January 27, 2021

An Untouchable From India Tells Her Family’s Tale

Sujatha Gidla has a master’s degree in technology from the Regional Engineering College at Warangal, one of India’s top technical universities and, after moving to New York, she worked as an app designer for the Bank of New York. When she was laid off during the Great Recession, she decided to become a train conductor for the New York subways, a job she’s still doing. “For me, it’s exciting and romantic,” she says. She lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
In her off hours, though, Gidla has another vocation — author — and her writings have been included in “The Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing.” Now she has written a memoir, “Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
Gidla is a member of the untouchable caste, like one in six people in India. Most untouchables are illiterate. But Gidla’s immediate family has always valued education, beginning with her great-grandmother Marthamma, whose beautiful singing voice attracted the attention of Canadian missionaries in the Thirties. Marthamma became a Christian and learned to read and write alongside her children at the mission school.
Gidla describes her family as “lower middle class.” Then she adds, “In the circles

Follow WWD on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

Read More…