There is one girl here who gets the most customers. She is not the prettiest among us—she has a face like a fox and pointy gray teeth—but she is the boldest. (99.Monica.1)
Lakshmi's description of Monica is spot on—she is bold. But Monica is bold because she, like Lakshmi, has a goal that she just won't give up on: she wants to return to her village where she has a daughter. And to accomplish her goal, Monica has learned tricks to use with the customers so she can earn more money more quickly.
Because she's such a good earner, Monica gets privileges that other girls do not, like the ability to go the movies. When Lakshmi asks Shahanna why Monica doesn't just run away, Shahanna explains that Mumtaz will take Monica's daughter, maim her, and use her as a beggar (112.TwoWorlds.). Because of her love for her daughter, Monica stays.
Like many of the girls in the brothel, Monica has hidden depths. She has a bad temper, but she's also kind. She saved Lakshmi from being molested by the doctor who attends them in the house, and she gives away her possession when she leaves the brothel to return home (122.UnderstandingMonica). When Harish leaves Happiness House and Lakshmi becomes depressed, Monica gives Lakshmi a "tattered rag doll" (136.InsteadofHarish.9) to sleep with.
If Monica has a flaw it's that she, like Lakshmi, has illusions about the repercussions of her life in the brothel. When Monica talks of returning home to her village after she leaves the brothel, she says to Lakshmi that "They will thank us and honor us when we go home" (122.UnderstandingMonica.10). Both Lakshmi and Monica retain almost an impossible hope that their future will be different that the futures of so many girls who have gone before them.
And yet Monica returns to the brothel, spirit broken. The money sent home? Her father used it for his operation, but then beat her with his cane when she tried to re-enter the village.
"When they heard I was coming, […] they met me outside the village and begged me not to come back and disgrace them."
"Did you get to see your daughter?" I say.
Monica cannot meet my eyes.
"They told her I was dead." (130.TheLivingDead.10-13)
From this point forward Monica has nothing to live for, and when she gets "the virus" (HIV) Mumtaz throws her out of the brothel. We never know what becomes of her, and as we watch her leave the brothel and then return, we fear for what will happen to Lakshmi after her own rescue.