Reflections on My Memoir

Dear Friends,
My name is Shilpa Anthony Raj and I am 22 years old. I am excited to share the news about my forthcoming book, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter, awaiting publication sometime next year. This is my memoir – a glimpse into the life of a young girl born into poverty in rural India who was given an unprecedented chance at success. Through these blogs, you will have the opportunity to get an inside look into the characters and places in the book—a world that is distant for most, but very close to my heart.

In my book I describe the two lives I have straddled throughout my life– one of poverty and social indignity as a girl born into an impoverished “untouchable family in rural India, and the other, one of opportunities offered by a boarding school started by an American philanthropist for children like me. My hope is for my readers, even those thousands of miles away, to find connections with the people who have been a part of my life and with my struggle to find my own identity.

Through these blogs, you will meet the people who have passed through my life—those with whom I am connected by birth and those whom I have met by chance. Through each story, I hope to give these individuals a voice, to capture the human elements that define their identities. Several incidents that could not be included in my memoir are also described in this blog to help readers come closer to the characters in it. For instance, readers who wish to better understand my father, Anthony, will have an opportunity to learn about his encounters with the police in his illicit liquor business, or how he handled the landlords who subjugated him, and how those incidents formed him into the man he is today.

My family’s story is a complex one that is hard to fathom by those who have not lived through poverty and social indignity. In every turn there is a tale to tell, some of these events dating back decades. These stories, told through narratives, photographs, and interviews, portray many aspects of my community, such as their age-old traditions and customs. There will be rare photographs of intriguing places, people, and events, such as a scene of the burial of a man who died fighting over the distribution of water in the village.

My classmates with whom I was raised at my boarding school in rural Tamil Nadu are also from equally deprived backgrounds, each one’s past differing only in the details of the hardships faced by their families. As a child, I was touched by their stories and their struggles, and was humbled by their ability to overcome the tragedies they encountered. I will reveal their stories as well through a journalistic eye, digging into their pasts through visits to their hometowns, villages, and slums, and through conducting a series of interviews with them and their families.

Every entry will focus on a different theme. I hope these stories bring to life the history of a forgotten people and the beauty they have to offer. India is a place filled with complexity and possibilities. I hope you will travel this journey with me.


  1. Hey Shilpa, I'm so excited for the publication :) I have already subscribed to your blog!

  2. I am so looking forward to the progression of your blog and your book. You are a beautiful writer and story teller!

  3. It was such a pleasure for me and Jyoti to have met you at Shanti Bhavan during November 2015. We are eagerly awaiting your book "The Elephant Chaser's Daughter". Your narratives about your childhood are beautiful. We send you our love and best wishes.

  4. Great writing Shilpa. Goes straight to the heart. We send you love and best wishes.

  5. Thank you, Uncle Krishna and Aunty Jyoti for believing in me and my passion for writing.

  6. Hi Shilpa - you are a beautiful writer. Is there a way to buy your book in the US? Thank you!

  7. I just found out about you through the Netflix documentary "Daughters of Destiny". Shilpa, the way you write is beautiful, and now I can't wait to read your book. You are so talented! Wishing you all the best from Germany :)


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