Novelist Siddhartha Gigoo explores cross-border love story in new book


Author Siddhartha Gigoo, who is out with his latest novella, says the cross-border love story is his attempt to understand the depth of obsession in its many forms — love, patriotism and religion.

In “Mehr: A Love Story”, Gigoo sketches the tale of a Pakistani woman and an Indian man who fall in love but their story catches the eye of the Indian military.

“Love is an annoyingly difficult emotion to experience and understand. Every one of us struggles with it. In the novel, the characters get to explore some of love’s deepest mysteries. As a novelist, I strive to understand the philosophy of love, and its politics,” says Gigoo, who won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2015 for “The Umbrella Man”.

Having authored and co-edited books set in the Valley, he believes love between the two countries India and Pakistan seems unimaginable, given the history, the political environment and the decades-long strife over Kashmir.

“But love between two people living on the two sides of the border is inevitable. Such love might write the future history of the two countries. Who knows what people are capable of when they are in love?” he says, adding maybe love’s triumph over hate will unite the ordinary people of the subcontinent.

If that happens, future generations will be saved from ruin, he remarks.

Published by Rupa, Mehr took four years for Gigoo to complete.

“Novels must take time. The novel is set partly in Karachi and partly in the no-man’s-land along the India-Pakistan border. I had never been to these places until four years ago when I started writing. The characters dragged me there, he says.

Gigoo calls writing a “lonesome affair” and a battle against the “emptiness within”.

“It calls for a desperate urge to explore the world around us and to understand people and their complex relationships with one another. Writing leads to stunning discoveries. But the void remains. It mustn’t go because it gives purpose to the quest, he says.

Asked about his future projects, Gigoo says he does not know what’s in store. But it seems there are more stories that must be told. I keep saying to myself: One more novel. One more story.

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