Saurabh Sharma

    Manada Devi and the Literary Elevation of a ‘Fallen’ Woman First published on The Chakkar on 4 May 2021 Review blurb: “Floundering in a bottomless ocean”: A new English translation of Manada Devi’s landmark 1929 book, An Educated Woman in Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit underlines the historical and cultural value of this text. Review In a recently-published translation of her landmark 1929 memoir, Manada Devi recalls a set of “educated young men from cultured families” enter Manada Devi and the Literary Elevation of a ‘Fallen’ Woman First published on The Chakkar on 4 May 2021 Review blurb: “Floundering in a bottomless ocean”: A new English translation of Manada Devi’s landmark 1929 book, An Educated Woman in Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit underlines the historical and cultural value of this text. Review In a recently-published translation of her landmark 1929 memoir, Manada Devi recalls a set of “educated young men from cultured families” entering the theatre. Calcutta, her hometown, was becoming a unique cultural hotspot, and Devi observes epochal changes in literature as well as women-centric narratives in this time. She then probes this same society, which has given a ‘fallen’ tag to a prostitute, if the rest of them aren’t ‘fallen’ like she is. Her outlook and gaze resemble that of an informed individual—one mired in the juxtaposition of conformance and defiance. Shikshita Patitat Atmacharit (“Autobiography of an Educated Fallen Woman”) is arguably one of the seminal South Asian feminist texts—albeit a contested one. Since its first publication, the identity of the author Manada Devi Mukhopadhyay remains in question. Some think it’s a work by a male author, and others argue that Manada was indeed a real person. In its new translation in English, An Educated Woman in Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit (Calcutta, 1929), published this year by Simon & Schuster India, Arunava Sinha underlines, without rejecting the “motive of publishing Manada Devi’s work,” the historical and cultural value of this text. Born in 1900, Manada Devi was the first child of her parents, belonging to an affluent Bengali-Brahmin family. A story goes that her father spent 750 rupees in 1910 to get his wife’s photograph made in sepia stones! She wasn’t neglected on grounds of her gender. As she puts it, her father gave her all the freedom. But she was close to her mother, who passed away while giving birth to a stillborn child. She was just ten years old at the time, but asserts “no one could delude me with falsehoods or console me.” After her mother’s death, Devi would sleep in her “father’s room, on a second bed,” but one day she was told to sleep with her “pishima [aunt] from now on.” The next day, her stepmother arrives, who Devi mentions “possessed neither my mother’s gravity nor her ability to discipline me.” The stepmother, however, is no clichéd enemy: In a fictional narrative, this may be the significant moment where the conflict starts to build up and the story braids the personal and political, moral and immoral, right and wrong to advance the plot. But this is real life—however contested it may be—and it takes a significantly sharp turn. Tasting blood In the absence of specific requirements, Devi’s meetings with her father began to fade. Coupled with a lack of motherly love, she found comfort in storybooks recommended by her home tutor. However, her father insisted that her old-fashioned tutor be replaced with “someone familiar with teaching methods in schools and colleges.” This marked, as Devi writes, the beginning of her ruination. Devi’s new tutor, Mukul Bandyopadhyay, was attractive. She shares the minutest details of his appearance and the impact his looks had on her, making the sexual tension evident. He insisted that Devi address him by his name, offering a prelude to some high-octane action. Mukul-da, as Devi used to call him, pulled her into literature, unlike her previous tutor. Reading Shireen-Farhad’s story brought her great joy, she writes that she “felt a sleeping creative within me coming to life.” Devi takes this opportunity in this book to offer her gratitude and confess that she will “never be able to repay this [Mukul-da’s] debt of affection.” With the entry of Ramesh-da — Devi’s distant cousin, who approached her father for employment purposes — into her life, Devi felt, because of her proximity with these two men, an “unbridled sensuality” swelling in the “first flush of my youth.” Describing an intimate incident with Ramesh-da, she writes how she “was like a wild tiger who had tasted blood for the first time. There was no fear or repentance—on the contrary, my anxiety and hesitation disappeared. I realized that if there was an inclination there would always be opportunities.” She blames her present situation on books and stories. She’s smart but gullible at the same time, as she fell prey to Ramesh-da’s cunning plot to trick her into eloping with him to marry and start a new life. Later, having left by Ramesh-da in Mathura, she learned of how a life of rejection—by friends, family, and society—is fated to women alone. It makes one question, as Devi’s father’s social outlook was liberal: Wouldn’t he have accepted her if she had ‘returned home’ after this misadventure? Devi writes, toward the end of an “illicit” relationship, society “extols” a man’s virtues. It’s always a woman who has to face condemnation. To what degree this simplistic calculation, which is potentially convincing, influenced Devi’s decision to not return to her family is left for scholars to speculate and comment on. However, she did return, not to her family, but to Calcutta, the city of her birth. She began to live in a rescue institution, before eventually becoming a prostitute and “floundering in a bottomless ocean.” Rules of the business Though An Educated Woman… is a thin volume, it’s delightfully stuffed with details. Among other things, Devi provides insights into her journey of becoming a professional prostitute; however, she remains mindful of not alluding to her family members, well-known people, and other clientele as she has “no desire to disconcert them.” She writes about her bariwali (madam), Rani Mashi, who taught her how to cruise and lure men and informed her beforehand to not be surprised “to run into your own father in my room