A crime reporter meets the challenge of the law

I am writing a review of the novel – Kanoon Ka Challenge (challenge of the law) penned by Hindi mystery-writer, Surendra Mohan Pathak because it is a novel which I have always found very close to my heart. It has always inspired me and helped in strengthening my faith in truth and optimism.Kanoon Ka Challenge starts with the humorous encounter of its hero, Sunil Kumar Chakravarty with his friend, Ramakant Malhotra and both of them move together to attend a party. Since in line with the infamous Indian tendency of doing everything late on such occasions, they find themselves as the visitors who have reached the venue quite early; they decide to meet a bank manager, Prem Chand Oswal at his residence. However due to the busyness of Oswal, that meeting does not materialize and they return back to the party. On their way back to their homes, they decide to pay a second visit to Oswal’s house under a hope that this time they may be able to meet him. However between these two visits of theirs, Oswal has been murdered and a youth, Gajendra Sikka has been arrested for his murder. Sunil comes to know through the investigating police officer, inspector Prabhu Dayaal that the case against Gajendra Sikka is an airtight one, almost an open and shut case with every evidence against himself only. He challenges Sunil (because he is Sunil’s perennial love-hate buddy) to get Gajendra acquitted from that airtight case. Sunil seeks his permission to talk to Gajendra first and after talking to him, he accepts Prabhu Dayaal’s challenge of the law (Kanoon Ka Challenge) and finally meets it with success. The novel tells the story of Sunil’s investigation of this murder case only.

The highlight of this novel is Sunil’s unshakable faith in the power of truth as well as optimism. He is an idealist who firmly believes that come what may, truth has to prevail in the end. He never supports an untruthful person and is always ready to support the underdog and the side of the truth. Whenever anybody caught by the law, seeks his help, his first question put up to him / her is whether he / she is guilty. If guilty, he refuses to help and if innocent, he agrees to do his best for the cause of getting him / her acquitted. Same is the case in this novel. After being sure in his heart that Sikka is innocent, he accepts Prabhu Dayaal’s challenge despite the fact that everything seems to be against Sikka at that point of time.

The second trait of this hero of more than 100 novels is his optimism which always remains at the highest possible level. He never loses hope and motivates others too to remain positive and optimistic in their approach towards life in general and things in particular. He is habitual to look at the glass with half-filled approach instead of half-empty approach. He can always see something positive in an apparently negative and disappointing position. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’, affirms this hero who is a crime reporter by profession. Due to his optimistic approach towards life only, he is always able to support the cause of the underdog and the resourceless and take on the mighty and resourceful criminals.

In this novel, Sunil tells Gajendra, ‘Jab Kisi Majboot Deewaar Mein Raasta Banaana Ho To Usmein Ek Suraakh Karne Mein Kaamyaab Ho Jaana Bhi Badi Uplabdhi Hoti Hai. Phir Suraakh Ka Raaste Mein Tabdeel Ho Jaana Mahaj Waqt Ki Baat Hoti Hai’ (When you have to make a way through a strong wall, then being successful in making a small hole in that is no less an achievement. Thereafter it’s only a matter of time that that small hole gets developed into the way you are aiming for). This dialogue got imprinted on my heart and I always keep it in my mind to recall in my tough times and get strength through that.

Another thing that is underscored in this novel is that your life is valuable and it is never cheaper to any emotion like love. In the novel, Gajendra confesses for the murder (which he has not committed) while in the police custody just because his sweetheart wants him to do that. Then Sunil admonishes him that sacrificing own life for the sake of being sentimental towards someone is not worthwhile. I also believe in it that human life is invaluable and sacrificing it for some noble cause is one thing which is laudable but sacrificing the same for the sake of appeasing someone whom you are emotional for, is by no means desirable. Such self-sacrificing people are termed as emotional fools in this practical world and neither Sunil nor Jitendra Mathur will advise any sane person to allow himself / herself to be termed as an emotional fool.

In the ending scene of this novel, Gajendra after getting exonerated from the murder charge and acquitted from the police custody, asserts, ‘True love is like flying saucer or alien, heard by all but seen by none.’ He asserts it out of his disenchantment with the girl he was madly in love with. I could agree to him when I had read this novel for the first time but once I got someone’s sincere love in my life, I could not agree to it thereafter. Well, to each his own. Love exists for one who has got it and does not exist for one who has not got it.

I am not dealing with the issue whether the story idea is Mr. Pathak’s own or he has picked the basic grains from somewhere else. However he has written very well. The mystery is intricate and the reader is not able to guess it despite getting clues and hints. Mr. Pathak has also shown sympathy towards the murderer after the mystery is unravelled because everybody is a human-being, after all. Neither all the murder-victims are saints, nor all the murderers are devils.

The novel is titled as such because the crime reporter hero’s perennial love-hate buddy police officer challenges him to get the accused acquitted from the airtight case against him. However I appreciate Mr. Pathak for the fact that alongside the idealist hero, he has developed an idealist cop also who is never hell-bent upon taking the arrested one to the gallows without seeing the facts from an open-mind. Inspector Prabhu Dayaal is the kind of cop, our country needs – an open minded, sincere and honest police officer who is fully dedicated to his duty and completely free from individual biases. In the end, he gracefully acknowledges his defeat on the challenge given to Sunil and as a token of appreciation and recognition of his efforts to prove innocence of the accused, he gives him the letter of the police commissioner of the city (Rajnagar) informing Sunil that he has been made a Special Police Officer.

The novel is studded with humour. Sunil’s Punjabi friend, Ramakant is present from the beginning to the end to make you laugh time and again. I will term this novel a brilliant blend of humour and suspense. The humour-quotient makes this novel worth reading more than once.

Written in Hindi which is actually a spicy mix of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and English, this novel is highly entertaining. As said earlier, alongwith the entertainment value, this novel carries high inspirational value. It has always inspired me to look at the brighter side of life and never lose hope. And hence I am recommending it to all those who can read Hindi.

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About Jitendra Mathur

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