Poverty teaches thousands of lessons which elite can never learn. The urge to learn comes from the vacuum that’s created in one’s life in absence of education. Rich don’t value what is worshipped by the poor. A similar kind of thought is conveyed by the book The Elephant Chaser’s daughter.
It’s the ordeal of a poor girl Shilpa Anthony Raj. She lives in a village where the prevailing caste system and poverty have compelled people to switch their gods! It was long long ago and the memoir begins with Shilpa starting her education at Shanti Bhawan, an institution which provides education to any one child of poor families. As per the author, who also happens to be a student of the same institution, they were provided nutritious meals and were taken care of in terms of health and vaccination too. The author graduated as a topper in liberal arts from Shanti Bhawan.
In the beginning, the impression I had about the book was that it’s a murder mystery as it starts with the death of author’s sister and people defaming her of her illicit relationship with many men. The parents and other family members wish to find out the cause of her death and the murderers but suddenly we find the story going to the flashback. Even then the reader gets an impression that it’s a way of solving the murder mystery and driving us to the clues but the story ends with no findings. However, the purpose of the book is to impress upon the readers with the problems dominating in our society. And the problems are unfolded one by one through Shilpa’s division of the chapters of her book, very carefully.
The author gives too honest description of the prevailing conditions in her village. She even goes to the extent of talking about her own parents and sisters of having illegitimate affairs. Too vivid descriptions of the character of either her fellow students or their parents are given. As a reader, we were already aware of the miserable conditions that these ill fated children were exposed to. Shilpa’s book only adds to the bitter reality of our society! She talks about a boy who studied with her was unaware of his father as her mother was raped by several men.
One more incident of a ten-year-old girl who dances and goes with men elder to her and earns money by dancing and other such activities is also heart rendering. The author too feels like earning in that way. Later, her kind of sexual encounter with her own uncle is described in a raw format which tells the readers how the social and family condition acts upon the minds which are not yet matured.
The ugly side of the society lurks throughout the book and chides the readers often. We are taken aback with the realities which come to us in a form of flashback when Shilpa’s grandparents reveal the secrets. The condition of women, the condition of children; and the condition of people collectively who belong to the section Shilpa belongs to are miserable and this is what we come to know. Shilpa’s questions are all valid and should be answered by none other than us who are a part of the society – how long?
To conclude, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj is a book which should be read by the readers, the young ones and the adult ones likewise. It tells us what we lack as a society and what we need to embrace. The thoughts of the author might be in a crude format but we need to understand the underlying pain. You can get the book from Amazon by visiting the link below:
Review by Nidhi Sharma