Gambling is a vice, no doubt. However, speaking philosophically, sometimes the whole life appears to be a kind of gamble only. Gambling is illegal in India (though the government itself runs certain kinds of gambling in our country) but habitual gamblers are seldom able to forbear from gambling. And those who are professional gamblers or have seen professional gambling closely, know very well that dishonesty is the best policy considered here. Cheating appears to be a standard rule of the game may it be the gambling through cards or roulette wheel or the like wise. Normally, the motive of such a cheating by the gamblers or the people running the game, is to loot certain person or persons. However more than four decades back, Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak had written a novel which tells a story of cheating in gambling (through cards) apparently to loot a wealthy person who is fond of gambling but actually with a hidden motive which is much bigger than the visible motive of making easy money. This very interesting novel is Khoon Ka Khel (bloody game) which is the 62nd venture of Sunil, the popular journalist hero created by Surendra Mohan Pathak.
Khoon Ka Khel tells the story of Girdhaarilaal who himself is modestly educated but runs a high profile and reputed scientific research institute. He is fond of gambling and gets trapped by a gang who conducts gambling sessions just for his sake only. Girdhaarlilaal does not know that all the gamblers playing with him are in collusion against him and the sole objective of such sessions is to loot him. He keeps on losing money everyday in such dishonestly played games in which all the tricks of the trade are applied to empty his pocket. His young wife Neelima gets concerned by her husband’s continuously losing money in such gambling sessions which are always conducted at new venues, different from the earlier ones. She approaches the hero of this novel Sunil Kumar Chakravarty who is an investigative journalist and works for a national daily – Blast which is published from the fictitious metropolitan city of Rajnagar. The thing which is not known about Sunil is that he is also associated with Special Intelligence, a branch of the Central Investigation Bureau whose director is Colonel Mukherjee.
Neelima requests Sunil to stop her husband from gambling. Sunil first considers it an impractical thing because Girdhaarilaal is an adult, experienced person who must be knowing what’s in his interest and what not. However the people of the gang who is after Girdhaarlilaal’s wealth, consider Neelima’s approaching Sunil as a threat to their big mission which this gambling is only a part of. To threaten Sunil and keeping him at bay from them, they destroy his beloved motorbike. Now Sunil who was earlier not interested in helping Neelima, decides not only to reach the root of the whole issue but also teach the destroyers of his motorbike a lesson. He approaches Girdhaarilaal and joins one gambling session with him as his guest. Sunil’s friend Ramakant who runs a club titled as Youth Club, is a seasoned gambler and he enlightens Sunil regarding several tricks of this trade. Equipped with this knowledge, Sunil is able to catch many tricks applied by the members of the gang against Girdhaarilaal during that session. Besides the attitude and behaviour of those so-called gamblers, compels him to think that there’s some much bigger motive behind this dishonesty in gambling with Girdhaarilaal.
Later Sunil advises Girdhaarilaal to get out of this regular gambling activity of his and the company of those so-called gamblers and furnishes the details of the cheating being regularly done with him with evidences. However Girdhaarilaal does not listen to him. He, instead, makes up his mind to recover the money looted from him. The same night, he’s murdered and when the murder was taking place, Sunil was in Neelima’s company in a hotel. Naturally, both become suspects in the eyes of the police and get arrested. However after his release from the police custody, Sunil deeply investigates the whole thing and comes to know the real motive behind that dishonest gambling. Now it dawns upon him that whatever was known earlier, is only the tip of the iceberg and there’s a large conspiracy taking place against the nation. How Sunil, with the help of Colonel Mukherjee and a CIB officer – Jagatwaani, is able to fail the mission of the enemies of India, forms the climax of the novel. In the end, he also finds out the person who had destroyed his motorbike and teaches him an unforgettable lesson.
This very interesting novel first published during the time of internal emergency in India, is the only novel under the popular Sunil Series of the author in which the hero is present in both the personas of himself – a journalist and a spy. On one hand, he is a journalist, on the other he also works in association with a secret government department meant to protect the country from external threats. After this novel, Sunil never came before the readers as a spy.
The author has portrayed the hero as a normal human-being who possesses the human weaknesses like grudge and desire to settle scores. He does not follow the principle of forgive and forget. His love for his motorbike is natural as many people (including me) have that kind of attachment with the vehicles they drive. And therefore, his deciding to teach the destroyer of his motorbike a lesson, is also understandable. He admits that he does not believe in the noble philosophy of giving flowers in return for stones. His heart gets respite only when he has caused more damage to the person who has harmed him.
The author has also highlighted through a character of the story how communal riots are provoked by unscrupulous people in India who play with innocent lives for the sake of their vested interest. Finally it depends upon the commonfolk only to identify such traitors and save themselves from getting trapped into their conspiracy.
The narrative of this novel moves very fast and the novelty of the theme makes it different from the run-of-the-mill murder mysteries. Written with witty dialogs, the chain of events shown in the novel don’t allow the reader to pause and think. Despite being a very old novel, the story does not appear to be stale from any angle.
Khoon Ka Khel may not be easily available to read as its last edition had come long long back. However if any Hindi reader is able to find a copy and read it, he / she will immensely enjoy it.
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