A Memoir of Conflict: Reading Dichotomy in Shilpa Raj’s The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter
Keywords:Memoir, Reading Dichotomy
The two worlds I lived in had become overwhelmingly irreconcilable. I found myself stuck between them, tossed mercilessly from one to the other. When one set of values and traditions confronted the other, a meeting of the minds was out of the question. (Raj 151). Shilpa Raj’s memoir The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is a reminisce of conflict; conflict of ‘a a home’ and ‘the home’, conflict of stereotypes and progress, of East and West and the story of a young girl balancing her life through all the dichotomy. The piece of literature is amongst the first memoir ever documented by a Dalit woman. Raj’s memoir is not an autobiography a reader would expect from a Dalit woman, but a bildungsroman. It is the story of the four-year-old Shilpa moving to Shanti Bhavan, to experience a world no one in her community would have ever dreamed of. It is not the helpless cry of the oppressed, but the Ambedkarite celebration of education uplifting children of untouchables to become responsible citizens of the nation. Shilpa unashamedly recounts the horrors of domestic violence, harassment, the vicious circle of debt and the community drowning in the horrors of country liquor. Hers is a story of an outsider in her home and a home in the outside world, where she was not meant to belong. It carefully deals with the nuances of sibling jealousy, family expectations, and the tight grips of community superstitions that have fettered the Dalits for decades. In the village of Thattaguppe, the word of landlords was the word of justice and the Shanti-Bhavan-educated Shilpa refused to give up her authority of opinion.
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