Shilpa Raj is the author of a book The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter. She has been praised for her debut attempt by the readers as well as the celebrated book critics. Her book invokes the emotions in the readers against the odds which are prevalent in a large section of society even today. Below, you can read an interview with her which has been done by our contributors. We have asked different questions to Shilpa and she has answered them and shared her personal opinions frankly. We hope you will enjoy the conversation!
Question: How would you best describe your debut book in your own terms, Shilpa? People across the nation as well as abroad are praising your book for various reasons. However, readers would surely be interested in knowing what the author herself thinks about her work.
Shilpa Raj: I am humbled by the openness and positive reception that my book has received from readers both in India and abroad. I was nervous before the release, especially since this was my first book and everything was a new experience for me. Some people have expressed how relatable my experiences have been to their own. I feel happy when others reach out to me just to let me know that they are proud of me for raising attention on the social issues that I talk about in my book. This makes me feel that working on this book for seven long years was very worthwhile.
Question: Where do you see yourself, Shilpa? Writers usually have different goals and objectives; some write for fame and some for money and some just write for their personal interests. However, there are certainly a few who write for a larger purpose and readers believe that you are such an author. What do you have to say to this?
Shilpa Raj: The reason I wrote my first book was that I wanted to tell an important story – the story of those who continue to struggle in the fringes of society — and to point out that they too can be uplifted if given an opportunity to do so. Now that I have found my voice as an author through the first book, I want to use it for much good. I want to continue to write books apart from pursuing a career as a mental health professional. I am very interested in writing about social issues and human experiences, in a storytelling style. This appeals greatly to me, especially since I myself have had a unique exposure to the struggles faced by poor people and understand well how important it is to have an open dialogue about their predicament.
Question: The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is not just a book; it is a mirror revealing the life of a common girl who could do better when the opportunity was given to her. People who have read the book believe this. What does it mean to you, Shilpa? How do you see compliments like this?
Shilpa Raj: I appreciate such compliments. I completely agree that through this book I have tried to show how one’s life can be transformed dramatically through the power of opportunity and empowerment. I am happy to see that many readers believe so too. Had I not had the opportunity to study and grow up in a school like Shanti Bhavan, my chances at having a meaningful life, both as a student and now as a professional, would have been absent. Having a basic level of literacy is not enough, as you can see from my story.
Question: Would you like to further add chapters to this book and come up with a sequel to it after some years? People will certainly like to know where Shilpa is after 5-6 years from now!
Shilpa Raj: I’m sort of a very private person and feel that some of my privacy has been lost, though for a good cause. Due to the publicity that I’ve been receiving through the book and the Netflix film, ‘Daughters of Destiny,’ I am in the public eye recently. But that’s to be expected. Once things settle down, I want to work privately as I did before this book and build a strong career for myself as a psychological therapist, an academician, and a writer. I don’t have any plan as yet for writing a sequel, but you never know how things turn out in the future.
Question: Besides being an author and all the fame around it, how is your personal life? What are the things you like to do? And what are the causes that you like to be associated with?
Shilpa Raj: I have a Master’s degree in psychological counselling and am working towards establishing a career for myself as a therapist. I want to dedicate myself to the field of mental health as it is not only important but also because it is not sufficiently served. Mental and emotional problems are very human, but many people do not address them adequately or constructively. Losing my sister to suicide made me shockingly aware of how critical mental health issues can be; these can’t be left untreated or ignored. I realized that her loss was representative of a much larger problem which stems from the way the community functions or malfunctions.
I have been interning at the Spastics Society of Karnataka where I work with the mothers of autistic children. I try to teach them about the psycho-social issues that their children are faced with and help mothers understand how to deal with them. This work has been highly rewarding.
I plan to pursue a PhD in developmental psychology in the near future and go on to establish my own clinic someday. I want to devise a program through which I can educate people like my family members and the broader community about mental health issues. A culture of open dialogue and discussion on these issues which are regarded as taboos and stigmatized must be created.