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13 Lessons From A Morally Wounded Woman

A deeply disturbing, gritty, unapologetic story of a sex worker by choice, that at first made me think it was a true account. Bravo!

Trigger Warning: This deals with child sexual abuse, violence against women, sexual violence, rape culture, trafficking, and may be triggering for survivors.

When I looked at the title and flipped through Aarushi Ahluwalia’s 13 Lessons From A Morally Wounded Woman the first time, I expected the narrative to dive into a melancholic, burdened journey. Isn’t that expected when the plot promises to track the evolution of a stifled child into an elite sex worker? Lessons from a morally wounded woman are bound to be steeped in gloom and despair.

Isn’t it?

Not quite. It is anything but that.

Quite unexpectedly, the narrative sidesteps its presumed axis and branches out of defeatism in its own convoluted way. All this, while dissecting patriarchy and amplifying the hidden everyday sexism in the life of a protagonist, who thrives on her spunk and ability to dodge societal constraints.

A world full of deeply disturbing characters

Her world is full of distinct and, at times, deeply disturbing characters. Yet each is distinct from another and referred to aptly by their character traits.

I was shaken by the introduction of the pedophile and protagonist’s rapist—Mr. Boiled Chicken. Their interaction and the ensuing molestation are challenging to read and not for the faint-hearted. A mixture of dismay, revolt, and disgust tints the ache one feels for the victim. If this was the author’s intention, then she accomplishes it with élan.

The relationship between the protagonist and her hypocritical mother forms the central pivot of the story. Her controlling rules, when threatened by autonomy and sexual assertion by her daughter, are borderline offensive and, at times, unimaginable. Yet one is not spared the realization that this could very well be the truth for many.

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More creepy characters surge in as the narrative progresses. Apart from a pedophile, there is an Imaginary and Actual Abusive boyfriend, an Only friend, a sugar daddy, a righteous pimp, and the like.

The potent mixture showcases the unsightly underbelly of society in all its glory.

A choice “dream” of being a sex worker, despite traumatic back stories

Though we witness the abuse and exploitation in its various obnoxious shades right from the protagonist’s childhood, it seems disconcerting that she chooses to be a professional sex worker.

She has no qualms about suffering repeated, life-threatening abuse and owning the term and the implications. We are given a peek into her troubled mind, yet it is done in a detached tone.

The protagonist, armed with a devil-may-care attitude that sometimes shifts into a motherly persona, runs a shelter for abused women with her friend. She ranges from being crude and selfish to aloof and uninterested. Sometimes the façade slips, and readers get a glimpse of the vulnerable, insecure child hiding within, dictating her self-effacing lifestyle choices.

Often referred to as numbers, the women under her care have harrowing backstories—subtly hinting at society’s double standards.

I especially liked how these women come across as more authentic and respectable than those who have wronged them.

Shrewd social commentary

The remarks on Delhi as a city are sharp, clever, and biting. Though my love for this city is boundless, I couldn’t help but nod at her shrewd sarcasm.

The simple sentences hide a depth of meaning—blunt, no-holds-barred, just like the life the lead character prefers to lead.

Nowhere in the book does the author romanticize the sisterhood within the marginalized women. In the end, when push comes to shove, and everything falls apart, it is apparent that everyone is primarily responsible for their own well-being.

Startling statements as chapter titles

It’s a short, sparse, and easy-to-read book. The intriguing rules that serve as chapter headings hook you into finishing it in one sitting. Yet the bitter realities pointed out in each chapter dictate pondering and reflection. Take a gander at a few of the chapter headings to understand what I mean:

The easiest way to get a man to leave is to have sex with him

If you sell what they want to rob you can live without fear

If you wish to see the real truth of your marriage, end it.

The book is not without a few shortcomings. The protagonist suffers so much vitriol yet blooms into a mature, sensible individual. Though she is broken, she is still put together in an empowering and admirable way. At times it is hard to believe and seems a bit far-fetched. Yet it somehow makes me wish more such women existed in the real world.

Somewhere in the book, the main character reflects—When you truly want to do something, you do it without fear. And that is exactly what the author does! She presents a fearless book, delving deep into the supposed grey zone, exploring the blurred lines between villains and victims.

The big question – fiction or fact?

This slice-of-life account prides itself on being dark, shocking, and disturbing, and the starkness of the black and red cover adds to the unease. The underlying grit made me mistake it as a real life account at first. There are no pretenses or cushioning to soften the hard edges to make the truth more palatable.

Do not venture close if you could be triggered by the content. Pick it up only if you can stomach an unconventional protagonist’s bitter and murky reality speckled with toffee-nosed hypocrites and sadistic tormentors. The book promises a surprising and satiating package for a mature, undaunted reader.

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up 13 Lessons From A Morally Wounded Woman written by Aarushi Ahluwalia, use our affiliate link at Amazon India.

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Image source: a still from the film Talaash and book cover Amazon

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About the Author

Supriya Bansal

A Radiologist by profession, Supriya Bansal, spends most of her day inhabiting a monochromatic world consisting of different shades of grey ranging from black to white. She is an active member of many online writing read more...

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