The year 1984 brings back a lot of memories to those who survived through those tumultuous times. Pain, anguish, loss and many unfathomable instances that were the result of human behaviour has been written in various forms. Jaspreet Singh’s Helium is set up in 1984 and anti-sikh riots that shook me up as a reader and as a human being. I could imagine what must have happened in those times and it was not a digestible feeling. It was tough to finish this book but I did and ended up liking it. It does not have a smooth narration. The narrative jumps between past and the present and that made it a bit tough to get into the book.
On 1st November, 1984, as we all know anti-sikh riots broke out in the capital and many innocent people were killed. Amongst them was Professor Singh, an expert in chemistry and the mentor of the nineteen-year-old student, Raj. Professor with his group of students were returning from an industrial trip and as they got down at Delhi station, a mob sets him on fire. Raj saw everything happening in front of his eyes and just couldn’t understand what was happening. He moves to United States and starts working at Cornell University. But many years later, he realised that his past is not leaving him at all.
Raj decides that he should return to India and find Professor Singh’s widow, Nelly. He comes back to India and manages to find Nelly and goes back in the time with her remembering Professor Singh and what happened to him. Raj finds out that his father played an instrumental role in the genocidal program and both Nelly and him trace back the path which brings them back to the train station where Professor Singh was burnt alive.
Author’s lucid style of writing and haunting narratives having shades of collective silences and personal trauma is what made the book stand out for me. A very interesting facet of this book is how the author has used visuals to describe certain things. As I am personally very fond of graphical & pictorial representation of things, it made this book a riveting read for me. I wish, structurally this book was more strong but nevertheless, it made for an interesting read. This book is not for everyone. The author has told a thought provoking story with many loose ends that keep the reader curious even after they’ve finished. Give it a shot, if it interests you.
Book Source : Publisher
Publisher : Bloomsbury
Genre : Fiction
Price : Rs. 499/-