I'll be honest here. I rarely read books from 'debut authors'. However Siddhartha Gigoo's novel had to be an exception. It just had to be.
The Garden of Solitude deals with the plight of the Kashmiri pandits, the pain and the suffering the migration caused and the emotional turmoil the pandits had to go through. There aren't very many books on the subject. The ones which exist are either out of reach, in all senses of the word, or written in a documentary format, which to be honest, doesnt really make for an interesting reading experience.
So there I was, the book in my hand, eagerly awaiting to delve into the pages. The novel starts off lazily, describing the lives of the residents, the near utopic state which prevailed before the turmoil. Although the descriptions are vivid and eloquent, it gets pretty boring eventually. Hence, even before the real story kicks off, I felt tired and bored.
The story in itself is quite shocking and the events dealt with an amazing amount of sensitivity. However at the end of the day, it just feels like way too impersonal an account. The author does come up with a few glimpses of his literary brilliance, but those are few and far between. It almost feels like an overstretched poetry gone wrong due to the poet's over-eagerness to impress.
This is a must-read though. The plight of the Kashmiri pandits has been a neglected topic for many years now. The author should get all the kudos just for bringing the subject to light.