some day.” The profession brought with it much more than its bouts of excitement and thrill. Devi mentions the various occupational hazards, including popping pregnancy-prevention pills that eventually led to several diseases. She mentions how men often “robbed prostituted women and even murdered them at times.” Devi faced much of her own troubles along the way, but survived each time. After several years into this profession, Devi started enjoying the prospect of wooing people, building clientele, and having a strong presence in the entertainment circle. It’s evident when she mentions how she and her friends decided to “put ourselves out in the market, gauge the rate we can command and choose an appropriate price.” On being price-tagged, to the traditionalists, who ridicule women voluntarily choosing prostitution as a source of livelihood, Devi has a fundamental question to ask: “The lawyer sells his intellect, the teacher sells his education, even the spiritual leader sells his incantations; why should alluring women not sell their bodies then?” While there are risks and problems involved in every business, why does society take a moral high ground when it comes to sex workers? Journey to acceptance The initial bit of the memoir reads as if Devi has fully accepted herself, and is at complete peace with who she has become. She does mention that she was driven and passionate, but comments rather naïvely that religious books could’ve cured her ‘sexual drive’: “No one ever gave me books of piety that induced religious devotion in me, that taught me self-restraint.” She feels that “the young women and men of this land being led toward their death by going to the theatre and reading novels. I say this from my own experience; I am certain that others in my situation will testify in my support.” I am uncertain if professional sex workers will attest to Devi’s opinion, but this commentary on acceptance reads paradoxical, accusing oneself of one’s actions borne out of particular circumstances. It’s baffling to assess reading through many such conflicting segments of this prose whether it’s written by the same person. Devi responds rather emotionally to her present state but her stand remains firm about her profession, which makes readers feel that there are two different stories within one. Or this could be Devi’s defense mechanism to fight an internal conflict arriving out of this thought, as how an educated woman could be mired in the sex industry, as most enter the profession without a way out to another life. While often moral policing herself, Devi is a liberal and experimentative woman who reads “political news” and refuses to participate in a funeral procession of a political leader—whom she admired—out of shame because she thinks that prostitutes harmed his political movement. On many occasions, Devi writes how she has degraded, but her political assessment and active participation in intellectual pursuits seem to say otherwise. When a young Brahmin customer offers her a stylish and cultured life, she reflects whether “there a caste system in this [prostitution] world too?” She also outlines the dichotomy of acceptance of prostitutes by the society when she mentions how every man who frequents “the homes of women in prostitution furtively accept[s] every kind of food and drink they are offered—in fact, to use the word ‘accept’ is to leave the story incomplete; they feel grateful at the opportunity.” Her experience also allows her to appreciate that married people, who love “their wives also love their mistresses,” which in itself is a commentary on the definition of love, separating it from the mechanical act of sex. But the business of prostitution is as unforgiving in the same vein as the glitzy-and-glamorous Bollywood. Upon losing their sheen, a prostitute will settle for anything. Realising it sooner, Manada Devi, the educated prostituted woman, reinvents herself as a woman of taste. She reincarnates herself as ‘Miss Mukherjee’, who caters to a high-class and political clientele, organises tea parties, and participates in political discussions. She knew that educated men often played pimps for harlots, which is what she did by hiring two lawyers to attract a meaningful, rich audience. While I was reading Devi discussing Talaq Bill with influential people, arguing how society has laws to insults a “fallen” woman “but the same law works for ‘fallen’ men, for men write the law,” and how poets and novelists visit her “in search of realistic art and speak in culture voices, seeking to understand the true nature of art free of cost” at a tea party, the book abruptly ends. I wondered what happened to the promise that she made in several chapters to recount her customers’ and well-known people’s “stories where appropriate.” Arunava Sinha, whose astute translation elevates the beauty of this work, writes in the forward: “If Manada Devi’s story appears to end abruptly, it is left to us to investigate the reasons. Did events overtake her life in a way that prevented her from continuing with her memoir? How, in that case, did the manuscript find its way to a publisher? And what happened to Manada Devi eventually?” By providing the historical context, tabling unresolved questions, and piquing interest by supplying excerpts from several prefaces of various editions of this book, Sinha pivots the attention to the most critical tasks of being a reader: to examine, question, investigate, and pursue the motives and the positionality of a text that one is reading. He isn’t dismissive of the controversiality of the text but highlights the importance of culturally examining it. His translation is a renewal, reemergence of Devi’s poignant prose and voice, as he does with an array of translations he has done from the Bengali, a pursuit he has dedicated his life for, reviving stories that need telling and enriching the Indian literature in English. In its deft translation, which almost reads like a new creation, this memoir not only frontloads the ubiquitous pursuit of chasing adolescent desires, but does so much more. It tables the legitimacy of sex work, which the society profits from but is never ready to identify as a profession. This text also becomes an active site for exploring the evolution of cultural changes in Bengal and, in turn for the rest of India.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ipsita Das

