'My stories, my family’s stories, were not stories in India. They were just life.
When I left and made new friends in a new country, only then did the things that happened to my family, the things we had done, become stories. Stories worth telling, stories worth writing down.'
Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables are illiterate, her family was educated by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s, making it possible for Gidla to attend elite schools and move to America at the age of twenty-six. It was only then that she saw how extraordinary – and yet how typical – her family history truly was.
Her mother and uncles were born in the last days of British colonial rule. They grew up in a world marked by poverty and injustice, but also full of possibility. In the slums where they lived, everyone had a political allegiance, and rallies, agitations, and arrests were commonplace. The independence movement promised freedom. Yet for untouchables and other poor and working people, little changed. In rich, novelistic prose, Ants Among Elephants tells Gidla’s extraordinary family story detailing her uncle’s emergence as a poet and revolutionary and her mother’s struggle for emancipation through education.
A moving portrait of love, hardship, and struggle, Ants Among Elephants is a personal history of modern India, told from the bottom up.
‘A vital and illuminating book. Sujatha Gidla tells it like it is. She rips the pious mask off a society that institutionalises injustice and inhumanity in the name of ancient culture and religious practice. We need libraries full of books like hers.’