A breathtaking thriller with a corporate backdrop

I have read many novels of popular Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak which are murder mysteries or crime thrillers. One thing that I have noticed that Mr. Pathak possesses good knowledge of corporate functioning also. Since crime is such a phenomena that has left no field unaffected by it. Crimes do take place in the corporate world also. Mr. Pathak, therefore, has written certain novels giving a glimpse of corporate functioning. However he has written one thriller whose premise itself is a corporate war only. This lesser known work of Mr. Pathak is Ek Hi Anjaam (the only denouement).Ek Hi Anjaam narrates the tussle within a corporate group called Shiwalik Group of Industries whose control lies with the Shah family whose head is Haribhai Shah. He alongwith his three sons manages the affairs of the corporate house and is under the accusation of misusing the wealth of the companies under this group which rightfully belongs to their shareholders. He possesses only 30% shares of the main company but still keeps the control with him, being its Chairman and Managing Director. It is said that due to the mismanagement of the Shah family and their using the corporate funds for own luxuries and vested interests, this group is being severely damaged from within the way termite undermines a wooden structure.

In this scenario, suddenly a person emerges like a comet on the corporate sky. This man is Kaanti Desai. He is known to be an NRI and the rumours are that the Government of India itself has brought him to take on the Shah family because the government itself is not happy with the things as they are going on in Shiwalik and wants the Shah family to be ousted from its regime. Kaanti Desai is instigating the minority stockholders against the Shah family. Such stockholders do not possess any power individually but are a force to reckon with when their voting power is amassed. Kaanti Desai himself has bought 15% shares of the company and is determined to take his holding up to at least 20%. The total value of the holding of the minority stockholders is 12% of the voting power. Clubbing these two and then gaining the support of two NRI shareholders known as the Kulkarni Brothers who possess 20% shares of the company, Kaanti Desai is now planning to vote the Shah family out of the Board of Directors of Shiwaalik.

And when there is a fight for power and wealth, bloody designs on the part of the players in the fray are not far behind. The youngest son of Haribhai Shah – Kishore Shah plans to murder Kaanti Desai through a contract-killer whose fees in crores of rupees is to be paid to him in the form of diamonds. The diamonds are arranged through a crooked jeweller Hemant Jariwaala and a meeting is arranged between them on the Figaaro Island, an island in the Arabian Sea, some 50 kilometers away from the Calangute Beach of Goa. The exact place of meeting is the bungalow of an old resident of that place – Alex Alemao. However due to the double-crossing of Alex Alemao, both Hemant Jariwaala and Kishore Shah alongwith some others get killed in the hands of the commandos sent by Shivaji Saable who is apparently a gangster but actually has the government on his back to protect Kaanti Desai and, if required, eliminate his foes. Only the contract-killer – Yousuf is able to save his life in the lethal attack of Saable’s men and he runs away from there in wounded condition.

But the story takes an interesting twist due to the unexpected entry of three characters in the story who have nothing to do with the clash between these two sides. One is a young and attractive girl Sonia Walson who has accompanied Hemant Jariwaala on the island and the other two are a Mumbai-based TV program producer Aniruddh Sharma and his little daughter. Aniruddh is an alcoholic and mainly his alcoholism has played a significant role in his divorce with his wife. As per the order of the court, the little daughter has to live with her mother only and the father, i.e., Aniruddh can meet her only as per the will of the mother. Things take such a development that Aniruddh’s divorced wife allows the little daughter to spend some days with her father. Aniruddh takes her to Goa and then to the bungalow of his close friend Alex Alemao on the Figaaro Island where a magnificent show of fireworks is arranged in the evening of the Republic Day of India, i.e., 26th January every year. However he and his little daughter reach there shortly before the predetermined time of the bloody incident involving the murder of Kishore Shah and the other ones with him as planned by Shivaji Saable.

