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Jillian Haslam

Jillian Haslam

United Kingdom

If you wished to find a real example of truth being stranger than fiction then Jillian Haslam would be very good choice. Born in Calcutta to British parents in post-colonial India, Jillian faced a bruising childhood of extreme poverty, malnutrition & disease. She lived through the deaths of four siblings and some appalling instances of racist abuse. Her rise from the depths of despair and misery to wealth and international celebrity status is an inspirational story of vindication and coming home. If anyone knows what it takes to rise above circumstances and seize control of one’s life, she does.

Jillian Haslam (dubbed 'the real Slumdog Millionaire') is an author, speaker and philanthropist. Since moving from India to the UK in 2000, Jillian has turned her attention to learning how she can help others overcome challenges in life the way she has. With the initial publication of her book, Indian.English. Jillian has received a substantial amount of media attention, invites to various speaking events and even an offer from Hollywood.

Recently updated and seeking a new publisher, the book reveals the real essence of her life. The story is now also scheduled to be turned into a Hollywood production and has won the best screenplay award at the Monaco Film festival in the epic & historical category.

The essence of that indomitable spirit can also be found throughout the pages of her second book, The Irrepressible Mind.

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About the author

A good sense of myself and some of the finer points of the story can be found from the following TV interview; below this is a more formal bio.

After spending close to twenty years forging a successful career in the banking industry, both in India and the UK, Jillian decided to devote her energies to helping other people improve their lives. She is the founding Director of Help Yourself Associates, a corporate and self-development training company, a highly sought after motivational speaker and now a published author. Jillian uses her own life experience to inspire others to never give up on their life goals. She yearns for a world where everyone strives to help the poor and the sick and those most in need.

Jillian overcame a childhood of abject poverty, racial abuse and hardship, taking on adult responsibilities while still a child herself, dealing with sickness and death throughout her life—including the loss of infant siblings and her mother when she was still very young. In spite of these obstacles, she has carved out a highly successful career for herself, raised her younger siblings, and never lost sight of her purpose in life. If anyone knows what it takes to rise above circumstances and seize control of one’s life, Jillian Haslam does. The essence of that indomitable spirit can be found throughout the pages of this book.

Since moving from India to the UK in 2000, Jillian has turned her attention to learning how she can help others overcome challenges in life the way she has. She has spent many years learning about life skills and their application and has used these principles to continue to change her own life. For the past several years, she has embarked upon the mission of using this knowledge, combined with her corporate experience to help others change their lives, as a highly sought-after motivational speaker. Her perceptive insight is matched by her many areas of accomplishment, which enables her to travel the world, meeting with people and inspiring them to believe they can truly achieve the goals they have always dreamed of. She does this, not by theories or concepts read in books, but by sharing true life experiences.

In 2012 Jillian won the first runner up award for The Asian Woman of the Year (Social
Humanitarian category) in recognition of her business achievements and charitable contributions. The award is presented annually to Asian women who have been outstanding in their contributions to business, entrepreneurship, social and humanitarian work. In April 2015 The Telegraph of Calcutta presented Jillian with a True Legend Award for her exceptional contribution to social and humanitarian causes.

In July of 2015 she was presented with the Star Recognition Award in London for ‘Lifting Lives’ and delivering numerous speeches across the UK’s educational institutes.  In September 2015 she was nominated by members of the public for ITV’s 2015 Inspirational Woman of the Year award.

While she is currently working with Hollywood producer Cyrus Yavneh of the filming of her story, her other most recent media activity has been to present a radio show called ‘Inspirational Voices’. Jillian was initially interviewed for the program, but the impact and feedback was so big that she was asked to host an inspirational program for them with the show's founder.

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Helping ordinary people do extraordinary things!!

A harrowing yet ultimately redemptive story of an India.English. girl growing up in post-colonial India, in the squalid slums of Calcutta.

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Currently titled Indian.English. this book tells my story of growing up in India in the 1970s and 80s. This is the text I am suggesting for the rear cover:

“As we rushed along the platform edge, desperate to avoid the crowds, Vanessa and I did our best to hold onto our mother’s skirt. As she frantically searched for my father, by our side, Donna wept as she tried to help get us through and keep us all together. Then, above all the tumultuous commotion, I heard my mother start to scream.”
Indian.English. is a haunting memoir of growing up in post-colonial India. Jillian Haslam’s haunting and harrowing, yet ultimately redemptive story of growing up in post-colonial India, living in the dark, squalid slums of Calcutta and abused and misunderstood by many, recalls the darkest moments of Angela's Ashes and the inner turmoil of The Glass Castle.
For every atrocity she describes, however, there is a parallel kindness -- a sacrifice, really -- on the part of the other poorest of the poor who helped her family to survive. Within these humble people thrives a grace beyond description, but Jillian and her family are amongst their number. The Haslams suffered so much, the death of children, abject starvation, trauma and humiliation, yet they also sought to give to others.
Without pulling any punches, the story recounts how Jillian learned to look for the positives embedded in the numerous and wholly daunting challenges encountered on her path to adulthood. Showing how she used the morality and forgiveness, ingrained in her upbringing, to overcome extreme adversity, this richest of stories vividly illustrates why Jillian Haslam, a woman of deep compassion, is a true inspiration to so many.
The book was self-published in 2011. With over 100,000 online references following its launch, both my book and I have featured heavily in the media, with TV interviews in the UK and India and in the major press in both countries.

