SET in 2006, the novel begins with the chef named Kirpal Singh receiving a letter from General Kumar asking him to be present before his daughter’s wedding to a Pakistani boy.
As a young 19-year old, Kirpal had worked with the General. Now diagnosed with cancer, Kirpal decides to return to Kashmir to meet his past headlong. As he is bound northward by train, he recalls his entry into Army life as a girl-crazy, 19-year old, assigned to work under Chef Kishen more as an observer than a participant. It is here that he finds that the people around him are shadowy figures. When his Hindu mentor accidentally upsets the Muslim clerics at a diplomatically sensitive meal and is exiled to the border on the Siachen Glacier, Kirpal’s apprenticeship is over. A very amusing incident is narrated here. When the General invites a Colonel and his wife to dinner, the Colonel, a talkative man suggests to the General, “I have found the perfect solution to deal with Pakistan, sir! Why don’t we – I am just thinking, sir – why not drill a hole in the glacier, bury the bomb inside, the way we do it in the grounds, sir, and blow it up? The glacier would melt and millions and billions of litres of water will flow to their side (Pakistan’s) and flood our enemy out of existence, sir?”
A Pakistani woman is fished out of a local river in Kashmir. Kirpal is asked by the Indian General to question her by enticing her first. Kirpal tries as best as he can, being a chef only.
This is an interesting book with layers hidden beneath every layer.
(Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017; www.penguinbooks.com)