This luminous picture book tells the fascinating true story of artist Nek Chand and how his secret art project—hidden away in a jungle—became one of India’s most treasured wonders, second only to the Taj Mahal.
In the bustle of the busy streets of Chandigarh, India, Nek Chand saw something no one else did. Where others saw rocks and stones, Nek saw the boyhood village he missed so dearly. Where others saw broken plates and glass, Nek saw laughing men. And where others saw trash, Nek saw beauty.
Nek Chand’s incredible rock garden, built from stone and scraps and concrete, began as a way for him to express his long-felt grief at having to leave his boyhood village due to the violence caused by the partition of India. What began as a secret and personal (not to mention initially illegal) project became so much more, not only to Nek but to all of India.
The Partition of India and Pakistan looms behind Bradbury's warmhearted account of the life of Nek Chand (1924 2015), who built a secret sculpture garden outside Chandigarh. When Chand encounters a plot of forest that reminds him of the ancestral village he left behind, "missing moved from his heart to his hands, and his hands knew what to do." He begins using found objects and trash to construct paths and sculptures, and "the more he created, the more he wanted to make." When the expanding city collides with his hidden garden, the community embraces it, defending it from destruction. The vibrant color and layered spatters, scribbles, and patterns of Boughton's collage-like digital illustrations cleverly nod to Chand's mosaic-like sculptural work in images that conjure the clamor of city life and the respite of a secret garden. Back matter includes photos, additional context about Chand's life as a refugee of Partition, and a timeline. Ages 4 8.