‘Ants Among Elephants’ offers a window into the complexities of India

James Norton in The Christian Science Monitor:

AntIt should go without saying that India is a complicated place, a churning cauldron of languages, ethnicities, castes, and religions bubbling atop and throughout one another in a perplexing mass that we call, for the sake of convenience, a "nation." But to many Western readers, the story of India begins and ends with Gandhi's campaign against the British, followed (for those who were paying attention) by the bloody events of Partition in 1947.

The gift given to us by the new memoir/history book Ants Among Elephants is the opportunity to see post-independence India through the eyes of its untouchables, Christian converts, and the Maoist rebels known as Naxalites. It's difficult to fully conceive of the privilege and power of the caste system from a foreigner's perspective; from the viewpoint of people so low on the system that they stand outside of its levels, it's a mesmerizing horror to behold, and author Sujatha Gidla spares no detail. The book revolves around two poles: Gidla's mother, Manjula, who struggles to raise children amid conditions of utmost poverty and political chaos, and her uncle, Satyam, who dedicates his life to class struggle on behalf of the untouchables and common laborers of Andhra Pradesh, a coastal state in southeastern India.

More here.