In October IWAK Book Club met to discuss this fascinating memoir. Our discussion was led by our Indian friend Payal Mahajan, who has kindly written this excellent book review. IWAK Book Club is a great place to socialise and chat about many interesting topics. We look forward to welcoming any new members at any time during the year.
Speak, for your lips are free;
Speak, your tongue is still yours,
Your upright body is yours-
Speak, your life is still yours.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz
Shilpa Anthony Raj’s captivating memoir encapsulates the fiery spirit of Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem, Bol ki lab azaad hai tere, which means “Speak, for your lips are free”.
Witness Shilpa’s bold and fearless account of three generations of her family trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, perpetrated by society’s rigid cast hegemony.
Set in a rural landscape in South India, the book captures the harrowing discrimination faced by the untouchables – the poorest of the poor. An organic connection between caste and gender discrimination makes the situation even more deplorable for Shilpa. However, an opportunity to study at a boarding school run by an Indian philanthropist empowers her to see the “other world”, a world full of freedom and dignity.
Intensely individual, acutely sentinel and deliberately audacious, Shilpa’s voice challenges the ills of a patriarchal, caste-ridden society. Her relentless fury and defiance, emanating from the new-found freedom at the boarding school, bring Shilpa into direct conflict with the values of her old world. Nevertheless, true to her indomitable spirit, Shilpa decides to choose her new life. She aspires to become a beacon of hope for millions reeling under the yoke of oppression.
Soul stirring and thought-provoking, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter, is a compelling story of unfailing optimism and courage in the face of adversity. Shilpa’s dauntless spirit not only challenges the ills of the caste system but also has the power to engender socio-political transformation.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem is an ode to this unflinching spirit…
And we oppressed
Beneath our feet will have
This earth shiver, shake and beat
And heads of rulers will be struck
With crackling lightening
And thunder roars…