The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj- Review

The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter- Shilpa Raj
  • Language: English
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Pages: 250 pages
  • Format: Paperback
  • Author: Shilpa Raj
  • Publishing Date: 10th July 2017
  • Publisher: Rupa Publishers
  • ISBN-10: 8129147696
  • ISBN-13: 978-8129147691


I was a bit hesitant, when I received this book for review. It was constantly in the back of my mind that this not a fictitious novel, this is someone’s life story. The author went through every experience that she shared in her book. How can I review someone’s life? But I must acknowledge that Shilpa Raj is an exceptional author. She simplified my problem very easily. She made me fall in love with her story.

There is something very magical about her writing style. Her words paint a vivid picture in reader’s mind. She teleported me directly to her village Thattaguppe with her scenic descriptions. I started reading this book during my commute to work. Her book captivated me so much that twice I forgot to get off the metro at my station. This is not one of those books which you can read hastily. You need to read few chapters, absorb the essence and then move forward.

In her debut novel, Shilpa Raj exposed modern day Indian society which is still shackled to caste system and untouchability. Despite its constitutional abolition, untouchability is still widely practiced in rural India. The resulting deprivation and discrimination is not just social, but also economic, which stifle Dalit women in every possible way.

The story begins with an unforeseen death in the family under mysterious circumstance which shakes Shilpa to her core. She starts narrating her life story and takes us to her past. At the age of four her life changes dramatically when she gets selected in Shanti Bhawan- a boarding school started by an Indian American philanthropist Dr. George. He wanted to provide quality education to underprivileged kids.

Author mentions in her book that due to her upbringing in a boarding school full of diverse people, her opinions and views gradually changed. Though this was a positive change in her life, it created a rift between Shilpa and her family. Rather than hiding the unpleasant truth about her kin, she bares her soul in her debut novel and helps us understand how caste system is still very much prevalent even in Indian Christian families.

I really admire the raw honesty in her narrative which makes the book more compelling. She explains in detail how making illegal alcohol (Sarayam), gender discrimination, child marriage, illiteracy and every other social evil is an indirect result of poverty. Hungry people can’t afford ethics and principles hence it’s a never-ending circle for them.

I would also like to thank Shilpa’s father for taking such a stern decision and giving her an opportunity to break free from the shackles of social evils. I can clearly understand why she named her memoir The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter. If you want to read about the dark underbelly of 21st century rural India then this book is a must read for you. I will highly recommend this book to all readers.

Rating: 4/5

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