My Father’s Garden
Nominated | Book Awards 2019 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
My Father’s Garden
Spanning half a life, My Father’s Garden tells the story of a young doctor—the unnamed narrator—as he negotiates love and sexuality, his need for companionship, and the burdens of memory and familial expectation.
The opening section, ‘Lover’, finds him studying medicine in Jamshedpur. At college, he discovers an all-consuming passion for Samir, a junior, who possesses his body, mind and heart. Yet, on their last morning together, when he asks Samir to kiss him goodbye, his lover tells him, ‘A kiss is only for someone special.’
In ‘Friend’, the young doctor, escaping heartbreak, finds relief in Pakur where he strikes up an unusual friendship with Bada Babu, the head clerk of the hospital where he is posted. In Bada Babu’s house, they indulge a shared love for drink, delicious food and convivial company. But when government bulldozers arrive to tear down the neighbourhood, and Bada Babu’s house, the young doctor uncovers a sordid tale of apathy and exploitation—and a side to his new friend that leaves him disillusioned.
And in ‘Father’, unable, ultimately, to flee the pain, the young doctor takes refuge in his parents’ home in Ghatsila. As he heals, he reflects on his father—once a vital man who had phenomenal success at work and in Adivasi politics, then an equally precipitous downfall—and wonders if his obsessive gardening has anything to do with the choices his son has made.
Written with deep empathy and searing emotional intensity, and in the clear, unaffected prose that is the hallmark of Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s style, My Father’s Garden marks a major talent of Indian fiction writing at the top of his form.
Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar is a doctor and the author of a collection of short stories, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, which was shortlisted for The Hindu Prize; and a novel, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, which won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar and was nominated for The Hindu Prize, the Crossword Book Award and the International Dublin Literary Award. His last published work was Jwala Kumar and the Gift of Fire: Adventures in Champakbagh, a novel for children. He also translates prose and poetry from Santhali and Hindi into English.