Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: Book Review, Dipika Rai, Someone Else's Garden, South Asian Literature
Born and raised as one of four children in India, Dipika Rai has collected enough inspiring stories about her home country to leave her, in her own words “armed with enough material for several books.” Her first novel, Someone Else’s Garden, follows an impressive freelancing career in which she wrote for over 30 magazines worldwide, including Vogue India and Marie Claire.
Someone Else’s Garden is an epic tale following the life of Mamta, the eldest of seven children in a low-caste rural family. Trapped by the constraints of society, she experiences male oppression as a daughter, wife and mother, discovering what it can mean to be born female in rural India. Moving from her family home into a cruel and loveless arranged marriage, she eventually escapes to the city, embarking on a journey of spiritual awakening and discovery. A few years later she returns to her home a changed woman, ready to seek reconciliation and exorcise the demons of her past.
Through the depiction of Mamta, Rai critiques the way some women are treated in India. She portrays a society where marrying for love is a rarity and exposes a world rife with injustice and corruption. Alongside this sometimes shocking picture of rural Indian society, Rai develops an exhilarating narrative which celebrates extraordinary strength of character and offers glimmers of hope and reconciliation in this often bleak and unforgiving world.
Not only does the novel question some elements of Indian tradition, it questions values and actions applicable to any culture and, therefore, is capable of moving and inspiring any reader. Using the repeated image of a woman as “someone else’s garden”, Rai questions the factors beyond our control that determine our fate.
This is a tale about family and friendship and the conflict between humanity and tradition, and while the novel follows one main story, it has a sense of universal significance. Rai hopes that “Someone Else’s Garden will inspire a few people, question a few rules, and change a few beliefs.”
This review can also be viewed here.