In my last blog post, I introduced you to a writer who despite all odds has finally created a niche for herself in this world. Yes, I’m talking about Shilpa Raj, the author of the soon to be released book, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter. This book is a
memoir of a woman who hails from a small village in South India and belongs to a caste that has been ostracised for being “Untouchable“.
Although the book has been written through fictional situations and characters based on her research and talks with her family in the village, there is no denying the harsh societal issues that
she has highlighted for the world to read and understand. Through her story as well as her upcoming documentary on Netflix, Shilpa Raj will take you through the unexplored dark truths of coming from a Harijan caste and how it shaped her to be who she is today.
It not only explores the lives and sufferings of people who are condemned to the societal depths but also highlights how easily our sheltered life covers up such issues. In a day and age such as
now, some Indian rural areas are still lurking in the medieval ages and there can be no redemption for people who do not fit into the high classes of the caste classification. Despite the many efforts of our Constitution proclaiming from the get go that
discrimination on the basis of caste and creed are punishable under law, these small groups still struggle to retain their dignity in the elite society. Put out to fend for themselves and shunned by high-end facilities, the growth of such groups and
castes obviously remains constricted. In her book, Shilpa Raj openly mentioned that the only reason that she was fortunate enough to hear of such stories of suffering as opposed to living them was through her education and her saving grace: Shanti Bhawan. Her stress on education, especially for the women of such classes is the one point that carries forward the agenda of her writing a book.
As I progressed through the novel, I was constantly dumbfounded by the condescending and derogatory comments and labels that her
family had to deal with. One would think that education aside, people would be humane enough to at least be kind if not of any other help but no. I felt as if I was teleported back to old India where caste and creed ruled over everything else. I love books that not only make me question my own conscience but also bring into light the truths I was unaware of. This is the tale of India and its people at their darkest and although I am at a loss for words, I hope that people realise that this is a reality that we more than often tend to forget or ignore. There is a dire need to educate people that a person’s capabilities are not defined by their castes or their backgrounds. What is even more astounding is the lack of empathy shown by people who think that the castes and creeds of other people have to be treated in a certain way because ‘that’s how it had been since always’.
They say your education can’t decide what you are as a person on moral values and principles but Raj’s journey and transformation because of the very said education shows us how dire it is a
necessity as opposed to being a luxury or a privilege. In a society where even in the elites, oppression of women is not an unknown phenomenon, one can only imagine the plight of uneducated, downtrodden females from the untouchable castes.
If you want a book that doesn’t simply rely on a love story to be a bestseller but instead, pulls you into the pits of the darkness of our nation, then I would suggest you pick up The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj. I’m shaken, humbled and
speechless by this sheer account of empowerment through oppression, even if for the next couple of weeks, it will be a source of my nightmares and strength alike.
Until next time!