    The day I first came across this book, I noticed that it's a memoir of some "Manada Devi." What struck me then was, who is this Manada Devi? And, a couple of minutes of browsing, reveals that "This book is an ANONYMOUS memoir!" Wahoo!! That's impressive. 😲🤯😬😍 The moment I consumed the book, I'm like: Damn! What did I read? 🥺🥺🥺 I ended up having some very mixed feelings. But what impressed me was the character of Manada. Her outlook, her vision, her life! Set in 1900s Calcutta, Manada's character ha The day I first came across this book, I noticed that it's a memoir of some "Manada Devi." What struck me then was, who is this Manada Devi? And, a couple of minutes of browsing, reveals that "This book is an ANONYMOUS memoir!" Wahoo!! That's impressive. 😲🤯😬😍 The moment I consumed the book, I'm like: Damn! What did I read? 🥺🥺🥺 I ended up having some very mixed feelings. But what impressed me was the character of Manada. Her outlook, her vision, her life! Set in 1900s Calcutta, Manada's character has a lot of layers which intrigues me the MOST. Sometimes, I am taken aback by surprise. How can a woman of that period has such an open-minded outlook towards life! And seldom, I used to feel like, What is she even talking! I share a very love-hate relationship with Manada. But I'm deeply touched by her life story! "An Educated Woman in Prostitution" accounts for the memories of the suffering and repentance Manada has experienced as a "women in prostitution." "My tears know no bounds today as I write of my tragic life. All the tears that I have shed all these years have, it seems to me, gathered at my mother's feet to moisten the dried lines of red on them and make them fresh again." (Manada, "An Educated Women in Prostitution.") 💔 Born in an elite class Bengali Brahmin family, Manada receives top-class education. Her father provided her with all the privileges one could have asked for in that era. She was acquainted with contemporary literature, theatres, and music. But after her father's re-marriage, she started growing apart from him. She mostly spends her days with her tutor, Mukul dada, her cousins Nanda dada and Ramesh dada, and her dear friend Kamala. But her carefree, cheerful life days didn't last long. One day, she decides to elope with Ramesh dada and marry him eventually. The decision changed her life altogether. After a while, Ramesh dada abandoned her and left her penny less in the streets of Mathura. And consequent circumstances eventually forced her to choose the roads of Prostitution to sustain hereafter. And, a new chapter of her life begins! This powerful social commentary documents the ups and downs of the life of prostitutes. Maanu, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, or Miss Mukherjee, our protagonist, leads a life that apparently seems to be exploitative, but in reality, it's also empowering and honest. She has several high-society men as 'clients,' who call her "untouchables" in broad daylight but visit her every night for the sake of pleasure. "It appears a "fallen" woman is valueless. Insulting her cannot lead to a claim of slander in the eyes of the law. But the same law works for "fallen" men, for men write the law. " That's the HYPOCRISY of our society! I haven't read such a compelling social commentary in a long while. What appeals to me is how vividly Manada penned her sexual desires, which is quite uncommon, coming from a woman of that era. "..... the seeds of carnality were sown once again in my heart. The temptation of devil reappeared with the promise of pleasures of paradise. I was bewitched once more." However, with time she also realises, "By now I knew only too well that meeting physical needs alone did not amount to giving love- food and clothing were not a tender touch- love and affection was a matter of the heart, they went deep within their feelings." While I was in complete awe of Manada's character, I disagree with her in a few places. I didn't quite like her idea of bashing the freedom she got in her adolescence. I believe your education, freedom, access to contemporary literatures, art, music can't be held guilty. It's your conscience, your rationality, and your perseverance that play a more significant part. Often it's you and your life choices, which influence the path you walk. "An Educated Woman in Prostitution" is the story of Manada, who was competent, attractive, and someone who never asked for sympathy even when she was struggling with illness, poverty, and abandonment. I urge each one of you to read this beautiful book. A novel that is bold and much, much ahead of its time. There is just one tiny regret. Wish I could know who is this Manada Devi! ☹ Lastly, I want to mention Arunava Sinha did a fabulous job with the translation. Never for a second, I feel it's a translated novel. Overall, it was a very, very satisfying read with some glitches!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Piyali Kundu

