Once the brain-child of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes had gained such a popularity among his readers that letters used to come at his declared residence of Baker Street, London. A similar kind of thing happened with the brain-child of Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak – Sunil Kumar Chakravarty, the investigative journalist working for a national daily – Blast, during the seventies and the early eighties. He had become so popular among the readers of Hindi crime-detection fictional work that people used to write letters to his creator (because the author had created a fictitious city for him – Rajnagar where letters could not be sent). The readers were very much interested in knowing about his habits, his likings and dislikings, the availability of his brand of cigarette (Lucky Strike), his marriage preference (whether he would marry Renu, the lady-receptionist in Blast’s office or someone else) etc. etc. Definitely, Mr. Pathak has created a journalist hero who is a class of his own. He lives his life in a carefree manner without saving for the future, spending lavishly on good food and good clothes and driving an expensive motorbike. However he believes in the high ideals of life and never compromises with them and from this viewpoint he is old-fashioned (from the viewpoint of today’s generation perhaps). He is witty and smart-talker as well as very kind at his heart and generous by his nature.
Sunil always melts down by listening to the grief and pain of anybody and gets ready to help him / her wholeheartedly. He reiterates a statement about himself (in lighter vein) – ‘I cannot see a damsel in distress.’ Hence several mysteries penned by Mr. Pathak under Sunil series, contain stories of young ladies in trouble with Sunil performing the role of the troubleshooter for them. Today I am reviewing such a novel only which had been penned by the author some three and a half decades back. This small novel is titled as – Laash Ka Qatl (murder of a dead man).Laash Ka Qatl tells the saga of the murder of a greedy and manipulative person – Narendra Awasthi on a cruise owned by Sunil’s Sindhi friend – Kanhaiya Laal Sajnaani. The wife of the victim – Ramaa is arrested under the charge of murdering her husband. There are several evidences against her and she seems to have been trapped in an airtight case. Sunil believes in her innocence and being a damsel in distress, she is right up his alley. Since Awasthi had fallen into the sea and his dead body was not found, Sunil forms a theory that he is alive and he had masterminded this plan for material gain as well as framing his innocent wife for his murder whom he does not like at all. Since before his so-called death, Awasthi was creating obstacles in the sale of a plot of land and trying to extort money from the buyer (Sajnaani) and the seller which is a needy family, Sunil starts his investigation from a lady – Neelima whom Awasthi was referring to as his partner in business while discussing the issue on the cruise.
However, when Sunil approaches Neelima’s house with his fast friend – Ramakant and finds out some clues indicating that Awasthi was saved from the sea by Neelima, he has to face a lot of shame before not only Neelima but also his love-hate buddy and the investigating officer of Awasthi’s murder – police inspector Prabhu Dayaal, for all of his predictions are belied by the facts coming out. Whatever is done by him backfires and he appears to be completely downed in this case when even the dead body of Awasthi is found from the sea. He feels salt being rubbed in his wounds when a crooked lawyer – Barrister Mangal Daas Mahant issues him a notice on behalf of Neelima for a defamation suit being filed against him. How Sunil reaches the truth and turns the tables on his opponents, is the climax of the story. He not only succeeds in saving himself from the defamation suit but also in proving Ramaa as innocent in this murder case.
Laash Ka Qatl is a small novel but very very interesting. Like most of the novels of Sunil series, this novel is also studded with the kindness and wittiness of Sunil alongwith the humorous talks of Ramakant and Sunil’s interesting interactions with inspector Prabhu Dayaal who is a dutiful, honest and efficient police officer but always remains allergic to Sunil because of his tactics to cross the line of the police in any case. Sunil’s firm belief in the triumph of truth has been established in this novel also. The language of the novel is quite spicy like all the novels of Mr. Pathak.
Since it’s a very old novel, no recent edition of it may be available. However if any Hindi reader gets its copy, he / she will find this novel as a thoroughly entertaining one.
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