After creating waves in US literary circles, the provocative memoir of Sujatha Gidla which details her memories of growing up as an “untouchable” in India, is all set to hit bookstores in India.
HarperCollins India announced on Friday that it has acquired the publishing rights for Gidla’s much talked about book, “Ants Among Elephants”. The publishing house has bought the rights for all languages in the Indian subcontinent.
Until recently, Gidla was just another New Yorker, working as a conductor on the city Subway. But her recent memoir, which not only details her memories of growing up as a Dalit woman in India but also lists the many instances of “discrimination and humiliation” that she and her family were customarily subjected to, has thrust her into the limelight.
Her book, a piercing account of living in desperate poverty, amidst violence and discrimination based on caste and gender, was widely appreciated by critics in the United States. In her memoir, Gidla also looks at the struggles of women like her mother, who have pursued careers in the face of extreme obstacles.
Gidla’s grandparents converted to Christianity at the onset of the 20th century and were educated at Canadian missionary schools. She too, with the help of Canadian missionaries, studied physics at the Regional Engineering College in Warangal, in what is Telangana today. She was also a researcher in applied physics at IIT-Madras.
Gidla initially worked as a developer in software design, then moved to banking but lost her job in 2009 during the economic crisis. Finally, she took up the job of a conductor at the New York Subway.
This book, Gidla said in an earlier interview to IANS, initially began as an investigation into the caste system but finally took the shape of a memoir as her family members also enriched its pages with their personal experiences and reflections.
“There have been many types of discrimination in various parts of the world. As far as I know, caste-based discrimination is uniquely cruel. There is racism in America, but I will never compare it with caste and rather say that caste is much worse.
“I will also say this: Blacks here are murdered, they have been lynched. But I have never read about another place where untouchables are fed excreta, made to drink urine and paraded naked. Even under slavery, the slave owners took care to feed their slaves in order to keep them fit to work. Untouchables in India never even had that,” Gidla had told IANS earlier.
Diya Kar Hazra, the publisher who acquired the book for HarperCollins, said that the publishing house is proud to be publishing her in India “where caste is, tragically, a reality”.
The book has been published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan publishers and will hit Indian bookstores in December 2017.