Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars

Sonia Faleiro met 19-year-old Leela while she was researching an article on Bombay's "bar dancers," the thousands of maltreated, disenfranchised, often alarmingly young girls who make their livings performing for men in dark bars, frequently selling sex at the behest of pimps.

Beautiful Thing is Leela's story, but through her, Faleiro unveils a larger narrative of Bombay's bar dancers and sex workers, one colored by love and violence, glamour and squalor, sex and corruption--and one that reveals the dark heart of Bombay itself. The city and its dance bars attract girls like Leela, who are lured into working "on the line" because of the immediate financial independence it promises. Faleiro discovered that these young women were fleeing horrifying home lives rife with every kind of abuse; she recounts that "every one of the bar dancers in Leela's building had either been raped by a blood relative or sold by one." But even though life on the line is a landmine of danger and exploitation, Leela relishes the freedom it seems to allow her.

Faleiro follows Leela through a year of her life. She meets a vibrant, heartbreaking array of dancers, prostitutes and hijras (physiologically male sex workers who dress and act as women), as well as the pimps, madams, gangsters and corrupt police who govern their lives.

Never judgmental or condescending, Faleiro delivers Leela's story with a reporter's distance and a novelist's immediacy. Leela moves through the pages as a remarkable, tragic and inspiring figure--victim, heroine, survivor. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Powered by: Xtenit