9 May 2022 | By: Writing Buddha

Gods in Shackles by Sangita Iyer (Book Review: 4.75*/5) !!!

 2007th BLOG POST

11th Book of 2022


Many of us keep seeing videos of human kind torturing animals – generally with dogs, cats, monkeys etc. All we do is like the video and scroll to the next one. We never feel the pain that an animal must be going through during such physical and mental trauma on daily basis by some wicked soul. Few of us are really caring who go a step further and try to save the animal from such owners or criminals and gift them a new life by making someone among us adopt and give them a better livelihood. And then there are few like Sangita Iyer who make this a purpose of their life. I am numb after completing her book named “Gods in Shackles” which basically talks about what elephants can teach us about empathy, resilience and freedom and her journey with them.


Before writing this 300-pages book, Sangita had also created a 90-minute documentary based on what elephants have to go through in India – majorly in the state like Kerala. This book speaks about her journey towards identifying with this problem and then the challenges see faces in order to speak about the unjustified treatment towards elephants by temple authorities as well as zoo keepers. I had got this book in my shelf from sometime but I was skeptic about if I would enjoy it or not considering that it spoke about animals. Somehow, I thought of giving it a chance and after reading, I just feel that we, human beings, don’t deserve the kind of privileges we are provided over other beings on this planet.


Sangita makes you feel the pain an elephant suffers when it is taken into custody for the first time and tortured for next 72 hours and even more at times so that the mighty creature just gives up and surrenders. The way they are tortured with sharpened weapons and incessant thrashing and beatings make you move uncomfortably in your bed. Elephants are then kept captive by tying them with strong shackles made up of iron and metal. Sometimes, the size of the shackles is so small that it tears up the flesh of their ankle skin but no one ever tries to treat the wound or provide them with a comfortable shackle- even if the agenda is to keep them captive. They are made to stand throughout the day within those shackles under scorching heat all alone. When I say alone, I mean to say away from their breed which eventually makes these elephants fall into depression.


Many of them end up suffering with arthritis because of standing regularly without a minute of relaxation. Even if they do, the shackles are so strong that they end up hurting their skin, flesh and oozes blood out. Similarly, they go through lot of physical hurt when they are loaded/unloaded while taking for a festival in temples etc. They are not provided even 20% of food and water as per their daily requirement and made to do stuffs like standing at a temple regularly in scorching heat to make devotees feel excited or make 2-3 people sit on their spine and give them a walk – imagine doing all of this while being undernutrition. They are made to sit and stand on their urine and excrement without anyone cleaning it for them. They are sometimes not even taken to lakes for bathing for months. Many elephants are always found in tears under such atrocities but they have no other option than spending their life in such unjust environment. During festivals, there is fire and sound around them against which elephants are very allergic but unfortunately, they have to suffer all of these getting scared every minute. Author talks about this in detail while speaking about Thrissur Pooram – the festival celebrated in Kerala.


These are just few pointers I have mentioned out of 100 such problems Sangita has mentioned in this book that we have created for elephants out of our selfishness and commercialization. She touches your heart with her politeness towards elephants and the way she finds attachment with each one of them whenever she is on visit for this mission. I liked how she calls every Elephant using their name such as Lakshmi, Shiv Sundar, Rana etc. She treats them just like us – in reality and even when she writes about them. It tells how harmoniously she has worked on their documentary and this book. Every page is a reflection of it otherwise the pain of elephants would not have transferred into our hearts while reading it. I just couldn’t manage to complete more than 30 pages daily because of how traumatic, corrupted and ashamed I felt after reading about how we just think about ourselves on the planet and no one else.


Along with atrocities of the elephants, the last one-third of the book is majorly about author’s struggle with creating the documentary on this topic, taking requisite permissions and finally getting the access of having this being screened not at one place but multiple places. Her hardships when it came to finding members to work on this or the challenges where the whole day effort got wasted when the camera couldn’t adjust to the new environment and all videos got blurry or how the computer systems couldn’t support the large media files recorded for the documentary. Iyer also shares how she felt gratitude towards Universe at it helped her during the whole journey by joining the broken pieces which she couldn’t have done by herself alone if these invisible energies didn’t support her.


Overall, I would say that this book is an experience which will change your perspective towards how we live on this planet – how we treat others and what we think of ourselves after letting all of this happen in our presence. You will also be able to relate a lot with your conditions in your life the way author was able to relate it with women issues in India where they are suppressed to express their emotions due to patriarchal upbringing. Though I felt author generalized this issue as it isn’t like that anymore in most household as women are given as many opportunities as men otherwise such great women achievement stories wouldn’t be coming out every now and then. Secondly, I feel author could have cut short the book by at least 70-80 pages with more crisp chapters or arrangements. Otherwise, this book is very beautifully written which serves the intention and purpose with which it has been brought together. I give this attempt 4.75 stars out of 5. Yes!






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