    An Educated Woman In Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit (Calcutta, 1929) By Manada Devi Well, now I am starting with this and I don't know where it will end and how it will turn out to be- maybe a review, an analysis, my thoughts, anything, or maybe nothing, I really don't know, as I am writing it very spontaneously. Well, first things first, a woman's honour and chastity is not in her vagina! Today I am not here to justify that though. This book has a lot to offer, and I mean An Educated Woman In Prostitution: A Memoir of Lust, Exploitation, Deceit (Calcutta, 1929) By Manada Devi Well, now I am starting with this and I don't know where it will end and how it will turn out to be- maybe a review, an analysis, my thoughts, anything, or maybe nothing, I really don't know, as I am writing it very spontaneously. Well, first things first, a woman's honour and chastity is not in her vagina! Today I am not here to justify that though. This book has a lot to offer, and I mean it. I finished reading it quite a few days back and I got so immersed in it that I fell short of words when it came to formulating a well-structured book review. It's a memoir, a story of one woman, and many other women, a number of cities with many stories that we do not know, a number of lives that we often judge without knowing! If you are picking up this book with the expectation of getting a highly thrilled and crisp read, you won't be satisfied. This memoir is a compilation of various incidents that took place in Manada Devi's life, and the best part is Manada Devi voiced out her thoughts and opinions in such a raw form that it will provoke your thoughts. Goes without saying that Arunava Sinha did a perfect job in translating this book from Bengali to English, with his strong grip on storytelling to attract the readers! Well, you need to shed of your judgements while reading this book, only then you will get to absorb the true essence of it. The book neither glorifies, nor abolishes the practice of prostitution. The book talks about the life of a prostitute, the book talks about a multitude of emotions that a prostitute goes through, that we "normal" humans fail to contemplate. You will often find Manada Devi being suffering from dilemmas and you will find her oscillate between contradictions, just like "us". At times you will find her laying down her "opinions" infront of the "powerful men", which actually inspired me. The strength in her voice, the agony in her soul, the plight in her thoughts, and the ray of hope in her dreams will keep you going. The book will somewhat end on a very abrupt note and we don't know what happened after that. Well, a lot of scholars and researchers drew conclusions on that but it's up to you to decide whether you are going to believe that. It really moved me, and I hope it will move you too! I highly recommend this book to all of you (better if 13+) . This was all I had to say probably, I can't find anymore words! :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Desca Ang

