Dhrubo Jyoti picks his favourite read of 2022
An intimate portrait of the awkwardness of desire and the struggles of marginalisation creates a patchwork of queerness that is both comforting and startingly unfamiliar
In the last decade, a flurry of books – fiction and non fiction – featuring LGBTQIA+ people and their lives have hit the market. Yet, none have been nearly as searing as My Father’s Garden, not as insightful in sketching rounded queer lives, warts and all. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s fourth book was among the best I read this year. Its three sections that trace the journey of the protagonist through heady teenage days to more placid middle-age and then the stirring denouement in a moving set of interactions with his father are sometimes jagged in their lack of continuity, sudden change of pace and detailing; but these imperfections somehow blend into an imperfect picture of queerness that the writer is able to conjure – a plot that doesn’t submit itself to easy stereotypes and resists convenient resolutions. Yes, the writing is uneven in places and the sections breaks are not smooth, but not since Sachin Kundalkar’s Cobalt Blue have I come across an Indian author building a portrait of queerness from small scraps of everyday life.
Its intimate portrait of the awkwardness of desire, the irrepressibility of youth, the changing vista of a small town and the struggles of marginalisation create a patchwork of queerness that is both comforting and startingly unfamiliar. The stories are straightforward, told without flourish and there is no pomp in the circumstance. Can heartbreak be described so quietly? What is one’s identity? Where do we come from and how does history affect us? In asking these questions, and showing that queerness is often about things and people farthest from normative ideas of sexuality lies Shekhar’s triumph.