Centuries ago William Shakespeare had asserted -‘What’s there in a name ?’ He’s right. Anything or anybody can be given any name which may not have anything to do with its real nature or worth or life events. Through his thriller novel – Dus Lakh (a sum of rupees ten lacs or one million) Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak created a hero named as Jeet Singh whose destiny goes contrary to his name. Jeet means victory or win but the destiny of this person is to remain a loser as highlighted by the story of this novel which was first published in 1996.This hero Jeet Singh who was christened by his mother as such under the impression that her son would conquer the world when grown up, considers himself a loser only. He could not gain adequate education to make a stout career. The only thing that he could learn is to open locks and make duplicate keys of them. Accordingly he adopted the profession of a locksmith. However just by working as a locksmith, he was not able to earn sufficiently to make both ends meet. So he started using this art of his for unlawful purposes, to be straight, busting the locks of safes and vaults and stealing money, alone or in association with others like him. Originally from Himachal Pradesh, destiny brought him to Indore where he was arrested and tried for a theft. However after getting bail from the court, he jumped the bail and migrated to Mumbai where the story of this novel is set.
Having started living in a Kholi (very small, matchbox type, accommodation in Mumbai), Jeet Singh comes into contact with a very beautiful girl Sushmita living in his neighbourhood who works in the office of a Chartered Accountant and being motherless, lives with her widow elder sister Asmita and three children of hers. Asmita works in a big departmental store owned by a Sindhi businessman – Pursumal Changulaani and it is found that she has cancer whose treatment requires a sum of Rs. 10 lacs. Jeet Singh, having fallen for the charms of Sushmita, promises to her that he would arrange the required sum of Rs. 10 lacs within the limited time of 3 months available for Asmita’s treatment (as told by the concerned doctor) and in turn, Sushmita indirectly promises him to accept his love. How Jeet Singh makes many (unlawful) efforts to arrange that sum facing several ups and downs in that bid of his and when, quite unexpectedly, he is able to arrange that sum on the final day of that deadline how a cruel setback is rendered to him by his ill-fate, forms the remaining part of the story.
The USP of this novel which is one of the most popular novels of this eminent Hindi novelist, is the passion of the hero to get the required sum to fulfill the promise made by him to his sweetheart and then get her hand for life in return. His passionate love is the force through which he overcomes all the hurdles coming in his way and becomes ready to take any risk. But alongwith his passion, the hide and seek game that his fate constantly plays with him, is also something which makes the narrative lively and engaging. Unknowingly the reader starts sympathizing with the hero whenever he loses anywhere and praying for his ultimate victory in his battle to get the love of his life. Making the reader relating to and sympathizing with the low profile hero (he also suffers from an inferiority complex for not being able to do something or become something worthwhile in his life) is the biggest success of the author. The ups and downs in the hero’s journey of getting the required sum of Rs. 10 Lakh from the starting point to the finishing point when he visits his sweetheart with the suitcase containing that amount, is a breathtaking rollercoaster ride which consists of a good dose of emotion too for the reader.
The hero time and again curses his fate and feels that his mother had wrongly christened him. Named as Jeet Singh and popularly called by the nickname of Jeeta (winner / victorious), he finds this name as a cruel joke on him when he comes across losses time and again in his bid to win and succeed. His grief-filled assertion at the end of the novel when he’s not able to control his feelings and bursts into tears missing his mother and complaining to her for christening him as such, may prove to be a tear-jerker for any reader. And let’s acknowledge this fact that while the readers of some good work of fiction get inspired by the activities and their outcomes in case of a winner, they happen to sympathize with the protagonist if he turns out to be a loser (despite all reasonable efforts made by him to become a winner). A man can do his best to do or get something but uncontrollable factors are always there who have their own role to play. That’s why destiny or luck is remembered and quoted time and again in the course of life. And the losers have to console themselves for the (undesirable) course of events or happenings or outcomes by believing in -‘it was written‘. Jeet Singh of Dus Lakh also remains a loser perhaps because this only was written for him.
The author has very effectively highlighted the thought-train of the hero who could not make a proper living because of lack of education or knowing something enabling him to earn reasonably. He is not a criminal by nature and first his poverty and then his passionate love for the needy girl only thrust him into the world of crime. He is not happy by becoming a criminal but he has no other way out to earn the hefty sum within the very limited time available with him. Circumstances have made him a killer also whereas he wanted to confine himself to the safecracking / vaultbusting act only during the criminal activities joined by him. That’s also a part of his ill-fate and underscores the dictum -‘Man proposes, God disposes‘. What you want or need, may or may not happen but what’s written / destined is bound to happen. Besides, he carries out all his risky activities on the premise of a vague and indirect promise made by the girl which depicts the naivety embedded in the character of this hero coming from a small town of Himachal Pradesh.
Alongwith the hero, the author has presented the character of his true friend Enzo in the novel. Believing in the maxim -‘A friend in need is a friend indeed‘, Enzo not only sympathizes but also empathizes with his friend Jeet Singh and is ever ready to do anything for him. His final sacrifice for Jeet Singh is able to moist the eyes of the readers.
The author has, like in many of his other novels, has highlighted the corrupt and the high-handed character of the Indian police who cannot stop crimes but is never hesitant to demonstrate its blind and uncontrolled power on the hapless poor and innocent.
The language used by the author is simple including the dialogues of the hero as he is a modestly educated, low profile person. However the layout of the narrative and the dialogues between various characters are quite impressive. Certain things are told in flashback through the hero’s narrating them to his friend(s).
This novel got so much success and the hero got so much fame that the author decided to make this hero a serial hero. Till now, ten more novels of Jeet Singh have come before the readers after this introductory novel of his. Presently he is a highly popular hero of Hindi pulp fiction world. However it’s his first venture Dus Lakh only which enables the readers to understand him properly. This emotion-soaked novel has a great repeat value and the Hindi reader who reads it once, would love to read it again and again.
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