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When you are a female born into a poor Indian family, the odds are already stacked greatly against you.
Saved by her grandmother from being killed at birth for being a female and abandoned by her mother at a young age, Shilpa Raj faces the formidable constraints placed on her by her family, and the barbs of village elders bound by hundreds of years of oppressive practices and customs that subjugate women in rural India.
At the age of four, Shilpa’s life veers drastically from that of her family’s when she gets selected to study in a free boarding school run by a philanthropist for children from underprivileged homes. While her distraught mother fights to not give the care of her child up to a total stranger, her father, then a poor, illiterate bootlegger, stubbornly stands by his decision despite being warned by the elders in the village to not trust the generous ways of the rich. And thus begins Shilpa’s story, both within and outside her family to which she is bound by blood but pulled away by their separate dreams for her.
Shilpa’s desire to embrace modernity and pursue education for a professional career brings her in conflict with the wishes of her family as they pressure her to marry her uncle and remain with them in the village. In her struggle to find her true identity, she tries to answer to the question, “In which world do I belong?”
Pulled in opposite directions, and torn between despair and dreams, Shilpa finally makes a choice for her escape. But is she strong enough to stand up to the people she loves, and pursue what she wants? And just when Shilpa finally feels she’s found her footing, an unforeseen death under mysterious circumstances shatters whatever stability remains in her life.
The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter chronicles the lives of three generations of her family and vividly describes her attempt to transcend what had been the destiny of untouchables – members belonging to the lowest strata of a rigid, stereotypical tradition-bound Indian society for centuries in India. Shilpa digs into her own past and that of her community’s with the diligent curiosity of a journalist and the passion of a riveting story-teller.
At its heart, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is about hope, when all seems lost. The human drama captured in this memoir is nothing short of amazing. No young woman from a poor untouchable family has ever written a memoir or given a first-hand perspective of what it is to be a part of the social underclass in modern-day India.
Written in an honest, descriptive style, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter flows fast, capturing in its path everything about her family’s difficult lifestyle, its age-old customs and of violence and suffering, and most importantly, about herself. This inspiring memoir tells an insightful .story about a forgotten people, unnoticed and uncared for. Through the voice of this brave young author, you can hear them cry, laugh, and tell their separate stories.