Title: The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter
Author: Shilpa Raj
Format: Kindle eBook (Also available in Paperback)
Total Number of Pages: 236
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Publication Date: 1 July 2017
Kindle Price: INR 97.85
Review by Sohinee Dey
The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is a memoir penned by Shilpa Raj where she fetches all her experiences and recounts her childhood memories to deliver a moving piece of literary work which emanates a sense of hopefulness in the time of darkness and proves to be a compelling read ought to put the readers on a journey of roller-coaster ride of emotions full of heartwarming and at the same time some heart-rending events. Shilpa enumerates the heart-wrenching experiences of her childhood and confronts them head-on.
Years of struggle at the face of society that subjugates women, age-old oppressive family practices and customs, the constant undermining words from the village elders for taking birth as a girl child and the knowledge that she was to be killed at birth but was saved by her grandmother, are some of the disturbing and grievous episodes in her life that forges her forward to accept how bad the reality is and she comes to this conclusion that this reality is not something that she would wish upon herself and sets out to build a world she wants to live in. Abandonment by her own family proves to be the final straw and adds on to her long list of pain and despair. The desperation to flee from the the misery and put an end to all of her anguishes lends her a fortunate encounter with a philanthropist who takes her into a boarding school, Shanti Bhavan.
Education provides her with a vision that there is a world out there which is filled with plenty of opportunities and offers empowerment. When she returns to her village, the contrasting lives between the two worlds she had witnessed becomes more clearer to her. She is constantly torn between the two worlds; one of servitude and injustice and the other of opportunity and empowerment.
A sudden turn of event catapults her into the face of despondency and drives her towards the path of grief and desolation once again. The unforeseen death of her elder sister under some incomprehensible circumstances shatters whatever stability she had in her life. This tragic event leaves an immense impact and leaves her feeling vulnerable and raw. The aftermath of this cataclysmic incident acts as the final blow to her already upturned life and she ponders over the thought that she doesn’t want to offer herself to the grip of the same sorry plight and doesn’t want to be withheld under the weight of such repercussions.
Pulled in opposite directions, and torn between despair and dreams, Shilpa finally decides the direction in which she wants to move and chooses a career that would satisfy her soul and bring her immense peace. Her choice to pursue writing as a career brings in a turmoil within her family whose traditions and customs foretell her to get married and be completely involved in setting up a family of her own. But she refuses to follow the route of traditions, instead sets out to fabricate her own future.
The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter holds that sense of yearning and longing that one has and the desire to accomplish his/her ambitions and aspirations. It carries a sagacity of optimism and yet the disheartening events have the power to bring a reader to tears. It is raw and narrated with utmost honesty that one can muster. It would rattle the very foundations of a person’s perception of different situations. Amidst all the tragedy, there are some persuasive circumstances that holds an inclination towards the fact that even within the darkness, there comes a time when witnessing the first rays of hope doesn’t seem too hard to believe.
This book can be thought of as a compilation of gleeful days and sorrowful recollection of memories. The chapters evinced a mixture of hopefulness, detestation, desire and a craving for being able to decide the fate of one’s own life. Also, Shilpa Raj gives an insight into the lives of people who are ruled by poverty and are discarded as “untouchables” by the society and what it truly means to be born in one such family. The hardships, the constant despair and piping dreams of achieving the riches were remarkably pronounced in Raj’s narrative skills. The way she has articulated her feelings into words is sure to leave the readers in awe. Her depiction of her memories coupled with the expansive vocabulary with no grammar glitches makes this book all the more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (yes, that’s the exact word I would be using to describe what I felt after reading this book) to read.
My Final Verdict—
By the time I ended reading the book, I was shook by the ordeal she had to undergo and all the heart-wrenching situations she had to encounter in her childhood. I am not much into non-fiction but this book is something which I don’t regret reading; I don’t regret even a single minute that I spent on this book. Truly, it’s such a contrast to my life; even after facing all the hurdles and accepting all the barbed words, after what have transpired in her life, the strength that Shilpa Raj had, to launch herself back in track and the sheer buoyancy she carries within herself is something I highly admire.
Now, this is what I call a book. It has life in it and gives the chance to the readers to step into the shoes of Shilpa Raj and feel what she had felt while reliving her memories. The high tide of emotions is sure to make you emotional.
I’ll recommend this book to everyone. This memoir comprises of every component that is bound to give you a heartfelt reading experience.
This book deserves a 5 star rating and that is what I am going to give, a full 5 on 5.
About The Author—
The daughter of a housemaid and an elephant chaser from a South Indian village, Shilpa Raj’s life changed dramatically when she was selected at the age of four to attend Shanti Bhavan, a boarding school for poor children.
At sixteen, her need for self-discovery drove her to write this moving memoir of her turbulent past.
Shilpa Raj completed high school with distinction in 2011- the first in her family to do so-and received a Master’s degree in psychological counseling.
Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is now available on Amazon:
Kindle edition: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B071XHD4LM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=oesyinchrysal-21&camp=3638&creative=24630&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B071XHD4LM&linkId=256da51feea4e7fc1d968af26db83207
This is the first time I am giving a book 5 stars 😛. I am a very picky reader, but trust me when I say this book is worth it.
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