Qaidi No. 100 (prisoner no. 100) is the 100th novel of famous Hindi novelist Ved Prakash Sharma which was first published in 1983 when the author was only 28 years of age. It’s a grand story written on an extra-ordinarily large canvas and has been spread into two volumes. Qaidi No. 100 is the second and the final volume but the story is carried over in that from its previous part which is the 99th novel of the author named as Hatya Ek Suhaagin Ki (murder of a married woman).The tagline of the novel as mentioned on its cover page is –The story of a bride turned into prisoner no. 100 by time (or destiny). However more than being a (runaway) bride, the protagonist of this story is a great scientist unfortunately born in a good-for-nothing family where there is no care or concern for her talent. Her strong willpower to become a great scientist coupled with the inspiration of a real guru in the form of a lecturer in her college, enables her to leave India and pursue higher studies abroad. This novel tells the epic tale of this girl with several twists in her life, turning her into prisoner no. 100 first in jail and then in asylum.
This highly talented girl is Sangeeta born in such a defective family that is not only financially weak but also contains mentally distorted and poorly thinking people in the form of her father and her brother. Her brother Teetu has become a small time criminal with a friend of his named as Baagesh. Despite being Teetu’s friend, Baagesh is more sensible and understands Sangeeta better. He considers Sangeeta as no less than his real sister but he is helpless when she suffers in her home in the hands of Teetu and their backward-thinking father Durgadaas. Her mother is also a sufferer like her.
In such darkness of her life, Sangeeta finds a ray of hope to sharpen her talent and make it big in the world of science especially medicine. Professor Divakar, a lecturer in her college, identifies her talent and then considering the adverse situation in her home, manages to send her abroad for higher studies with a new name Neelam. Professor Divakar helps Sangeeta when she is being forcibly married by her family (to be straight, by her father and brother) and this runaway bride leaves the nation with his help only to return as the great scientist Neelam after a few years. The prime minister of India (indirect reference is there to Mrs. Indira Gandhi) welcomes Neelam and she seeks her help to get a well-equipped laboratory to search the treatment of cancer (which was considered an incurable lethal disease in those days). On the other hand, after ensuring Sangeeta’s safe exit from India and a warm reception abroad, Professor Divakar surrenders to the law and gets sentence of imprisonment under the charge of abducting Sangeeta.
Neelam had got married to Suresh while being abroad and when she comes back to her motherland, Suresh also accompanies her. The trouble strikes because of the lecherous nature of Suresh who not only makes merry on the wealth and facilities available with his hard-working wife remaining hours and hours in the laboratory only busy with her research but also brings call-girls to their government allotted residence itself. The day Neelam is successful in inventing the treatment of cancer and approaches Suresh’s room to share her joy with him, she is shocked to find a call-girl there. In a hate-filled rage she kills that woman and then tries to kill Suresh also but he escapes. Neelam is arrested and tried for murder, becoming prisoner no. 100 in jail. During her trial, she shows signs of insanity and consequentially sent to asylum. Coincidentally, here also she gets her no. as 100 only.
Now the great scientist Neelam now known as ‘Prisoner No. 100’ is confined to an asylum where nobody visits her except her close friend Seema. The story of Seema is also tragic. She had lost her parents long back and has been fostered by her blind uncle Balwant, a retired sergeant of the Indian army who loves her very much. Her ill-fate has made her the wife of a greedy and criminal-minded man named as Gajraaj. He apparently runs a printing-press for his living, showing the world as well as Seema that he’s not after Seema’s inherited wealth. He plans to prepare currency notes by forming a team of six members including Teetu and Baagesh (who were associated with Neelam when she was known as Sangeeta). The currency notes are to be printed on the special paper used for government made currency. That special paper is imported and carried in a highly secured van from the airport. Gajraaj and his team capture this van but things take such a turn that the special paper (on which they were planning to print currency notes) goes out of their reach. Situation compels them to plan Seema’s murder. However Seema escapes and Gajraaj dies. Neelam, being in the asylum, is aware of all these facts through Seema only.
After Gajraaj’s death, the stories of the lives of Seema and Neelam get associated like flesh and blood. Now Neelam wants money for her research work which can be arranged by preparing the currency notes on the paper looted by Gajraaj and his gang. Seema is standing by her but firstly, they have to checkmate Gajraaj’s criminal associates and secondly, they have to escape the law also as an eminent and highly respected detective of India – Keshav Pandit is investigating the death of Gajraaj, suspecting Seema for that. Seema’s blind uncle Balwant is always standing by his loving niece. However to escape the law while helping Neelam is not that easy because of not only Keshav Pandit but also the RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) who is investigating the loot of the van containing the special paper to make the currency notes and has been keeping a close watch on first Gajraaj and after his death, Seema. A mysterious criminal known as Trikaaldarshi also comes into picture. How the story of the great scientist Neelam who was born as Sangeeta at Naasik, culminates is the climax.
