‘There is a term for me in almost every Indian language. I am reviled and revered, deemed to have been blessed, and cursed, with sacred powers.’
In the swollen and crumbling red-light district of Kamathipura, at the heart of Bombay, Madhu is given a difficult and potentially lucrative task by her housemother ― to prepare a newly arrived ‘parcel’ for its opening. The parcel is a ten-year-old girl from the provinces, sold into the sex trade by her aunt.
Madhu’s home is Hijra House, one of the last bastions in the land war slowly consuming the area, as property developers vie for land. It is here that ‘hijras’ ― eunuchs, people of the third sex, 'neither here nor there’ ― ply their trade. Now forty and with her looks and spirit waning, Madhu struggles with the task she has been given, confronted by memories of her past, of how she was rejected by her family ― and by how she longs, secretly, to go back to them. Everything is dissolving within and around her. Then, as the land war comes to a head, and with her housemother coming under pressure by the hijra elders to sell their home, Madhu realises she must do something to save herself.
The Parcel is the masterful new novel from acclaimed author Anosh Irani, and is a savage and beautifully rendered story about community, belonging, and the cheapness of human life.