Meet Sujatha Gidla, New York subway conductor and author of Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India

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New Delhi | Updated: August 14, 2017 12:55:05 PM

Sujatha Gidla works as a conductor on the New York subway from Tuesday to Monday. She is a Dalit hailing from Andhra Pradesh and says she feels free from the burden of her caste "until I encounter Indians. Then it comes right back."

Sujatha Gidla, Sujatha Gidla author, Sujatha Gidla book, Sujatha Gidla new york, K G Satyamurthy, Sujatha Gidla subway conductor, Untouchable Family, Modern India, Ants Among Elephants An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, dalit, Andhra Pradesh, Communist, bookThe book by Sujatha Gidla, recounts the events of K G Satyamurthy’s life. (Photo: IE)

Sujatha Gidla works as a conductor on the New York subway from Tuesday to Monday. She is a Dalit hailing from Andhra Pradesh and says she feels free from the burden of her caste “until I encounter Indians. Then it comes right back.” She is now the author of a memoir ‘Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India,’ which describes her much-needed transformation given to her by America. published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an American imprint under Macmillan, the book is about Gidla’s family born into an ‘untouchable’ Mala caste and its struggles with a repressive social hierarchy. She said, “We lucked out. The reason that we escaped poverty is not because we were smarter. We were there when the opportunities came. It is like we were driving and all the traffic lights were turning green just in time,” she was quoted by Indian Express as saying.

The Economist has termed Gidla’s book as the “most striking work of nonfiction set in India since Katherine Boo’s Beyond the Beautiful Forevers.” Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India is a book dedicated to Gidla’s uncle, K G Satyamurthy, co-founder of the People’s War Group, and a fiery poet who wrote under the pseudonym Sivasagar. According to the report, Satyamurthy went underground when she was just 3 years old and then he spent his life following his political beliefs. She remembers him as a man who “sought poetry in revolution and revolution in poetry.”

The book by the 54-year author, recounts the events of Satyamurthy’s life, from his youth when he was a Congress leader in Gudivada at the dawn of Independence to a young college student tormented by loneliness and shame in the company of rich upper-caste students. From a Communist fighting for an Andhra state to a comrade inspired by the Naxalbari movement to join the Srikakulam uprising of 1969. With her words, Gilda describes the story of modern India through Satyamurthy’s eyes, according to IE.

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