Genre: Fiction

Author: Saraswati Pratikshya

I've had 'Nathiya' for years now. At one point, I started this book and left off after a few pages. But recently, I picked up this book again, and this time I couldn't stop turning pages—I finished it in a couple of days. Oh man, the feelings I felt after reading this book—they were a lot! I can't believe that a community had to live a life like that because systematic discrimination leaves you with no other options!

Nathiya tells the story of the Badi community, particularly the Badi women of Nepal. These women were forced into prostitution from a young age to support their families. Through the story of Samali Badi and the supporting characters, this book shines a light on the reality of the Badi community in Nepal—their history, the discrimination they faced as 'untouchables,' and the pressure on women in this community to engage in prostitution.

Samali Badi is the protagonist of this story. Let me warn you already, if you decide to pick up this book, you'll need a strong heart to go through Samali's journey. It may even be triggering for some readers, so brace yourself!

When Samali is born, the whole family celebrates her arrival. She is beautiful, and for a Badi family, having a beautiful baby girl who will grow into an attractive woman is seen as a blessing. Samali's mother, who did not fit societal beauty standards, takes pride in giving birth to a daughter as beautiful as Samali. With her daughter's birth, she forgets all the worries and bullying she endured throughout her life.

Samali is raised with an abundance of love and care. Even with their little resources, her mother ensures that Samali is fed the best food available and adorned in pretty dresses from the market. Naturally, Samali’s only sibling, her brother, resents her for being the constant focus of attention and care. Little did he know that his sister was being nurtured and cared for with the expectation that she would eventually become the breadwinner of the household by engaging in prostitution. Samali’s family understood that a beautiful girl in the house meant they wouldn’t have to worry about their finances anymore.

Samali loves her Nathiya, the nose ring. In her community, every girl wears the Nathiya until her first customer removes it. It’s a special day for the family when Nathiya is taken off, it’s a matter of pride. The customer compensates the family with cash, jewelry, food items, etc.  With Nathiya being taken off, the girl is officially in the market to start her business. Samali does not want to remove her Nathiya. But her choices do not matter.

This is the story of Samali and women like her who had no control over their lives. It's the portrayal of systematic discrimination and how it permeates every aspect of existence. It's the narrative of the tragedy of being forced back into something you desperately try to escape yet you cannot. This is a heartbreaking story for sure! I was not okay after reading the story and I cannot even imagine the unimaginable weight of living through such experiences for years for the women of the Badi community.

I have a faint memory of Badi women making headlines back in 2007, but at that age, I was not curious enough to ask more questions to learn about this community any further. However, after reading this book, I did some Google searches to find that there was a movement lasting 48 days in 2007, led by Uma Devi Badi to protest for the rights of the Badi community. Following this movement, prostitution and untouchability were declared illegal. Yet, as I read more recent articles, a common theme emerged: despite these legal changes, the Badi community continues to grapple with securing decent living conditions, education, and employment opportunities.

Overall, it's a good book. I appreciate the writer for shedding light on the stories of the Badi community, and I hope that local government authorities work towards helping this community secure their rights.

Well, thanks for taking the time to read this blog post!

See you again! 😊

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