Outside In By Ms. Bradbury Won the South Asia Book Award


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Last November, Jennifer Bradbury – one of our very own English teachers here at Burlington-Edison High School –  got to go to Houston, Texas, to celebrate her winning the South Asia Book Award.

In 2017, Ms. Bradbury published her book Outside In and the South Asia National Outreach Consortium (SANOC) learned about the story which takes place in Chandigarh, India.

SANOC sponsors the South Asia Book Award. But their overall goal is to promote learning on South Asia experience and learning through school curriculum, workshops and other educational programs designed to teach students about South Asia. The South Asia Book Award is just a way to promote the writing of books placed in South Asia. Some areas that qualify as South Asia are Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Outside In shows South Asian culture in many ways. Words from the native language such as ‘Chalo’ and ‘Changa’ are used allowing a look into the native language of the book’s characters.

The Diwali and Dussehra festivals which are still celebrated today as part of India’s religion and culture are also depicted in the book as well as some of the customs that go along with the festivals.

But one of the most prominent examples of South Asia culture is the telling of Ramayana. A story depicting some of India’s ancient history and grand figures who are celebrated in Diwali and Dussehra festivals.

In Ms. Bradbury’s book, she tells the story of a boy named Ram who lives on the streets of Chandigarh, India. Ram doesn’t go to school and resides in his secret ally and on a rooftop above a dance studio. But one day he comes across a man and something really amazing.

The man Ram meets is named Nek Chand who is a real person who created something that has become the world’s largest folk culture environment.

Nek Chand secretly created the Rock Garden of Chandigarh. In the garden resides thousands of hand made sculptures and several large swings, plazas, and courtyards created later in the gardens life. At 40 square acres large it’s a masterpiece to be marveled at. One thing to note about the sculptures is that Chand made armies of them. As in dozens of the same statue laid out in rows.

“There are many different versions of the story,” said Ms.Bradbury. But she had “great pleasure in telling a streamlined version of the story” and of Nek Chand.

Chand started collecting rocks and pieces of trash for his garden around 1958. He used materials he found alongside the road and in other areas reusing the pieces for his statues. Around 1965 he started to build the garden secretly on public land. He was a road inspector at this time and in any spare time he had he worked to make his garden. It wasn’t until 1972 that it was found by a government official. By then Chand had a created close to 14 acres of beautiful sculptures. Being on public land the place should have been destroyed but the public loved it so much that the government decided to let him continue building the garden. He was given 50 employees to help with the work of expanding and completing the garden.

Chand continued to work on the garden with the extra help through the 1970 and beyond creating larger attractions that he wouldn’t have been able to make on his own and even more statues.

Now the garden is Chandigarh’s biggest tourist attraction to be marveled at and enjoyed.

Ms. Bradbury once lived in India where she had also taught. Friends she made there introduced her to the Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Although it wasn’t until late in 2015 that she started to write about his story with the help of Ram her main character.

One of the reasons Ms. Bradbury started writing the book Outside In was because she was “intrigued by the fact he did it all secretly.” For ten years Chand worked on his garden without anyone knowing which is quite the feat to make something as big as he did and without the notice of others.

Even being the great author Ms. Bradbury is she still had some hardships with writing the story. One of the hardships was researching more about Nek Chand himself.

Sadly Nek Chand died before Ms.Bradbury’s book could be published. But his garden still lives on.

And thanks to Ms. Bradbury’s book we can have a peek into his story and into Chandigarh, India’s culture and stories.