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The Last Courtesan: Writing My Mother's Memoir

The Last Courtesan: Writing My Mother's Memoir

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The 1993 Bow Bazaar bomb blast in Calcutta brought an end to the kothas in the busy commercial district. Over the next few years, as dance bars and disco music replaced the old-world charm of mujras, kathak and thumri, the tawaifs began to abandon the profession. Rekhabai, a courtesan, found herself at a crossroads, facing an uncertain future. Where should she go? What should she do next?

Originally from the Kanjarbhat tribe, Rekhabai was sold and trained as a tawaif while she was still a child. In the 1980s, when kothas were no longer recognized as centres for aesthetics, and society disapproved of the tawaif's art, as they felt it was sex work in the guise of adakari (performance), Rekhabai made a name for herself in Calcutta and Bombay as a singing-dancing star. It was an era when she had to dodge guns, goons and Ghalib's ghazals to carve out her own destiny, provide for her large family and raise her son in an English-medium boarding school.

In this poignant memoir, she narrates the unbelievable story of her survival to her son with candour, grace and humour, never missing a beat and always full of heart.

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indian / Manish Gaekward / memoir / memoirs and biographies / nonfiction /