In 2014, I agreed that a screenplay of the book could be written and this won a ‘Best Screenplay Award’ at the Monaco International Film Festival; a true testament to the power of the story. Since the latter half of 2015 I have been working with award-winning US film and TV producer Cyrus Yavneh on taking the story to the screen - the current status is that he has just brought an award-winning director on board and is editing the screenplay prior to approaching sales agents and developing the full ‘pack’ to attract investors and top-named talent.

To coincide with this work, the original manuscript has been refreshed and re-targeted for a broader audience and I’m now seeking a new publisher to help me take it forward. 

Please note that I mentioned that the book is currently titled Indian.English. This was used when the book was first launched, but my conversations regarding the film have suggested that a different title could / should be used here and thus for the book. Should any publishers be interested then this can, of course, be discussed in more detail. 


This is a very sad and yet very powerful story that I use today in my work as a motivational speaker, seeking to help people push past their fears and develop true mental resilience, as I did. After reading the book when first published, Manuel Freedman, filmmaker and author from Los Angeles said:

Jillian Haslam's unforgettable story makes Slumdog Millionaire look like the fantasy it is. Strange as it may seem, there is much hope on display in the book, a living testament to the true heart of the author herself, who survived a hopeless childhood in the slums of Calcutta. Jillian is a saintly spirit who has kept her mind upon the end that endures. She remains the only person I have met whose greatest dream in life is to help others escape oppression and miserable circumstances. Knowing where she came from and how she accomplished it makes me know she will realise her life’s work."
Here is how the book is structured, shown via a short synopsis:

Jillian Haslam is an English girl growing up in abject poverty in Calcutta. With her family, she moves from place to place every few months until an opportunity to leave the city arises. They move, mother, father and three daughters, to Dum Dum and, soon after they settle there, twins are born; a girl and a boy.

But their happiness is soon shattered when first the baby girl dies and then her brother. Before they can mourn properly they hear of plot to kidnap the eldest daughter, Donna, desired for her fair skin and great beauty. The family escapes to return to Calcutta, but, during the journey, Jillian’s father has a heart attack and stroke, causing temporary blindness.

He is left in the care of the Salvation Army and Donna is placed with friends to keep her safe, but along with their mother, the two younger girls must move back to the slums, where they are forced to live among crawling vermin under an open staircase. Eventually their mother manages to house the girls with Mrs. Cleofas, who is believed to be kind and caring.

The opposite is the truth and Jillian and her younger sister are subject to ritual beatings and terrible humiliation. But eventually their ‘host’ becomes ill and the girls happily return to their mother. Some years later, upon hearing that the old woman is now in a home, Jillian’s compassion means that she regularly visits Mrs. Cleofas.

The family is finally reunited with her father and they move to Kidderpore to live in together in one small room that’s infested with rats and vermin, in a place where 3,000 people share a few toilets. Their mother gives birth to a baby boy and Jillian and her sister go to the nearby boarding school, but life is still hard and they are mostly hungry as well as missing their parents.

A new baby girl is born, but she suffers from rickets and is expected die. With her mother desperately ill and father at work, it is Jillian who nurses and prays for her sister, determined that she will not die. A thoroughly timid child, Jillian goes out daily to ask for free milk.

Her mother’s health is still bad and Jillian is kept out of school as a surrogate mother to the babies. As well as sliding further into poverty, the abuse the family receives increases and the only respite for the older girls is when back in school.

As she grows into her teenage years, Jillian does well at school, showing some of her future promise. She gets her first boyfriend, an India who really likes her, but cannot tell his family about her. Jillian understands, but vows she will never judge another person by race or colour, always seeking to eradicate abuse.

Jillian gets her first job, which allows her to help the family, but on her journey each day she suffers terrible sexual abuse. She finds happiness with a new Indian-English boyfriend, but this is soon shattered when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Jillian nurses her before and after work for some time, but eventually there is no hope and she takes her mother back to Kidderpore to die.

Moving out of her teenage years brings great contrasts in her life. She is now determined to learn from and shrug off her past and her career in a bank takes off, but at home she is required to look after her two young siblings and aging father; she is now the sole bread-winner.

At this time though, she discovers her calling to be a philanthropist, rapidly becoming her company’s Charity and Diversity President while still working as the CEO’s executive assistant. Now even more determined to build a better life for herself and her family, she continues to use the horrors of the past as lessons for the future, and eventually she begins making plans to move everyone to the UK. 


While this book is dark and disturbing in places, it is also extremely uplifting and, as such, would suit anyone who likes memoirs and biographies, learning about different aspects of British and Indian history and finding self-motivation from the successes of others.

While not suitable for the youngest of children, the majority of Jillian's fans and followers are children, university students and young people from all over the world.


While the biggest promotion of the book can come with its relaunch alongside that of the film, it forms the basis of all my bookings as motivational speaker. I am also very active on social media and via blogging on my website and any 'deal' to take the book forward is going to be very actively shared with my followers and those on my mailing lists. 


As far as I am aware, there are no 'competing books' in terms of a memoir of a British person growing up in post-colonial India. Some complimentary books might be:

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Burnt Bread and Chutney by Carmit Delman

Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

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