HELIUM by Jaspreet Singh

About Helium

On 1 November 1984, a day after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination, a nineteen-year-old student, Raj, travels back from a class trip with his mentor, Professor Singh. As the group disembark at Delhi station a mob surrounds the professor, throws a tyre over him, douses him in petrol and sets him alight.Years later, after moving to the United States, Raj finds himself compelled to return to India to find his professor’s widow, the beautiful and enigmatic Nelly. As the two walk through the misty mountains of Shimla, painful memories emerge, and Raj realises he must face the truth about his father’s role in the genocidal pogrom. But, as they soon discover, the path leads inexorably back to that day at the train station.In this lyrical and haunting exploration of one of the most shocking moments in the history of the Indian nation, Jaspreet Singh has crafted an affecting and important story of memory, collective silences and personal trauma.


“This is a subtle, lyrical novel, told in fragments, and infused with a sense of the beauty of the Kashmir landscape, the pain of unrequited love, and the ugliness of the hostilities between India and Pakistan” –  Independent on SundayChef is a haunting evocation of the emotional and physcial landscapes of war-torn Kashmir. Jaspreet Singh is a very learned, gifted, and sensitive writer” –  Basharat Peer“Extraordinary … an elegant, angry novel written with eerie grace and quiet courage … The calm, haunted narrator carefully gathers together anecdotes and details, memories and feelings to tell a story as sharp as a blade
” –  Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

Praise for Chef:
Singh writes of a beautiful place that dances on the razor wire of India and Pakistan’s disputed border. His prose redefines an exhausted situation, giving it new light
” –  Justine Hardy, The Times

“An elegy to the beauty of Kashmir, written with a sinuous elegance” –  Kate Saunders, The Times

“A fascinating, kaleidoscopic journey through one of the most beautiful yet besieged areas in the world – Jaspreet Singh brings out the full poetry and heartbreak of Kashmir” –  Manil Suri

“Jaspreet Singh’s Chef carries the scents of cardamon, ice and sweat, is written with such a keen sense of rhythm that you can hear the book as you read it, and is placed not only between India and Pakistan but intriguingly between delicate cuisines and crude politics. The novel is transporting – an experience that is not easily laid to rest” –  Mark Kurlansky

“Its themes of food and war and love and poetry form a series of intricate tightropes that the author treads skilfully, bringing us, in a short book, a lot of pleasures” –  Michael Palin, Observer Books of the Year

“Inventive, melancholy, and unflinchingly courageous” –  Siddhartha Deb

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