    This review is taken from my IG account @descanto Manada Devi was born into a noble family and is an educated young lady. Things have changed for Devi when she experienced her first sexual awakenings and decided to elope with her married cousin, Ramesh-dada. They lived like a nomad for some time until Ramesh-dada left her. Stranded and penniless, she found out that she’s pregnant with the man’s baby; sadly she had miscarriage. Poor young Devi later went through several hardships while leading her This review is taken from my IG account @descanto Manada Devi was born into a noble family and is an educated young lady. Things have changed for Devi when she experienced her first sexual awakenings and decided to elope with her married cousin, Ramesh-dada. They lived like a nomad for some time until Ramesh-dada left her. Stranded and penniless, she found out that she’s pregnant with the man’s baby; sadly she had miscarriage. Poor young Devi later went through several hardships while leading her to pick an occupation as a prostitute. ‘An Educated Woman in Prostitution’ is a memoir written in the colonial times of the early 1900s by Manada Devi. She traces her roots from the day she was born to the love-starved she experienced when she's a kid and the loneliness she has been through. Life wasn't easy for her but she's one hell of a woman that has shown people different perspectives about life. She has shown people the meaning of resilience. On the other hand, she also criticises the society and the hypocrisy in it. She has shown a fact that people carry some layers which they try to show to people: even those reputable men are not a saint when it comes to a carnal desire. Devi also takes the readers to see prostitution as an occupation in different perspectives. I always adore those who work in the business of pleasure department. I think it is a tough job and it requires a high-skilled person to do so. Imagine that you have to master such seductive skills , to smile and to pretend to be happy to please people. And when you're with your client, you will have to think of a way to finish the business quickly so you can go to the next clients (in order to gather many clients you can). Your tummy and the people you afford may not be able to wait for your return with some rewards. Your clients may not always be so kind and generous. Yet the society still put the blame on you just because your penis is socially castrated. People may think that what is written in the book is outdated. To me, the issues raised are still relatable. Here is the doxa that we always live with in the society that favours men: a woman who f- around is referred to as a slut while a man who does the same will be considered as a stud.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anju Vincent

    "Since you have chosen this path, you will see many new things. You will see a daughter plying her trade as a woman in prostitution in full view of her father. You will see a mother dressing up a girl born of her own womb every night to take in customers. You will see a prostituted woman’s family supporting themselves on her earnings. It is not just we women who have fallen—all of society has gone the same way.’' An educated woman in prostitution is a memoir of Manada Devi. She was born in a fina "Since you have chosen this path, you will see many new things. You will see a daughter plying her trade as a woman in prostitution in full view of her father. You will see a mother dressing up a girl born of her own womb every night to take in customers. You will see a prostituted woman’s family supporting themselves on her earnings. It is not just we women who have fallen—all of society has gone the same way.’' An educated woman in prostitution is a memoir of Manada Devi. She was born in a financially stable Brahmin family, high society, Kolkata. Her mother was died when she was five years old. Years later her father remarried. Her stepmother was only one year older than her! After this her father completely abandoned her. She had better education. Supporting cousins, friends and tutor. Inspite of having all these luxuries she ran away with a distant cousin, out of love at the age of fifteen ended up becoming a prostitute. The book focused mainly on the emotions and lives of prostituted women. And also about Mahandma Gandhi's protests against British. How they gave their small efforts and contribution to all those revolutionary movements. I remember watching a Malayalam movie, Calcutta News, starring Dileep and Meera Jasmine. Showing the other side of Kolkata, the lives of prostituted women. While reading this book I was thinking about that particular movie! No women will never wish to become a prostitute! Some are cheated by their husbands and boyfriends, some are trapped, some other are chosen because of poverty and all! They say Prostitution is a sin! Prostitutes are wrong! But how can a woman alone become a prostitute! A man is Also responsible! Then why women are wrong and men are right? Sinful path? She's not alone in the path! Did she? There's a man too! Why all the blames for woman only! What the hell is this word PURITY!? Why is it only applicable to women and not men? Now coming to this book, I didn't like it much. The beginning was fine, untill fourth chapter I enjoyed it. But after that I felt this book has lost its flow and Manada Devi had so many other options to live! And she didn't even consider any! I don't feel it's realistic. 🌟🌟🌟

