Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Satyajit Ray — Adventures of Feluda, Jan 20, 2016


Satyajit Ray (SR) was an unusual choice, being known primarily as a film-maker. However he has a body of Bengali writing – detective stories, science fiction, and short stories – translations of which are available in English, a few by Ray himself. Several have been made into films and comic books.

Saras & Gopa, both garden lovers in KumKum's garden

But SR was much more than a film-maker. He was an artist with a keen eye and imagination to design advertisements (his first trade after graduating from Santiniketan). Later he went on to design type-fonts in Bengali and English scripts, and then became the internationally recognised film-maker with the Apu trilogy comprising Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959).

Epitaph on Job Charnock's Tomb in St. John's Church compound,Kolkata

Preeti who recommended the stories recalls them fondly from her youthful reading. She selected five stories for our reading but many readers could not resist delving into the rest for the entertainment and excitement they afforded. The stories are addictive, just like the Sherlock Holmes stories. SR confessed to his wife that having to keep of sex and violence denied him as an author the full creative licence (the stories were originally written to appear in the children's magazine, Sandesh, started by his grandfather). His own father, Sukumar Ray, was also a well-known author of children's stories and nonsense verse.

Shoba, Preeti, Talitha, KumKum having tea

This being the first reading session of the year KumKum invited the readers home for tea and snacks. Sunila (wife of Sunil) made a lovely orange cake and mini-idlis for us. Some pictures of the readers enjoying the convivial gathering are here.

Saras, Priya, Thommo, Sunil at tea 

At the end the readers posed for a closing shot here below – it was the largest gathering we have ever had at a session.

Kavita, Zakia, Priya, Sunil, Gopa, Shoba, Preeti, Thommo Talitha (standing), Shehnaz, KumKum, Saras, Philo, Mrs Sheila Cherian (sitting)


Click below to read more ... 


Adventures of Feluda Vol 1 by Satyajit Ray
Reading on Jan 20, 2016 

Satyajit Ray

Present: Priya, Talitha, KumKum, Zakia, Thommo, Joe, Gopa, Kavita, Preeti, Shoba, Sunil, Thommo
Guests: Mrs Sheila Cherian (Talitha's mom), Shehnaz (Zakia's sister, stays in Bengaluru), Philo Joseph (wife of Joe's cousin, stays in Kolkata)
Absent: Akush, Pamela (busy with Annual Day function of school)

The next session is Poetry, on Feb 10, 2016

Preeti – Introduction



Kavita, Preeti, Shoba over tea 

Preeti selected the stories of Satyajit Ray (SR) about the detective Pradosh Mitter, known as Felu-da to his nephew and hero-worshipper, Tapesh Mitter (Topshe). She said these were her favourite stories when growing up. Mostly people read detective yarns in English about men described as having unique qualities that fitted them to be successful solvers of mysteries: acute powers of observation, fertile in making hypotheses, and using the data of the crime to eliminate possibilities (Sherlock Holmes: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth); they are often men who can fight with bare hands, but handle firearms when needed. All these capabilities Feluda possesses, but the charm is that he is a Bengali young man, and the descriptions of locales and events fix him wonderfully in a believable semi-modern India, which is nevertheless steeped in the lore of the past. 

A documentary film titled FELUDA: 50 years of RAY's detective was released by Sagnik Chatterjee in May 2017. See
http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/feluda-was-ray-ray-was-feluda/article18304472.ece


Preeti expressed a fondness for Bengali culture – fortunately KumKum was away fixing tea when she said this, else there would have been a royal round of preening. Preeti noted the detailed description of many locations in Calcutta in one of the stories (The Secret of the Cemetery) which makes it grounded in reality. Joe chimed in that when he read Topshe exclaim about the historical South Park Street Cemetery 'what a wonderful place it would be to play hide-and-seek', he recalled his own time spent with school-chums in the fifties in that cemetery, barely half a kilometre from his school (St Xavier's). 






