This moving memoir follows a journalist and filmmaker as she finds her purpose in advocacy for the Asian elephants in her hometown of Kerala, India. Foreword by Jane Goodall.
‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ – Mahatma Gandhi.
Elephants are self-aware, conscious beings. They can feel and grieve the loss of both elephants and humans. But despite all the empathy that elephants shower on humans, we continue to inflict pain and suffering on these caring, sentient beings.
In 2013 Sangita Iyer visited her childhood home of Kerala, India. Over 700 Asian elephants live in Kerala, owned by individuals and temples that force them to perform in crowded, noisy festivals, abusing the animals they claim to revere for financial gain.
When Sangita found herself in the presence of these divine creatures and witnessed their suffering firsthand, she felt a deep connection to their pain. She too had been shackled and broken for too long – to her patriarchal upbringing, to the many ‘me too’ moments in her work life that were swept under the rug, to the silence. Now she would speak out for the elephants and for herself. And she would heal alongside them.
This journey sparked the creation of her award-winning documentary and a new purpose in this life for both Sangita and the elephants.
About the author
Sangita Iyer is an Indian Canadian broadcast journalist, writer, biologist and documentary filmmaker. She is known for her advocacy on wildlife conservation, especially for wild elephants, and for exposing the atrocities against Asian elephants by religious institutions. She is the founding executive director and president of the Voice for Asian Elephants Society, which was created in 2016 with the aim of protecting wild and captive elephants of India.
When people go on holiday, maybe they want to take in an elephant ride or visit a temple. They may choose to ignore what’s under the elephant’s decorative clothing – the scars, the blood, the pain. Maybe they are aware of it or they catch a glimpse of something they wished they’d never seen, then they write it off as something to forget while they carry on with their holiday. Sangita could have done exactly this with the elephant cause. She could have closed her eyes and enjoyed a new life far away from it all in Canada. From reading this book, I know that Sangita is not a person to turn her back on the cruel practices that these gentle creatures are subjected to. She knew of the torture happening and she knew she had to do something. This book takes the reader on her journey as she battles culture and tradition, in the hope of ending these cruel practices.
Sangita also writes of her journey into making Gods in Shackles, tackling the Indian authorities, challenging a culture so ingrained that people cannot see how cruel they’re being, and we get to read about everything that stood in her way.
‘Gods in Shackles’ highlights the sickening cruelty that the elephants bear the brunt of in the name of culture and profiteering. It’s not all doom though, it leaves me with hope. Sangita has made and continues to make a difference to the world in fighting for these amazing creatures.
By fighting her own demons, she came forward and took up the fight for these gentle giants.
At times, Sangita thanks the universe for sending help her way when she needed it but I think she needs to really thank herself. She made it happen. When a person stands up for injustice, the plight is infectious. Sangita’s passion is infectious. The good people of this world came her way and helped because they believed in what she was doing. Sangita made ‘Gods in Shackles’ and the ‘VFAES’ happen, and bravo to her.
I would thoroughly recommend this inspiring and uplifting book. The subject matter is brutal but it gives me hope that humans can still make the world a better place if we change our ways, if we make a stand. Education and solidarity are the way forward. Excellent read and fantastic journey!
Thanks for reading!
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