Father May Be an Elephant and Mother Only a Small Basket, But…

Gogu Shyamala’s stories dissolve borders  as they work their magic on orthodox forms of realism, psychic allegory and political fable. Whether she is describing the setting sun or the way people are gathered at a village council like ‘thickly strewn grain on the threshing floor’, the varied rhythms of a dalit drum or a young woman astride her favorite buffalo, Shyamala walks us through a world that is at once particular and small, and simultaneously universal.


Set in the madiga quarter of a Telangana village, the stories spotlight different settings, events and experiences, and offer new propositions on how to see, think and be touched by life in that world. There is a laugh lurking around every other corner as the narrative picks an adroit step past the grandiose authority of earlier versions of such places and their people—romantic, gandhian, administrative—and the idiom in which they spoke. These stories overturn the usual agendas of exit—from the village, from madiga culture, from these little communities—to hold this life up as one of promise for everyone.


With her intensely beautiful and sharply political writing, Shyamala makes a clean break with the tales of oppression and misery decreed the true subject of dalit writing.


Gogu Shyamala is a senior fellow at the Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad. She has documented and edited dalit women’s writings in Telugu.



‘…warm, sensuous images of a world far removed from our garbage-strewn, traffic-choked and neon-lit cities’Outlook


‘Gogu Shyamala’s luminous, moving and funny prose is almost deceptive in its lightness of touch, and deftness of language’—Tehelka


‘These stories do more than make the margin the centre; they make the margin a place of vivid enchantments, rendered with idiomatic vitality’—Open


‘Shyamala’s greatest achievement is the note of humour and lightness that sounds through this collection’—Wall Street Journal–Mint