A low profile lawyer probes a rape-cum-murder case

The brutal rape of a medical student in the capital of India on 16th December, 2012 generated a huge uproar in the social and political circles. The victim girl termed as Nirbhaya (fearless) got badly injured and passed away after fighting with death for a few days. A heinous crime it was indeed and an example how insecure the commonfolk (especially the females) are in almost all the regions of India.

An excellent Hindi novel was penned by renowned Hindi author, Surendra Mohan Pathak on the theme of a similar crime. The title of the novel is Vahashi (brutally licentious) which is quite apt because just like this true incident in Delhi, the plot of this novel is based on a brutal rape and murder crime only. The novel which was first published in 2007, is not only quite interesting but also very very inspiring and enlightening.

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The murder takes place in Delhi (what a concidence !) in the month of January at the residence of the victim at Aasaf Ali Road. The victim was a forty years old theatre-artist, Mangla Madaan who lived alone because of her young daughter, Nikita’s living in the hostel of her college at Raai. Mangla had become rich after inheriting the wealth of her dead husband, Mahendra Madaan. She had not allowed her age to take over her figure and looks and she believed in enjoying her life to the full in the company of different males. Not paying two hoots for any morals at any stage of her life, she was intimate with other males even during the life of her husband.

The stunning thing about this crime is the beastly treatment given to the victim, i.e., Mangla by her rapist-cum-murderer. The rapist had bitten her crotch by his teeth and behaved like a carnivorous animal with her body. In her funeral itself (which took place after the postmortem of her dead body), the police arrests a young law student, Nikhil Anand under the charge of Mangla’s rape and murder. Nikhil Anand happens to be the orphan nephew of two renowned lawyers – Shyam Bihari Anand who runs a big law firm in Delhi and Nakul Bihari Anand who runs an even bigger law firm in Mumbai. Since the Delhi based firm does not specialize in criminal suits, Nakul Bihari Anand sends a young lawyer, Mukesh Mathur from Mumbai to defend Nikhil in his trial taking place at the Tees Hazaari Court of Delhi.

The thing is, Mukesh has always been belittled by his boss, i.e., Nakul Bihari Anand who leaves no stone unturned in humiliating him and underscoring before him that he is good for nothing. It is despite the fact that Mukesh has solved two murder cases earlier (by default and not through any formally assigned investigation). Nakul Bihari Anand uses the solving of these cases also against Mukesh because the murder-victims were the clients of the firm. Taking a clue from the demeaning behaviour of the superboss towards Mukesh, even the lady secretary of the firm treats Mukesh disrespectfully. However Mukesh tolerates everything and never says no to his boss, i.e., Nakul Bihari Anand. He moves to Delhi quite reluctantly because his wife is undergoing the advanced stage of her first pregnancy.

In Delhi, Mukesh takes stock of the facts and sets to his work of defending Nikhil who is actually the boyfriend of the victim’s daughter, i.e., Nikita. Due to his relationship with Nikita, he was well-known to Mangla. However there are other suspects too because the victim had no dearth of her male admirers. One is a partner of the Delhi based firm of the Anands – Rajeev Acharya who is unmarried despite being in his advanced years. Another one is Vijay Singh who is a stock-broker and financial consultant. He is a family man. The attitude of Nirmal Mehra, Shyam Bihari Anand’s ex son-in-law who has homosexual relationship with a tenant of Mangla, Basant Mirani is also not appreciable in this context. Mukesh seeks the help of an experienced private detective, Chandresh Rohatgi to investigate different aspects of this case, probes deep into this unusual crime and fights the trial in favour of the accused as his defense counsel. As the trial as well as his own endeavour in this regard progresses, gradually this seemingly complicated case becomes clearer and clearer to him because the hidden facts come out one-by-one just like an onion is peeled off. In the climax, he arranges a sting operation with the help of Chandresh Rohatgi to draw curtain on the case and his assignment as well. With this he proves his worth also before his boss, Nakul Bihari Anand.

Vahashi is mainly a court-room drama because a major chunk of the stuff is devoted to the court-room scenes and the arguments taking place during the trial. And let me admit that all the court-room scenes are damn impressive. In my review of an old Hindi movie, Kanoon (1960), I have mentioned that the difference between reel-life courts and real-life courts is even greater than the happenings in the reel-life and the real-life. Perhaps the court-room dramas shown in the Indian movies and the Indian novels are due to the inspiration drawn by the writers from the American fiction work. Such dramatic and theatrical trials do not actually  take place in the Indian courts but they have always been a source of great entertainment in fictional products. The same is the case with Vahashi in which the trial of the accused containing the arguments and counter-arguments of rival lawyers as well as the activities of the witnesses and the magistrate render an engrossing reading to the reader.

The climax which contains a sting-operation, also leaves a long-lasting impact on the reader in which Mr. Pathak has, like always, underscored the power of truth. Mukesh’s belittling by his boss, Nakul Bihari Anand is a reality of the Indian work culture in which most of the bosses are unhappy with and internally scared of their talented subordinates (because they themselves are not that capable and hence show off before them through their higher status). But through Mukesh, the author has established in the end that there’s nothing that a determined and dedicated person can’t do. He only needs to work hard and discover himself without caring for the negative opinion of others about him. The character of Mukesh alongwith the whole story is an inspiration for young and talented Indian employees whose worth is not allowed to come to fore by their bosses.

On the flip side, there is a glaring error in the novel which I had pointed out to the author also just after reading the novel (six years back). It is told in the court that during the postmortem, traces of semen (supposedly of the rapist) were found in the body of the victim. In such a condition, it could be established very easily through the sample of the culprit’s semen whether he was actually guilty or not. The author overlooked this point, else he has elaborated the investigation procedure quite logically and realistically.

Written in simple Hindi but with witty dialogs, this novel ends on a highly positive note in which the low profile inexperienced lawyer rests his case with a Savaiya (a special form of couplet in Hindi poetry) authored by the ancient Hindi poet – Gang whose last line is – Koti Prayaas Kiye Kin Koy Ki Satya Ka Deep Bujhe Na Bujhaye (the lamp of truth cannot be put off even by crores of attempts made by the enemies of truth). Let’s believe in it (despite the disappointing reality prevailing in our country). Alongwith all the Hindi readers, I recommend this brilliant novel to the cops and the lawyers also who are sincere towards checking such heinous crimes, catching the real guilty and ensure adequate legal punishment to the them.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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