While this would be a book that I would normally consider a ‘light’ read, I must admit that I enjoyed it very much!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows centres around Nikki, the daughter of Sikh parents living in London, England. Having abandoned her father’s dream of her becoming a lawyer, she finds herself working in a bar while trying to figure out what she really wants to do in her life. Having embraced the life of a modern woman in her twenties, she regularly comes into conflict with her mother’s view of how and where she should be living. Nikki’s life becomes interesting when she impulsively and successfully applies to teach a ‘creative writing’ class in a local Sikh community centre. However, her students, who are a group of Punjabi widows, believe that they are coming to a class to learn basic English literacy. The intersection of their varying goals for this class gets very interesting.
There is an East Indian cultural narrative that is woven throughout the story which is very revealing and the reader is witness to the struggle that young people face when intertwining cultural tradition with modern ways. Additionally, we get a glimpse into the challenging life of an immigrant and the lengths to which they will go to create a sense of security and familiarity in their new country.
Layered on top of that is the repressed sexuality of the Punjabi widows who have gathered to share, in written form, their dreams, fantasies and amorous experiences. The women, who have had varied degrees of matrimonial experiences in the bedroom, are eager to break free from the cultural chains that left many of them to be merely housemaids, child bearers and receptacles for their husband’s desires. The stories they create are lush with sensuality and imagination and they bring comfort and a sense of unity to the widows. However, the need to keep their activities secret is intense within the confines of a community kept in cultural check by the Brotherhood, a gang of self-appointed militia, whose mission is to keep people true to the doctrines and strictures of the faith. Nikki’s relentless support of her ‘students’ places her in serious danger with the Brotherhood and others who see her as a threat to their cultural cohesion. As one would expect, word about the stories does eventually leak and many people within the community begin to benefit from the tales being spun in the ‘Learn to Write English’ class being held at the temple. A sensuous romp!