  29. 5 out of 5

    Thegirlwithkindle

    Manada Devi also known as Miss Mukherjee,  Feroza Bibi and Maani didi,  writes about her life as a prostitute. we don't know if this character is actually real or not.  According to the manuscript Manada Devi was born in  Calcutta into a high class Brahmin  family. She was sent to Bethune school, had private tutor teaching her literature. At an young age she lost her mother and being neglected by her stepmother and father  she found comfort with her cousins.  Her male cousin Ramesh dada exploite Manada Devi also known as Miss Mukherjee,  Feroza Bibi and Maani didi,  writes about her life as a prostitute. we don't know if this character is actually real or not.  According to the manuscript Manada Devi was born in  Calcutta into a high class Brahmin  family. She was sent to Bethune school, had private tutor teaching her literature. At an young age she lost her mother and being neglected by her stepmother and father  she found comfort with her cousins.  Her male cousin Ramesh dada exploited her at a tender age of 15 when she eloped with him and ended up pregnant and left all alone. She was disown by her father and with bad company lands  in prostitution.. As a reader Ihave taken the book way too seriously and somehow I  am pissed off with the character and her callousness. Why did she choose prostitution?  She wasnt forced !There is a line in the book which say ' the lawyer sells his intellect, teachers sells his education even the spiritual leader sells his incantations ; why should alluring  women not sell their body then? And this line heard from a prostitute made Manada Devi choose this world. She has mention that with her education she could have easily done jobs like teaching children which would have let her live a  respectful life but with bad company she  choose the road to hell.  In my opinion I don't feel its the bad company  which dragged her to hell it was her decision, her willingness, the lust which   made her  join the group. The book also mention about very famous people like Vidya Sagar, Shib Nath Shahtri,  CR Das who in that time period were  actually fighting for women's right which includes widow remarriage or saving women who were abused by family or disowned, by giving them shelter . In fact she was been constantly told to leave the place and start something new. But I guess scanty education  lead her to ruin her own life with arrogance pouring in. . Written in simple language, an eye opening revelation on the colonial time period in Bengal. The rich literature which calls for the revolution. So much of thoughts I have for this book. Do read it . Also do give it a thought did the orthodox society change yet in this century?

  30. 4 out of 5

    RV Madhuri

    Book review - " An educated woman in prostitution: A memoir of Lust, exploitation , deceit. Author- Manabi Devi Genre - Memoir , social issues. The book was written in Calcutta in 1929 and there has been several editions since. One needs to bear in mind the social, economic and political situation India was embroiled in while reading this book. The story is about the author - who is know my several names in the book each depicting a phase of her life. Manada, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, Miss Mukherjee Book review - " An educated woman in prostitution: A memoir of Lust, exploitation , deceit. Author- Manabi Devi Genre - Memoir , social issues. The book was written in Calcutta in 1929 and there has been several editions since. One needs to bear in mind the social, economic and political situation India was embroiled in while reading this book. The story is about the author - who is know my several names in the book each depicting a phase of her life. Manada, Maani didi, Feroza Bibi, Miss Mukherjee were few of her identities. Through this, the author gave a honest yet guilt ridden memoir of her life. A life which she was both forced to choose as well as she herself surrendered to the enthralling traps it laid across her. From being a dutiful daughter to a ardent reader to a lovelorn adolescent to a excited girl friend to a married man to a pseudo wife to a mother who lost her baby to a prostitute. She donned several hats. Each time , she kept cursing the books, novels and the poems she read to her current state of affairs.She blamed her father for neglecting her. It felt like she was searching for reasons to pass on a part of her guilt and wretched existence to someone, anyone. Though the author mourned her current entrapment throughout her life, she was not dishonest in accepting the joy she got from the pleasures the flesh. Her candid confessions only made her more humane and real. The book exposed several dark corners of the pre independent indian society which is seldom read in textbooks or get to discuss. Many were shocking but then again, when has the situation of women been safe or saintly in this land of spirituality and religions ? One hardly finds a book where the author openly accepts her transgressions and at the same time, progresses from a naive girl to a mature women who seems to master the vagaries of life. I recommend this book to history lovers who want a different perspective on the social life of the erstwhile Indian society riddled with it's own fallacies.

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