Preeti noted that SR traces the history of Anglo Indians in Calcutta, and the origins of the city with Job Charnock and the location of his tomb in St John's Church. The author gives a historical and geographical tour of Calcutta and its environs and even casual visitors will recognise the landmarks he mentions in several stories. Preeti could identify with the characters because of the realistic descriptions. The characters are not mere caricatures. SR makes Feluda traverse many parts of India in the stories and everywhere the locales are described with inviting detail of the kind that would lure a traveller. Preeti wondered if SR gained his intimate knowledge of India and its history from film-making visits to those places. He was also a deep reader on a vast range of subjects on account of his curiosity.


Bourne & Shepherd - the oldest photo studio in the world, figures in 'The Secret of the Cemetery'

Preeti mentioned the menacing villain Maganlal Meghraj, the richest and most powerful man in Benares as a very convincing portrayal, very audacious. He has been compared to Professor Moriarty of the Sherlock Holmes series. Utpal Dutta immortalised this character in one Feluda movie Joi Baba Felunath, which Satyajit Ray directed. The sidekick writer of stories who accompanies them, Jatayu (a sobriquet for Lalmohan Ganguli) provides comedy here and there; he is begging to be teased, said Preeti. Every discussion happens over tea, true to Bengali custom, and samosas are added to the fare whenever Jatayu has published one of his adventure stories.

Thommo mentioned that the Globe Detective Agency in Calcutta in Wood Street/Short Street (http://www.globedetective.com/) was probably India's first private investigative company. Priya noted that it comes out in the stories that Feluda admired Sherlock Holmes. She said there is a 2009 film in which Robert Downey Jr.  plays Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. John Watson is Jude Law.


Gopa


KumKum in animated conversation, Gopa and Philo beside her 

The Secret of the Cemetery
Gopa said she chose this story of the Cemetery because it describes various communities in the city, and heightens the mystery surrounding what is always a spooky subject, a cemetery at midnight. Jatayu is always cheerful. Priya remarked on the 'penpathetic' (?) words of that author.


Sunil
Philo, Shoba, Priya, & Sunil 

The Royal Bengal Mystery
Sunil read the passage which introduces the mystery of tiger shikaris in the Dooars region of W Bengal. As usual, Jatayu, the bumbling author has made a few mistakes of facts in a story and Feluda has to editorialise.



Priya


Priya over a cuppa

Mystery of the Elephant God
Priya read the piece where Feluda and his company of sleuths meet the fearsome criminal of Benares, Seth Maganlalji. Maganlal tries to buy off Feluda.



Thommo
The Mystery Of The Elephant God
Thommo who did not have time to prepare on account of other matters, read the continuation of the piece Priya read in which an ex-circus knife-thrower, exercises his craft at the villainous Maganlal's order to trace the outline of Jatayu's body in hurled knives. Jatayau nearly faints from fright.


Kavita
Danger in Darjeeling
This is the very first story SR wrote in the Feluda series, and perhaps the shortest. It has an unusual ending – no real crime is committed, except that the client is terrified by threatening messages. But the deductive faculties of the mind, and the powers of observation and sharp sensory perception of the detective hero, are on display, as too the intimate knowledge of Darjeeling, the holiday capital of W Bengal.


Talitha
Sheila Cherian, writes down Aye Sab Imandaro (the carol, Come all ye faithful, in Urdu)

The Mystery of the Elephant God
Talitha chose the story set in Benares, same as Priya. She was unsettled by the use of the word 'babu' so common in Bengal; a word that in one sense standing before or after a name signifies respect, like the Hindi suffix -ji, or the Gujarati suffix -bhai; but in another sense signifies the gentry as opposed to the working classes; and in a third sense is used to signify (esp in colonial days) an Indian clerk or minor official who is able to write English. When used in Delhi nowadays it means an office worker or bureaucrat. Talitha also remarked that there are no women in the stories of any consequence.


