Study Guide

Pushpa in Sold

By Patricia McCormick


One of the people Lakshmi shares a room with is Pushpa, a woman who came to Happiness House after her husband died. She only wants stability for her children, so like Lakshmi's mother, she sacrifices what she has—in her case her body—for that stability.

Pushpa is pretty, too thin, and has two children: her son Harish is eight years old, and her daughter Jenna is a toddler. She has something called the coughing sickness, which often prevents her from working.

When she does work, Harish leaves the brothel, most likely to "fly homemade paper kites until they are too tired to stand, daring to come down to sleep only late at night after the men have finally gone" (96.Pretending.11). Jeena, though, is given something to put her to sleep and remains in the same room while Pushpa services the customers of the brothel. When we hear that Shilpa's mother was in the business, we fear for Jeena's future. How likely is it that she too will follow in her mother's footsteps?

Pushpa's desire for a stable home is tested beyond belief when Mumtaz gives her a final ultimatum: either leave the brothel or sell Jeena to Mumtaz so that "in a few years, when she is old enough" Mumtaz can make money (131.BeyondWords.10). Remember: Jeena's just a toddler at this point—somewhere between the ages of one and three.

Mumtaz's offer isn't the worst part, though. Nope—the worst part is that Pushpa actually has to think about the choice:

For the rest of the afternoon, Pushpa sits on her bed with her head in her hands. (132.WhatDespairLooksLike.1)

Eventually she decides that she will leave Happiness House for good, relying on the kindness of strangers. She must sacrifice one of her children's needs for another: stability for safety. This is just the worst all around.

It's hard to know if Pushpa's story is unusual or relatively normal. Because Anita later gets the same coughing disease, we can infer that this illness in not uncommon. And Shahanna tells Lakshmi that all girls want babies because it's their only family in the brothel (96.Pretending). So it stands to reason that children are born in brothels fairly regularly… and can be turned out of them equally as regularly.