A shriek in the dark

Andhere Ki Cheekh is a very old novel penned by eminent Hindi mystery and thriller writer Surendra Mohan Pathak which was first published in 1978 under his popular Sunil Series whose hero Sunil Kumar Chakravarty is a Bengali youth and is employed with a national daily  ‘Blast’ as a crime reporter while living and working in the fictitious metropolitan city named as Rajnagar. He follows the lofty ideals of life viz. truth, justice, kindness, benevolence etc. He is an eternal bachelor and because of living all alone, does not believe in saving for future. Therefore, he spends almost all his salary in enjoying life to the full. He has a close friend named as Ramakant Malhotra who is a Punjabi youth who runs a club titled as Youth Club and helps him from time to time in his investigating endeavours himself as well as through his trusted employees viz. Jauhari, Dinakar, Rakesh etc. Sunil usually happens to cross paths with an honest and dutiful police officer posted in the police headquarters of the city – Inspector Prabhu Dayaal while carrying out his investigation work in quest of some sensational news for  ‘Blast’. The superintendent of police (now Mr. Pathak has made him deputy commissioner of police saying that Rajnagar has been made commissionerate by the Government of India) named as Ram Singh is Sunil’s friend. Sunil’s employer who is the owner and chief editor of  ‘Blast’ – Mr. B.K. Malik is very fond of him and loves him like his own son. He is also dear to an aged lawyer Mr. Chatterjee who is famous not only for winning legal suits but also for his honesty, integrity and always standing by truth and justice only.

Andhere Ki Cheekh (a shriek in the dark) is the 74th venture of this smart hero whose quick-wit and ability to talk in style can be the source of envy for any youth. It tells the story of the murder of a doctor – Dr. M.P. Saxena whose real business was to cover the illegal pregnancy and confinement of such women who could not declare their motherhood due to social norms and then to give such children born under his supervision only to such rich ladies who could not become mother due to biological problems. Such children who would have been termed as illegitimate had it not been for this unusual exercise of Dr.  Saxena, got the name of and fostering by wealthy families who declared them as their own children only because the females concerned had already showed false pregnancy to the world with the help of the doctor. In return for his these services, Dr. Saxena got a lot of money from the families taking away such children and he also used to give a part of it to the real, biological mothers of the children if they were financially weak or came from the lower strata of the society.

The doctor used to keep a record of these activities of his alongwith the names and addresses of the concerned people in a diary. And that diary only became the reason for his murder by some greedy person who wanted to run a blackmailing racket on the basis of the confidential information contained in the diary. When a lethal attack was made on Dr. Saxena in the darkness and the silence of the night hours, a shriek coming out of the throat of a female was heard loud and soon thereafter a young girl was seen as running out of the house of the doctor. However it’s not that young girl who had let out that shriek of the dark from her throat.

Now our hero Sunil alongwith his friend Ramakant is approached by a couple known as the Thakkars. Interestingly, the names of both the husband and the wife are quite similar. The husband’s name is Neeraj whereas the wife’s name is Neeraja. They have a 10 years old son named as Bunty. However the young girl named as Krishna Sobti who was seen as running away from Dr. Saxena’s house on the night of the lethal attack on him, stakes her claim on Bunty saying that he’s not the son of the Thakkar couple but her brother. Neeraja tells Sunil that her husband Neeraj is hiding something about his activities of that night. She asks for his help in this regard and requests him to find out the truth. With Dr. Saxena’s death after swinging between life and death for a number of hours, this case has already become right up Sunil’s alley.

Police acts on the basis of the available evidences as well as the dying declaration of Dr. Saxena in a tape-recorder and arrests Neeraj Thakkar under the charge of that murder. Now his wife, i.e., Neeraja needs Sunil’s help all the more. A crooked lawyer Naagarwaala also makes entry into the scene and tries to get hold of the diary which is the record of Dr. Saxena’s business. He also tries to misguide both Krishna and Neeraj Thakkar for warming his pocket. However Sunil not only unearths the mystery of this murder and unmasks the real culprit but also destroys that diary which Krishna Sobti had taken away from Dr. Saxena’s house (while running away from there that night) because such dangerous record could fetch unnecessary havoc in the lives of many innocent children.

The biggest plus point of this very interesting novel is the humanitarian aspect of the story and the sensitivity embedded therein. Dr. Saxena conducted an unusual as well as illegal business to earn big money but the outcome of whatever he did turned out to be positive for everybody. Girls / women suffering from troublesome / unwanted pregnancy escaped social stigma with the satisfaction that their offspring would get a good life by living in some well-off and reputed family, childless couples got the pleasure of parenthood and the children who would have been illegitimate in the eyes of the society and the law got legitimacy and good nurture. Thus the end result of every such act masterminded by the doctor was desirable only for everyone. However such information, if got public for any case of this kind, it would have been disastrous for all concerned especially the poor child who was born as such for no fault of his. Through Sunil, the author raises a very pertinent question as to why every information should become public property. Certain things are better when they remain concealed forever.

In the ending scene, when Krishna insists for getting her brother from the Thakkar couple, Neeraja’s saying to her that instead of snatching her brother from them, she could also become their daughter by which she would get her brother and the fostering parents of her brother would get a daughter also, is heart-touching. At that point, the author signs off by asserting that though the investing police officer – Inspector Prabhu Dayaal was earlier unhappy with Sunil for destroying that record of Dr. Saxena, the emotional scene between Krishna and Neeraja has moved him also. Life gives different treatment to different people; sometimes positive, sometimes negative. However if we keep the traits of sensitivity and humanity intact in our hearts, everything can turn out to be just fine.

Without touching the issue of the originality of the plot, I admire the layout of the murder mystery which has been spread very well by the author on the pages of this novel. The novel is small in size but the mystery, the investigation of the events of that fateful night by the hero, his deductive reasoning and analysis and the humour created by his friend Ramakant and his junior colleague Arjun combine to make it a very interesting reading.

Written in layman’s language, this almost four decades old novel is an evidence of the author’s abundant and unshakable faith in sensitivity and humanitarian values. I recommend it wholeheartedly to not only the mystery fans but also those who put a premium on sensitivity and sublime human relations.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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2 Responses to A shriek in the dark

  1. Rekha Sahay says:

    Apke filmo aur gano ke khajane ke bare me to mai janti thi. purane novels ka Bhi shokh aapko hai. yah , khusi ki baat hai. bhut accha likha hai aapne.

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