Preeti
A Killer in Kailash

Kailashnath Temple - Ellora Caves

Preeti said the tales of Feluda stretch all over the landscape of India and read like travelogues. There are enticing details that might even lure a reader to visit those places. Uncle Sidhu, who was passionate about books, might be stand-in for SR himself, and is obviously an exemplar for Feluda. Preeti loved reading about smugglers and plane crashes, and the idea of rescuing a yakshi's head from a plane crash is just outlandish enough to be believable, especially when SR clothes it in rich novelistic detail. She mentioned that the well-known actor Utpal Dutt (an ex-Xaverian) acted as Maganlal in the Bengali film, directed by Satyajit Ray, which had the title Joy Baba Felunath; you can watch the entire film in Bengali on youtube:

Here is the blurb: Felu (Soumitra Chatterjee) is a detective whose vacation is interrupted when a priceless statue of an elephant god is stolen. Suspects include a local gangster, a nervous bodyguard, a disgruntled servant, and a fence who masquerades as a holy man. Chatterjee plays the character with reserve and occasional humour in this twisting detective story written and directed by Satyajit Ray.


Shoba
The Royal Bengal Mystery
Here is the summary of this tale of shikar from Goodreads: visiting the famous hunter and wildlife writer Mahitosh Sinha-Roy in his Jalpaiguri palace, Feluda is presented with a riddle that holds the clue to ancestral treasure. But before he can begin unravelling the puzzle, Mr Sinha-Roy's secretary is found dead in the forest, his body savaged by a big cat. Feluda's investigations lead him deeper and deeper into a scandalous family secret, and bring him face to face with a bloodthirsty Royal Bengal tiger in the denouement.

Shoba read from the beginning of the story. Royal Bengal Rahashya is a thriller film directed by Sandip Ray, based this story by his father. Sabyasachi Chakrabarty acts as Feluda.


Saras
The Royal Bengal Mystery
Saras read from the same story, and one learns of the extravagant hunting that led to the depletion of wild-life in India. Mahitosh Babu admits in the scene he killed seventy-one tigers and over fifty leopards. Of course, these figures are nothing compared to the enormous slaughter that took place for the pleasure of the British rulers in colonial days.


Zakia

A Killer in Kailashnear the end
An American buys a yakshi head stolen from a Bhubaneshwar temple and subsequently dies in a plane crash near Calcutta. Trying to prevent the smuggling of priceless sculptures out of India, Feluda, Topshe and Jatayu follow the lead of the yakshi to the Ellora caves on the other side of India. But the appearance of a Bollywood film crew and a sudden murder complicate matters, forcing Feluda to draw on all his investigative skills to solve the case before the vandal strikes again. (Summary from Goodreads).

Zakia read from the end in which Feluda explains everything; the initial suspect, the man in the blue car who went to the plane-crash site near Calcutta, turns out to be another detective on the trail of smugglers of India's historic art, just like Feluda. As uncle Sidhu says, Our own art, our own heritage is making its way to wealthy Americans, but it’s being done so cleverly that it’s impossible to catch anyone.But Feluda does the impossible.


KumKum
The Secret of the Cemetery
KumKum's favourite among the stories was this one. First, for its wide network of locations and historical associations in Calcutta. Second, for its diversity of characters, including colonials and their Anglo-Indian descendants, one part located in an Anglo-Indian area (Ripon Street) and the Bengali branch in New Alipore. Both branches of the family of Thomas Godwin possess forgotten documents from the past, mentioning the unique Perigal Repeater watch that was presented by the Sadat Ali, Nawab of Lucknow to Thomas Godwin. 


The Perigal Repeater

To elucidate: the Repeater Pocket watch, or Musical Pocket Watch, is a wonderful invention. You've probably heard a pocket watch or watch chiming in a most unusual fashion – its probably a repeater. The common tone is of a "Dong, dong, dong", followed by a few "Ding-dong, ding-dongs, and then maybe a few "ding-dings" to finish. What does all this mean?

