Umrao Jan Ada, published more than a hundred years ago, was the first novel to be written in Urdu. It tells the story of a courtesan from Lucknow, a woman of great charm who was also a brilliant poet and singer. Documented by a close friend and dictated by Umrao Jan herself, the novel weaves the courtesan's story with interspersions of poetry, exploration of social dynamics and the author's radical subtext with regard to patriarchal double standards. Umrao Jan Ada is perhaps one of the most enigmatic figures in South Asian literature. The exploration of her story is an attempt to capture the essence of what it meant to be a courtesan in nineteenth-century India.