The free bird

Aazaad Panchhi (free bird) is a murder mystery written by eminent Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak. It’s an intricate murder mystery with three murders taking place during the flow of the narrative with the murderer getting exposed in the end. The story is set in Delhi by keeping two ambitious youths at the centre of the story who have migrated from their hometown Pathaankot to the capital of India in their bid to make it big in life.

These two youths who can be considered as the hero and the heroine of this story are Dr. Gaurav Khuraana and Aparna Mehta. Dr. Gaurav, a medico by qualification, could not run a successful practice in their hometown and Aparna too could not find any good opportunity there which might suit her abilities and personality. So both these youths who are in love with each other had arrived at Delhi one year prior to the happenings of the story of Aazaad Panchhi.

The story starts with Gaurav’s decision to return to their hometown, i.e., Pathaankot and he proposes to Aparna that they get married and she returns with him to their hometown as his wife now. But Aparna refuses because she still has hopes from her life in Delhi (though she has no objections to quick marriage with her beau Gaurav). Besides, she has complaints with Gaurav that he did not take the job seriously which she had managed for him in a company due to his own ego problems.

Aparna has two cousins in the city. One is Shyama who is her somewhat elder cousin and had migrated from Pathaankot to Delhi just like her but was successful in getting married to a businessman Om Saxena. The second one is Ramesh Khanna who has been a criminal since his early years and got sentenced to imprisonment by the court under the charge of embezzling the funds of his employer company. Now he is out of jail but no longer a trustworthy person in the eyes of anybody knowing him.

Another very colourful character in the picture is a casanova known as Alvaro Manuel Sores Guera, apparently a Portuguese of around 35 years of age who teaches western dance to rich ladies but actually enjoys on their money like a gigolo. He is having an affair with not only Shyama Saxena but also her unmarried friend Manisha Gupta. The very interesting twist in the story is that Manisha had deliberately imposed herself on Alvaro on the advice of her fiance Sanjeev Soori because telephone instruments worth a fortune had been stolen from the godown of her telephone manufacturer father Heeranand Gupta and Alvaro is not only a suspect for that but Sanjeev is also under an impression that Alvaro has some weak nerve of Manisha’s father in his hand. But ironically, Manisha fell for the charms of Alvaro for real.

The story takes off when Aparna, an employee in an office known as Capital Secretarial Service where messages are received for the clients through parallel lines of their telephone numbers and later delivered to them, receives a strange message for her cousin Shyama in male voice that she had better leave her house and become unavailable for some time because some dangerous incident is going to take place with her ‘Aazaad Panchhi’ (free bird) in the next 24 hours. And soon after that, a very frightened Ramesh Khanna urges Gaurav to allow him to accompany him in his journey to their hometown Pathaankot. Considering the untrustworthy character of Ramesh, Aparna is dead against his accompanying Gaurav but Gaurav tentatively agrees for that.

In the same evening, Alvaro is found as murdered in Shyama’s flat and the investigating young police officer Maheshvari feels that the strange message delivered indirectly to Shyama has something to do with that murder. Now who is Shyama’s ‘Aazaad Panchhi‘ or free bird ? There are two persons known as ‘Aazaad Panchhi’ in the perspective of the case. Firstly, Alvaro was called as such by Sanjeev Soori because of his philandering nature, having affairs with many women. Secondly, Alvaro himself called Ramesh Khanna as such because of his being a jailbird earlier and now freed from jail. The plot thickens when first, someone tries to kill Aparna by calling her deceitfully on a railway station of Delhi and throwing her on the rail when a train is coming and then two more murders take place. Gaurav fortunately saves Aparna and starts helping Maheshvari in his investigation to reach the culprit. The culprit is exposed in the end and then Aparna decides to forgo her career ambitions and return to Pathaankot with Gaurav as his life-partner.This intricate murder mystery has two major plus points. First, there is a plethora of characters in the story but every one has been given due importance and allowed to develop on his / her own. Second, all the events and the relationships of the characters are very well connected to one other. Everything mentioned is meaningful. Nothing is superfluous that can be dispensed with. It’s a well-knitted mystery with no loose point or loose end left.

The author has highlighted career ambitions of youths but also has underscored that sometimes, it’s better to control your ambitions and take a prudent decision for your life. It has been shown in the case of both Dr. Gaurav, the hero and Aparna, the heroine. Dr. Gaurav is returning to his hometown because his father who is on his death-bed, has called him to take charge of his clinic. Aparna who is not at all ready to return to her hometown with a label of failure, finally feels after narrowly escaping death twice in the hands of the murderer that her real destination is in the life of her beau only and standing by him is preferable to pursuing her own ambitions.The author himself is a Delhite and that’s why he has portrayed various places of Delhi in a perfect and completely authentic manner. While moving with the characters of the story, the reader enjoys like roaming around the capital of India. The author has very skillfully highlighted the immorality crept in the life of the so-called high society people in the metro cities of India. Things like women openly drinking any time during the day, husband having an affair with some other woman, wife having affair with some other man and one man having affairs with many women are quite common. And greedy people take advantage of the loose character of rich fellows (both men and women).

Through the dialog of Aparna and Dr. Gaurav, the author has very realistically underscored the thinking pattern, the thought train and the mindset of today’s career-oriented youths. There is a lot to learn and understand from their dialog.The mystery is so intricate that it’s almost impossible to guess the real murderer. But when the murderer is unmasked, all the happenings including the red-herrings presented by the author prior to the revelation can be correctly understood and interpreted by the reader.

Aazaad Panchhi can be termed as a traditional murder mystery because there is no contemporary flavour in it. It was first published in 1993, i.e., prior to the era of mobile phones and internet in India. Hence, it’s to be enjoyed by reading it from that perspective only. The author has not tried to present the mystery in some stylish manner. It’s been presented through a flat narration. Despite the intricacy of the mystery, its taut contexture and different colours of certain characters being revealed alongwith the events, the narrative cannot be termed as some happening or sparkling one. Hence the novel contains a good mystery but no thrill. Romance is there though.

I recommend this nice murder mystery written in simple Hindi to all the mystery fans who can read Hindi.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
This entry was posted in Book Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The free bird

  1. Rekha Sahay says:

    I really appreciate your Interest of classic books , movies , songs and shaayris.
    Is this book available in the market ?

    • ई-पुस्तक के रूप में तो यह उपलब्ध है लेकिन कागज़ पर यह लंबे समय से छपी नहीं है इसलिए कागज़ पर छपी हुई प्रति का मिलना इस समय तो कठिन ही है । लेकिन यदि पुरानी पुस्तकें रखने वाले कोई आपकी नज़र में हों (आपके अपने शहर में) तो उनके यहाँ देखिएगा, कोई पुरानी प्रति मिल भी सकती है ।

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