The dancing girls of Lahore inhabit the Diamond Market in the shadow of a great mosque. The twenty-first century goes on outside the walls of this ancient quarter but scarcely registers within. Though their trade can be described with accuracy as prostitution, the dancing girls have an illustrious history: Beloved by emperors and nawabs, their sophisticated art encompassed the best of Mughal culture. The modern-day Bollywood aesthetic, with its love of gaudy spectacle, music, and dance, is their distant legacy. But the life of the pampered courtesan is not the one now being lived by Maha and her three girls. What they do is forbidden by Islam, though tolerated; but they are gandi, "unclean," and Maha's daughters, like her, are born into the business and will not leave it.
Sociologist Louise Brown spent four years in the most intimate study of the family life of a Lahori dancing girl. With beautiful understatement, she turns a novelist's eye on a true story that beggars the imagination. Maha, a classically trained dancer of exquisite grace, had her virginity sold to a powerful Arab sheikh at the age of twelve; when her own daughter Nena comes of age and Maha cannot bring in the money she once did, she faces a terrible decision as the agents of the sheikh come calling once more.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.05(d)|
About the Author
Louise Brown is an academic at Birmingham University, England, and the author of several books on Asia. She frequently returns to Lahore, Pakistan.
Date of Birth:June 1, 1963
Place of Birth:Stone, Staffordshire, England
Education:B.A. Honors in Medieval and Modern History
Read an Excerpt
"We Were Artists . . . Not Gandi Kanjri"
(Hot Season: April - June 2000)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book gives a very good in depth view of the lives of the men and women who live in the Lahore red light district. Although the lives of most that we meet are sad and inescapable it helps us to gain insight into other parts of the world. I really enjoyed the book.
This book provided a very real snap shot into the lives of the women in Lahore's red light district. Very real and honest. It was also a very interesting glance into the practices and beliefs of Muslims in Pakistan. My only complaint is that I felt the heart of the book took place in the end. I found myself wanting to hear more about the adult lives of the main character's daughters. But I also realize this book was primarily intended for academic research, not entertainment, and since it is non-fiction, their story is still unfolding. Perhaps a sequel.....
Rather than being simply a collection of statistics and essays about prostitution or women's disempowerment, this book takes the reader right into the heart of one family's experience. Louise Brown lives for several years in Heera Mandi, particularly with one woman, "Maha," and her family. Brown eats their food, attends their parties, participates in their religious festivals, and sees the children grow older---and, sadly, sees the generationl cycle of prostitution carrying itself on in the maturing children. There are also fascinating sojourns with other people in Heera Mandi, including other prostitutes, pimps, an artist, and a family of Christian street-sweepers.The book does an excellent job of describing and evoking the sights, sounds and smells of Heera Mandi and elsewhere, and of bringing the people and places to vivid life. As well, Brown admirably portrays the people therein not as faceless caricatures or pitiable Third-World statistics, but as living humans with dignity and worth, humans who sometimes show great resilience in adapting to or resisting the often bleak circumstances into which they are born.It is a book that is as moving as it is informative.
Dancing Girls is a little too long but well written. Brown from England, lives in the Pleasure District for weeks at a time. This can be very painful reading, very young girls are raised to be prostitutes, neglect and abuse are rampant. But I am curious as to how and why Brown (an academic) can leave her own daughters back in England.