Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
By Balli Kaur Jaswal
Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realises that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
I picked up this novel as Reese Witherspoon had it as one of her book club picks, Reese described this book as “Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows, has something for everyone: It’s a mystery, a romance, a family drama… Most of all, it’s about how women across all generations can come together to change their community.” and I won’t lie the title of the novel drew me in as well. I absolutely adored this book! Please don’t get put off by the title it’s not just a sexy romance novel it is so much more than that! This is a story about women finding the courage to break away from traditional values and beliefs and engage in something creative, sexy, passionate and more importantly its a story about these women finding a voice.
The novel mainly revolves around Nikki, a very modern Sikh, she smokes and drinks, she is a law school drop out, she works in a pub, she dresses modern and she’s broke. Breaking away from many traditional values, she is a rebel but she is kind, brave, witty and respects her community. To take up some extra cash she decides to become an english teacher at the local Sikh Temple. However the Punjabi widows are not interested in learning to read or write they wish to tell erotic fantasy tales… and these stories are pretty raunchy!
I think what makes this book so compelling is the mix of lighthearted fun and humour combined with the more serious storyline of a possible murder in the community. The death of Kulwinder’s daughter Maya is a large part of the story, how it happened, the secrets behind it, who knows about it, what really did happen, and Kulwinder’s constant fear of being threatened. I thought it was great layering the fun witty side of the book with this powerful drama.
What I also loved about this novel was the way that Jaswal captured the Sikh community and religion, I got a better idea of the pros and cons on arranged marriages, how the elders were respected, what was “right and wrong” in their religion. Also the strong sense of of community that the ladies and everyone in the novel was a part of. I felt the Sikh community was pictured as very inspirational, these women looked out for each other, cared for each other and loved each other like family. How many of you can say you have a large group of people like this around you on a daily basis? They stick together as one and are an incredible support network for each other which I just found amazing. Within this community you could see the differences between the younger more modern Sikhs, such as Nikki and Jason, then there were the more elderly characters of the “english class” who were respected and traditional. What I found hilarious was when the elder ladies looked down at Nikki for smoking or drinking yet they were the ones writing…basically pornography!
I think if I had to compare this with anything it would probably be the film Calendar Girls, A fun, flirty film showing the older generation pushing boundaries and giving themselves a voice, balanced with the heartwarming, touching drama I feel this film and Punjabi Widows both give.
The novel is full of lies, secrets, danger, fun, drama, flirting, I loved the desire element mixed in with the suspense and darker undertones. I can’t recommend this book enough, funny, sexy and full of drama and well written what more do you want?
Have you read this book before? What did you think? If you haven’t read it do you think you will give it a go? Get in touch I would love to know. Thanks for reading. Katie x