LEWISTON – A program of readings from the contemporary Indian novel “The Diary of a Maidservant” will be presented by its English-language translator Sagaree Sengupta at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26, at the Lewiston Public Library.

The event, which is open to the public free of charge, will take place in the Couture Room on the first floor of the library.

Written by the prominent modern Hindi novelist Krishna Baldev Vaid, “The Diary of a Maidservant” tells the story of Shanti, a young woman who works as a domestic for middle-class families living in a new area of a major Indian city. She leaves her family’s one-room home every morning to make a cleaning and cooking tour of several wealthier households.

When a benevolent mistress, Mrs. Varma, gives her a notebook to use as a diary so that she can improve her writing skills as well as her understanding of herself, Shanti complies and thus begins a habit that will become a compulsion. In her journal, Shanti examines herself, her family, her masters and mistresses, her circle of friends, and relationships between men and women. The novel describes the limits of good intentions in a society where firm class divisions still exist, while giving evidence of the power of writing – and of the creative arts in general – to lift an individual’s consciousness.

A senior writer of modern Hindi with more than 40 volumes of fiction, drama and criticism to his credit, Vaid is known for his tendency to challenge Indian readers with his bold writing on relationships between the sexes and uncomfortable class realities. Although translations of some of his previous works exist in English and other languages, his fiction merits greater attention and recognition in the world outside India, said Sengupta.

Vaid spent some 20 years as an English professor in the United States, and this immersion in European literature served to sharpen rather than dull the author’s focus on Indian subjects, said Sengupta.

Sengupta is an independent writer, scholar and translator who has taught part time as a member of the Asian Studies faculty at Bates College since 2004. She was born in India and came to the United States with her family at age 8. She holds a Ph.D. in Asian studies from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in South Asian studies from the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University. She has taught numerous courses in South Asian literature, languages and civilization at the universities of Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin prior to moving to Maine.

The library is at 200 Lisbon St. For more information, call 513-3135.

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