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Where the Air Is Sweet

Where the Air is Sweet_finalsmallWhere the Air Is Sweet is the title of my first novel. It is being published by the wonderful people at HarperCollins Canada. The publication date is May 2014. The on sale date (when you can buy it from booksellers) is June 3.

Here is a blurb about the novel taken from my agency’s website:

In 1972, dictator Idi Amin expelled 80,000 South Asians from Uganda. Though many had lived in East Africa for generations, they were forced to flee in 90 days as their country descended into a surreal vortex of chaos and murder.

Spanning the years between 1921 and 1975, Where the Air Is Sweet tells the story of Raju, a young Indian man drawn to Africa by the human impulse to seek a better life, and three generations of his family who carve a life for themselves in a racially stratified colonial and post-colonial society. Where the Air Is Sweet is a story of family, their loves, their griefs, and finally their sudden expulsion at the hands of one of the world’s most terrifying tyrants.

In the writing of the novel, I relied, in particular, on two excellent books for background of the Idi Amin years. General Amin by David Martin and A State of Blood by Henry Kyemba. Both books provide some great insight into the politics of the time.

I also relied on family members’ recollections. I was born in Mbarara, Uganda (where a good chunk of the novel is set) in 1969, about three and a half years before Idi Amin expelled Asians (South Asians) from Uganda, a group which included my family. Officially he expelled only non-citizen Asians, but it was a little more complicated than that. In any case, I obviously have a personal stake in the telling of this story.


Asian Ugandans board a plane at Entebbe, Uganda,
in September 1972 after Idi Amin’s expulsion order.

I have read a number of long and short histories on Uganda, encyclopedia entries, news articles, whatever I could get my hands on. I was astonished by the almost complete absence of information about Asians. In a book-length rendering on the nation of Uganda from pre-independence until today, it was not uncommon to find a lone paragraph (made up of about two sentences) that summed up the entire history of Asians in Uganda (a history that spans a century or more), including their expulsion.

Someone had to tell their story. So I did. It is not the story. It is one story.

Comments ( 14 )
  • Shamim Somani says:

    We are all so very excited ! Can’t wait to read it! Congratulations for your dream
    Fulfilled! Shamim

  • Thank you for writing this story. Look forward to reading it with enthusiasm. says:

    Wow!! Congratulations.

    Best wishes in all your great endeavors.


  • Fida-ali Keshvani says:

    Wonder full, Congratulations
    wishing you the best in all your great endeavors
    Masha Allah.

  • Mallee Stanley says:

    Looking forward to tracking down your book when it becomes available.

  • Debbie Boonstra says:

    Congratulations Tas. So looking forward to buying and reading your novel.
    Very exciting for you .

  • Alan Hodge says:

    Congratulations on a well written book on the “trials and tribulations” of the equivalent of “refugee” status but fortunately with some connections. Hope the diaspora will buy your “novel’. Took me less than 48 hours to read…but as a kid having been in Mbarara from 1952 t0 1960 you can understand I was engrossed ( also Mukono 1947 to 1952)…and Mbarara garage was a key sustaining venue to our family. I had heard from Doris Rowney that the family had moved to Kitchener and opened a garage..glad to close the circle…..we recently moved and unfortunately I seem to have mislaid my last Mbarara souvenir…a Michelin key chain from Jetha Petrol Station (Shell if I remember correctly). Seeing your photos in G&M…have photo with KA2913 and also one with KA1..and then legs in the way. More anon..meantime Good Luck with your journalism and enjoy Ontario!! Alan

  • Mahmoud Vazirali says:

    Congratulations. I hope your book does well. I am looking forward to reading it.

  • donna cashmore says:

    I have recently finished reading your wonderful novel and I had to let you know that I found it to be riveting. I remember the atrocities of the Idi Amin regime yet I had no knowledge of the plight and expulsion of the Asians. I do have a lot of experience teaching ESL students in Kitchener and I lived close to the school and neighbourhood that you mentioned in your book; your description of the students’ experience is so true, as is your portrayal of the strength of the mother and grandfather who were thrust into their new environment. Your characters evolve in such a believable way and my perception of them changed throughout the book. I was left feeling so “satisfied” and “full” at the end of the book, though I didn’t want it to end. As an aside, I must tell you that I was describing to my daughter how much I enjoyed your book and what it was about when she exclaimed that she works with your brother; what a coincidence! Thank-you for writing the best book I’ve read in a long time!

  • Semper says:

    I have put some info on your book on my website, that is dedicated to books with an African touch.
    Are you still living in Tanzania or have you moved back to Canada.

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