The "Dong" represents the hours, the "ding-dong" represents a quarter hour segment and a "ding" represents a minute. So for example, 3.19 would be represented by "dong, dong, dong,(3hours), ding-dong,(15mins) ding, ding, ding, ding", (4mins). See


Joe
The Secret of the Cemetery
Joe who grew up in Calcutta in his youth also liked this story for the same reasons, and the fact that he too had played hide-and-seek in the Park Street South Cemetery attracted him to the mystery. There used to be a North Cemetery across the road, but official vandalism has destroyed it and an 'Assembly of God Church' has come up on the location, thus laying waste the grave of Rose Aylmer (it is referred to in A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth when Amit Chatterjee, one of Lata's suitors, takes her to view the historical monuments in that cemetery).

In Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, Amit and Lata walk around the cemetery and particularly like Rose Aylmer’s tomb, which Amit says ‘looks like an upside-down ice-cream cone’. Amit explains that Walter Savage Landor, the poet, had met Rose in the Swansea Circulating Library and then again when she, like many unmarried girls just beginning to be past it, arrived in Calcutta on ‘the fishing fleet.’ She died before knowing whether she would have to join the sad troupe of the ‘returning empties.’ The poet who had traipsed in the highlands with Rose Aylmer made her the object of an elegiac poem when she died barely a year after arriving in Calcutta. This verse was inscribed on a plaque for her in the cemetery.


Rose Aylmer's tomb - excerpts inscribed from Walter Savage Landor's poem

Ah, what avails the sceptred race,
Ah, what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine!

Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
May weep, but never see,
A night of memories and sighs
I consecrate to thee

Readings

Gopa
1. The Secret of the Cemetery Ch 1
Three days after Pulak Ghoshal’s film completed twenty-five weeks in the Paradise cinema in Calcutta, a second-hand Mark 2 Ambassador drove up to our front door, blowing its horn and making a terrible racket. It was no ordinary horn. What it played, very loudly, was an entire set of musical notes.
Pulak Ghoshal was a film director in Bombay, and his film running at the Paradise was based on a story written by Lalmohan Babu. We knew Lalmohan Babu was thinking of buying a car to mark the occasion, but did not realize that it would happen so soon. Actually, he had done more than buy a car. He had also appointed a driver as he could not drive himself. He had no wish to learn to drive, either. In fact, he made that comment repeatedly, so much so that one day, Feluda was obliged to ask him, ‘Why not?’ Lalmohan Babu had then offered an explanation. Apparently, five years ago, he had started taking lessons, using a friend’s car. After only two days, he had got into the car with a wonderful plot in his head. But, as he was switching to the second gear from the first, the car had given such an awful jerk that the plot for a new novel had flown straight out of his head, never to return.
I still regret its loss, I tell you!’ Lalmohan Babu sighed.
His driver—clad in a white shirt and khaki trousers—got out and opened the door for Lalmohan Babu, who tried to hop out onto the pavement, caught his feet in the trailing end of his dhoti and nearly lost his balance, but the smile on his face remained in place. Feluda, however, was looking serious. He opened his mouth only when all three of us were seated inside.
Until you change that horrible horn to something more simple and civilized, your car cannot be allowed to enter our Rajani Sen Road,’ Feluda told him.
Lalmohan Babu looked a bit rueful. ‘Yes, I knew I was taking a risk. But when the fellow in the shop gave a demo . . . well, it was just too tempting. It’s Japanese, you know.’
It’s ear-splitting and nerve-racking,’ Feluda declared. ‘I had no idea Hindi films would influence you so quickly. And the colour of your car is equally painful. Reminds me of south Indian films!’
Please, Mr Mitter!’ Lalmohan Babu pleaded, folding his hands, ‘I will change that horn tomorrow, but allow me to keep the colour. I find that green most soothing.’
Feluda gave up and was about to order some tea, when Lalmohan Babu interrupted him. ‘We can have tea later. Let’s first go for a drive. I won’t feel satisfied until I’ve given you and Master Tapesh a ride in my car. Where would you like to go?’
Feluda raised no objection. He thought for a moment and said, ‘I would like Topshe to see Charnock’s grave.’
Charnock? Job Charnock?’ asked Lalmohan Babu, pronouncing the first name as ‘job’.
No,’ Feluda replied.
No? Are there other Charnocks?’
Yes, I’m sure there are, but only one Charnock founded the city of Calcutta.’
Yes. That’s who I . . . I mean . . .’
His name was Job—pronounced Jobe. A job is work for which you are paid. Jobe is a man’s name. Most people mispronounce the name. You should know better.’
Feluda’s latest passion was old Calcutta. It started with a visit to Fancy Lane, where he had to go to investigate a murder. When he learnt that the word ‘fancy’ had come from the Indian word ‘phansi’, meaning death by hanging, and that two hundred years ago, Nanda Kumar had been hung in the same area, Feluda became deeply interested in the history of Calcutta. In the last three months, he had read endless books on the subject, looked at scores of pictures and studied dozens of maps. As a result, even I had gained some knowledge, chiefly by spending two afternoons at the Victoria Memorial.
According to Feluda, although Calcutta was a ‘young’ city compared to Delhi and Agra, its importance could not be undermined. It was true that Calcutta did not have a Taj Mahal, or a Qutab Minar, or the kind of forts one might see in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, or even a famous alley like Vishwanath ki gali in Benaras.
But just think, Topshe,’ Feluda had said to me, ‘one day, an Englishman was sitting by the Ganges in a place that was really a jungle, packed with flies, mosquitoes and snakes, and this man thought he’d build a city in the same place. And then, in no time, the jungle was cleared, buildings were built, roads were made, rows of gas lights appeared, horses galloped down those roads, palkis ran, and in a hundred years, the new place came to be known as the city of palaces. What that same city has now been reduced to does not matter. I am talking simply of history. Now, some people want to change the street signs, rename them and wipe out history. But is that right? Or, for that matter, is it possible? All right, admittedly, what the British did was purely for their own convenience. But if they hadn’t, what would your Felu Mitter have done today? Try to picture the scene . . . your Feluda, Pradosh Chandra Mitter, private investigator . . . bent over a ledger, pushing a pen and working as a clerk in some zamindar’s office, where the term “fingerprint” would simply mean a man’s thumb impression on a document!’



