Portrait of a Bombay Bar Dancer
When Sonia Faleiro set out to report on Bombay’s bar dancers, she thought she knew what she would find: voiceless, downtrodden women, the helpless victims of predictable poverty.
Instead she meets Leela: nineteen, charismatic and fearlessly outspoken, Leela has been dancing in Bombay’s bars since she was thirteen. With her sharp wit and stubborn optimism, she is the best-paid dancer in a bar on the notorious Mira Road, where she dances to Bollywood film music. She has a ‘husband’ (who is already married), a few lovers whose names she can’t remember, an insufferable mother camping out in her flat, and an adored best friend. But when an ambitious politician shuts down the city’s dance bars, Leela is forced into the most precarious kind of sex work – and must trade her proud independence for mere survival.
Beautiful Thing is the vivid, intimate portrait of a young woman fleeing abuse and poverty to build a life on her own terms, in a city equally bent on reinventing itself. And it is the compelling story of an unlikely friendship, as two young women from different worlds pit their wits against the whims of mercurial Bombay.
From Leela’s point of view, our friendship was an adventure. She was seven years younger than me, but only she could teach me what I wanted to know.
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‘A small masterpiece of observation and intimate reportage.’—William Dalrymple
‘A magnificent book.’—Kiran Desai
‘Unforgettable’—Gregory David Roberts
“an engaging, colourful story” - the Herald Sun
“Faleiro’s sharp observational prose and novelistic characterisation makes this a gripping read, as well as an enlightening one” - The Big Issue
‘[An] intimate and valuable book of literary reportage.' – The New York Times
The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year, 2011
A Guardian, Observer, and Economist Best Book of the Year, 2011