This novel is highly interesting and contains a grand story with frequent twists and currents for the reader. The first part of the story embedded in Hatya Ek Suhaagin Ki contains the story of Seema, her blind uncle, her greedy husband and the activities of the criminals who want to prepare currency notes. It starts with the attempt on Seema’s life and then the reader comes to know of the van robbery and the incidents connected to that, through flashback. It’s a grand treat of suspense, thrill and sentiments as well. The character of the main protagonist of the story, i.e., Neelam does not get much footage in that. Neelam’s story is contained by the second part, i.e., Qaidi No. 100. The thread of the story of Seema alongwith the van robbery episode is brought from Hatya Ek Suhaagin Ki and joined to the story of Qaidi No. 100 in between when Neelam escapes from the asylum and meets Seema. Thereafter these two different stories amalgamate into one and that forms the remaining part of Qaidi No. 100. Perhaps the author had no other option for the layout of the story because two almost entirely different stories were coming through two different characters of Seema and Neelam. However this kind of storytelling has turned Qaidi No. 100 as a novel complete in itself. Therefore, if someone is not able to read Hatya Ek Suhaagin Ki, even then he / she can enjoy Qaidi No. 100 because the essence of the story of Hatya Ek Suhaagin Ki is given in brief while carrying it over to Qaidi No. 100. It’s just like the act of joining two rivers.
It’s a grand story which, to be enjoyed properly, should be read fully. The plot summary given by me supra does not tell everything about it and cannot substitute the reading of the entire novel. The canvas of the story is exceedingly large with several sparkling colours used to make the picture. It’s a fantastic novel, no doubt.
The novel has high inspirational value also. There may be several talented boys and girls unfortunately born in defective families suffocating not only their talent but also their lives as normal human-beings. But where there is a will, there is always a way. Hence the talented children should not lose heart and should keep the lamp of hope as ablaze in their hearts through sheer willpower. Every labyrinth has an exit. Every lock has a key. Every problem has a solution.
The novel very touchingly underscores the pious relationship between a sincere teacher and a sincere student. I also had such a relationship with my English teacher Late Shri Surendra Kumar Mishra. This novel portrays such a relationship between the teacher Professor Divakar and the student Sangeeta. Narrow-minded people (like the father and the brother of Sangeeta) could not see anything in that beyond sexual attraction because the teacher is a male and the student is a young girl. However when the thoughts and the intentions are pious, such relationships can do miracles the same way a miracle happens for Sangeeta in this novel enabling her to become what she deserved to become.
The author has very skilfully underscored through the characters of Sangeeta and Baagesh that sometimes the deemed relations are stronger and more understanding than the blood relations. He has portrayed that Sangeeta’s deemed brother Baagesh understands and loves her as well as sympathizes and empathizes with her much better than her real brother Teetu who always misunderstands her, curses her and oppresses her. Despite not being related to Sangeeta through blood, Baagesh always stands by her even years later when she has become Neelam.
The character of Keshav Pandit is the highlight of the complete novel. First introduced in the author’s highly popular novel ‘Bahu Maange Insaaf’, this character is shown as a great detective who works for the Life Insurance Corporation of India, investigating dubious policy claims. He is shown as not only a kind person with a great human side of his personality but also a very cunning and witty detective who is an expert in rattling the likely criminals or suspects through his intelligent interrogation and cross-questioning. His character adds a lot of spice to the already very interesting story.
The author has not only taken a lot of liberties in telling his story but also he has used the concept of planchette to call a dead man’s spirit. Ironically, the main protagonist of the story is a great scientist. Then such kind of a phenomena in the story appears to be contradictory and out of place. This does not allow the story to remain a realistic one. Otherwise also, many things appear to be out of place or completely unreal. However except the planchette issue, no such thing gets noticed by the reader because of his / her being engrossed in the thrilling story. However one more minus point caught by me is that some significant questions have been left as unanswered.
The language (Hindi) used by the author is simple but the dialogues are very impressive. Having struggled in his own life (during his childhood and early adolescence), the author seems to have seen life from pretty close. And that’s the reason why he has presented a lively and touching portrayal of the plight of Sangeeta (and her mother too) in her home.
Qaidi No. 100 is a story well-told. Despite flaws and deficiencies, it’s a grand treat for the Hindi readers. Though Qaidi No. 100 is complete in itself, If the reader is able to read Hatya Ek Suhaagin Ki also prior to that, his / her entertainment will get something like the icing on the cake.
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