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The 'dance' of life

Sonia Faleiro, an award winning reporter and writer, is all set to release her second book Beautiful Things: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars. The author speaks to Aditi Caroli about her book, experience in Mumbai's dance bars...

books Updated: Nov 01, 2010 15:23 IST
Aditi Caroli
Aditi Caroli
Hindustan Times

Sonia Faleiro, an award winning reporter and writer, is all set to release her second book Beautiful Things: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars. This book is the biggest story she has done as a journalist, which stands on five years of research in Mumbai's dance bars.

This non-fiction book is about a 19-year-old bar dancer Leela and through her it narrates the story of Bombay's dance bars, underworld, cops, politicians, prostitutes, eunuchs and crooks. In a broader perspective, it's a comment on our society and its role in destroying the lives of people. Leela represents the majority of our country.

Drawing parallels between the protagonists' life in Mumbai noir and her life as a woman, Sonia says, "The story revolves around the ban on the dance bars in Bombay and its consequence which left 75 thousand women unemployed. In a bigger context, it's a metaphor about who we are as people and how we treat each other. On one hand it's a story about Leela and Bombay noir, and on the other hand, it shows how we treat women. We degrade and humiliate them, so what does it say about India?"

Author Sonia FaleiroThe author met Leela in a dance bar in South Bombay, through someone in bar business. "Leela attracted my attention incredibly. She was young, beautiful, charismatic, sharp, quick and witty. I knew this was the person with whom I can have a serious conversation and learn about the world of dance bars," says Sonia.

Sonia's first book, The Girl, was fiction and now, Beautiful Things, is non-fiction. What is more satisfying for her as a writer? She is quick to reply, "I have to say non-fiction. The reason I write non-fiction is because I have questions about the world and what's happening around me. And as a reporter, I am the best person to answer it. I'm not the sort of person who says what can I do or how will I find out. This is my job and I enjoy doing it."

Both her books have been women centric. Is that a coincidence or a deliberate attempt? After contemplating for a while, she explains, "I'm more sympathetic towards women not just because I'm a women but because I do feel that in our society, however much we may have progressed and developed, the fact is that the lives of many women are not as full as they should be and they do not receive same opportunities as men do. This disparity affects not just them but their families and society as a whole."

The book titled, Beautiful Things: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars, is a tribute to Leela. "The title is just a compliment to Leela because that is what came to my mind when I first saw her and assessed who she was and her place in the world," says Sonia.

Thousands of bar dancers were jobless when the state government had shut down the dance bars. Sonia feels they should be provided with skills and education for their livelihood, "We are talking about a group of women who are often forced to enter into traditional professions like dancing or sex work or other forms of entertainment and they are trained only for this. If that profession is denied to them, then they have no skills to function in any other capacity in society."

Writer Philip Gourevitch (We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families) and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Random Family) have influenced Sonia the most. Other than books, she enjoys theatre, live-concerts and traveling with her half Swedish half American husband. She's a contributing editor with Vogue and writes about books, films and art.

What's next in the pipeline? "Another book of non-fiction written in a similar style that will hopefully engage readers. It would be a story about a different community but told with the same story-telling technique."

The book will pull the readers out of their comfort zone and take them to the realms of Mumbai noir.

William Dalrymple will release Beautiful Things on November 1.

First Published: Oct 31, 2010 17:41 IST