In any regular formulaic fiction work, especially the pulp fiction work, the lead character (male or female) is most likely to be a young one. Agatha Christie created aged detectives like Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot and there can be more such detective heroes (and heroines) in foreign pulp fiction work. However Indian pulp fiction writers of detective genre used to present young detectives only who could romance also side-by-side their crime-detection work. The most popular Hindi mystery writer, Surendra Mohan Pathak also created young heroes only for his different series of novels. However, for a change, he presented a 74 years old, very aged hero in a novel which was first published in 1991. It’s Shaque Ki Sui (needle of suspicion).
Shaque Ki Sui starts with the return journey of six people after a party in the night towards their homes in Delhi. These six people are a businessman – Amarjeet Khurana, his second wife (much younger to him in age) – Saloni, his young daughter (through his deceased first wife) – Kiran, his would-be son-in-law – Anil Mehra, his business partner – Anuraag Raina and Anuraag’s wife – Tripta (who happens to be the ex-flame of Amarjeet). Amarjeet is a high-handed and arrogant person who is a heavy drinker also. While going back, he proposes to the other members of the group to stop somewhere for a quick drink. His would-be son-in-law (i.e., his daughter Kiran’s fiance), Anil offers to take them to his uncle’s house at Vasant Kunj for this purpose. His uncle is abroad and before his departure, he had handed over the keys of his house to Anil to take care of that. The group reaches there and from a bottle of rum lying in the house, drinks are prepared for all of them. Tripta has been feeling unwell throughout the evening and has come alongwith the group there quite reluctantly, fretting non-stop. Consumption of the drinks lead to something like food-poisoning for all the members of the group. Tripta does not consume her drink fully and able to throw a yell out of her throat before falling unconscious. That yell ensure external help for them and they are taken to the hospital. It is found that there was poison in the drinks. Five of the six members of the group survive but Amarjeet dies.
The investigating officer of this murder case is sub-inspector Maheshwari from the Cannaught Place police station. He approaches the hero of this novel, Deewaan Kailash Naath who is an aged (74 years old) lawyer and whose firm happens to be the solicitors of Late Amarjeet Khurana. Deewaan Kailash Naath who despite his mature age, is a romantic, jolly and sassy person; provides him all the information that he needs for the purpose of his investigation and discusses the case also with him. He feels that still more murders are in the line but Maheshwari does not consider his idea as worth giving any thought. However both are in agreement on one point that the remaining members of the group should not be all together at a place because if one of them only is the murderer, he / she will strike again. Maheshwari has advised them accordingly. However, ignoring his advice, all of them get together on Amarjeet’s farm-house at Faridabad in a rainy evening and also go for swimming in the nearby river. Another mishap happens which compels Maheshwari to seek the help of Deewaan Kailash Naath in the late night hours. He reaches the police station and discusses the case with Maheshwari’s senior officer – S.H.O. (abbreviation for station house officer) Bhoop Singh. Meantime Maheshwari is bringing all the remaining ones back to Delhi when two consecutive accidents result in two more deaths. When, finally, he arrives at the police station, only two out of the original six ones, are alive. One of them is Kiran, the young daughter of Amarjeet. To give her company, Deewaan Kailash Naath seeks the help of his employee, Ms. Chandrika Maini who is a middle-aged unmarried woman. The following evening again proves to be an eventful one and culminates in catching of the guilties and unravelling of the mystery by Deewaan Kailash Naath alongwith Maheshwari.
The mystery of Shaque Ki Sui is quite good and keeps the reader hooked till the ending pages but if I have read this novel several number of times, it is not because of the mystery but because of the 74 years old hero of the novel, Deewaan Kailash Naath. In India, often it is said (according to the prevailing social norms) that in the old age, a person should only seek solace from God and does not take interest in worldly pleasures. However if you seek my opinion in this regard, I would like to be like Deewaan Kailash Naath in my old age who still believes in enjoying every moment of his life. It’s people like him who teach us – ‘Live today as if you’re going to die tomorrow’. Old age is said to be the second childhood in a person’s life and Deewaan Kailash Naath proves it. He is shown as attending the office (he has taken retirement from practice long back) because his son has gone abroad for the time-being. While in the office, he banters with the aged but his favourite peon of the office – Devi Singh, enjoys drinking and smoking while sitting in the office and gets romantic about Chandrika whom he has been admiring for decades. He is a clean-heart, benevolent and noble person but the thing is that he is ZINDA DIL. And it’s his ZINDA DILI (always remaining cheerful and never losing heart over anything) which wins the hearts of the readers of this novel.
The author has portrayed the characters of this novel in a lively manner. Not only was I able to visualize Deewaan Kailash Naath in front of my eyes by reading about him in the novel but also understand the other characters of the novel pretty well who have their own pluses and minuses like real life human-beings. The way Chandrika scolds Maheshwari in the final phase of the novel allows the reader to vividly see the inner human aspect of herself.
This novel has been written in such a way that renders a feeling to the reader as if he were witnessing all the events taking place on the pages of the novel through his eyes only. The stormy rainy night which witnesses many deaths proves to be stormy for the reader too who keeps on reading, holding his breath.
Through the dialog of Deewaan Kailash Naath and Chandrika and underscoring the forgetful nature of our aged hero, the author has generated humour too. I could not stop my laugh at certain places while going through their conversation. Chandika’s visit to the residence of Deewaan Kailash Naath is a very very hilarious scene of this novel. Besides, some serious thoughts come up when the hero laments the deterioration of social norms regarding a dead person in the context of Amarjeet’s death.
The language used as well as the spreading of the story is admirable. The author has not wasted time and words and the story starts taking shape from the very first scene. And thereafter the grip of the story on the reader has not been allowed to get loosened at any place.
Being known personally to the author, I urged him a couple of times to bring Deewaan Kailash Naath back in any novel but he did not accede to my request because of feeling that this old hero was not admired by the readers and might not be welcome again by them. Anyway, Shaque Ki Sui will always remain one of my favourite novels penned by Surendra Mohan Pathak and I recommend it wholeheartedly to all the Hindi readers who are fond of mysteries.
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