Badly startled by their unexpected visit, Alemao sends Aniruddh, Sonia and Aniruddh’s little daughter to the beach telling Aniruddh that the view of the fireworks(as seen in the sky) will be much better from the beach. Aniruddh has brought two Tennis racquets with him and when, after the bloodbath, the contract-killer Yousuf runs for his life, he takes one of Aniruddh’s racquets with him mistaking it to be the one whose hollow handle contains the diamonds worth crores of rupees which have been brought by Hemant Jariwaala and given to him as the contract-killing fee from the side of the Shah family. When Aniruddh, his little daughter and Sonia return to Alemao’s bungalow, they are shocked to find several dead bodies there. At Aniruddh’s insistence, Alemao tells him the story behind that carnage and urges him to run away from that place for the sake of the life of himself and his little daughter. Now Aniruddh moves to Mumbai (or Bombay) alongwith his little daughter and his newly made friend Sonia. But now due to the diamonds in his possession (in the hollow handle of the racquet which he takes away with him considering it as his own), both the parties – that on the side of Kaanti Desai and that on the side of his opponents, namely, the Shah family; go after him.

A deadly outlaw Raaju Saawant who only has arranged the contract-killing services of Yousuf for the Shah family, kills a female employee of the club where Aniruddh goes to play Tennis and frames Aniruddh under the charge of that murder. Aniruddh feels that unknowingly he has been trapped in a conspiracy which is much beyond his comprehension and his position has become that of a little pawn in the game of chess between two high profile players. To stall his arrest, he runs away and seeks the help of Sonia in such a way that she unites with him with his little daughter at a place outside Mumbai. Now they start their journey towards the safety of their lives with the diamonds in Aniruddh’s possession. A lot of twists come in the story before Aniruddh is able to save not only the life of himself, his daughter and Sonia but also the life of Kaanti Desai. And he also gets exonerated from the charge of murdering the female employee of the club. The sensational climax of this story takes place in Nepal.

Ek Hi Anjaam is one of the most underrated novels of this popular Hindi author. It is much less known and talked-about as compared to many of his other works. However it is superb in quality of story and treatment. The suspense element is also there in the story. However its readability is mainly due to thrill. It contains a very long chain of events with goosebumps at almost every link of that. The novel has been written on a very large canvas and once the main story takes off, the author does not give the reader any time to think. The reader just keeps on flowing with the events speedily taking place with the lead characters and reaches the destination with them only.

The author has dealt with the issue of the relationships between husband, wife and child also in a highly emotional as well as practical manner. A husband and a wife can seek divorce but what about the child that has taken birth due to their marriage ? Nobody is perfect. The wife may be having certain deficiencies. The husband may be having certain defects. Is it fair on the part of both of them to punish their innocent kid for their own errors and shortcomings ? No ! Somewhere they have to realize that they cannot do it and they should compromise this way or that way so that the kid does not suffer. If they carry on with their respective egos and don’t compromise with each other, then they do not at all deserve to be called parents. He has shown in the end that Aniruddh’s divorced wife allows their little daughter to live with her loving father and the little daughter has got so much love from her father’s ‘friend’ Sonia during the dangerous journey from Mumbai to Nepal that she accepts Sonia as her mother.

The author has paid ample attention to the development of the principal characters also. He has underscored that an alcoholic can always quit drinking on the basis of his willpower because the addiction is less in the body and more in the mind. Aniruddh who always felt in the past that it’s impossible for him to quit drinking, is able to stay away from liquor very easily when he is running for his life alongwith his daughter and Sonia and still stealing certain moments of joy with them. Then it dawns upon him that quitting drinking is not that difficult. In the end, he quits drinking to the surprise of everybody who has known him for a substantial period of time.

Without touching the issue of the originality of the plot, let me declare that Ek Hi Anjaam is a mesmerizing read. Just make the first dip into the flow of the narrative and then you won’t have any realization of the time passing by until you reach the end of the novel. I keep on reading accolades about the thrillers written in English. I advise those who are fond of reading such English thrillers to read Ek Hi Anjaam and then decide for themselves whether this Hindi novel is any less than the highly publicized English bestsellers.

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About Jitendra Mathur

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