Sunil
The Royal Bengal MysteryCh 1
Lalmohan Ganguli—alias Jatayu—the writer of immensely popular crime thrillers, had started visiting us at least twice a month. The popularity of his novels meant that he was pretty well off. As a matter of fact, he was once rather proud of his writing prowess. But when Feluda pointed out dozens of factual errors in his books, Lalmohan Babu began to look upon him with a mixture of respect and admiration. Now, he got his manuscripts corrected by Feluda before passing them on to his publisher.
Today, however, he was not carrying a sheaf of papers under his arm, which clearly meant that there was a different reason for his visit. He sat down on a sofa, took out a green face towel from his pocket, wiped his face with it, and said without looking at Feluda, ‘Would you like to see a forest, Felu Babu?’
Feluda raised himself a little, leaning on his elbow. ‘What is your definition of a forest?’
The same as yours, Felu Babu. Cluster of trees. Dense foliage. That sort of thing.’
In West Bengal?’
Yes, sir.’
Where? I can’t think of any place other than the Sunderbans, or Terai. Everything else has been wiped clean.’
Have you heard of Mahitosh Sinha-Roy?’
The question was accompanied by a rather smug smile. I had heard of him, too. He was a wellknown shikari and a writer. Feluda had one of his books. I hadn’t read it, but Feluda had told me it was most interesting.
Doesn’t he live in Orissa, or is it Assam?’ Feluda asked.
No, sir,’ Lalmohan Babu replied, taking out an envelope from his pocket with a flourish, ‘he lives in the Dooars Forest, near the border of Bhutan. I dedicated my latest book to him. We have exchanged letters.’
Oh? You mean you dedicate your books even to the living?’ Perhaps I should explain here the business of Lalmohan Babu’s dedications. Nearly all of them are made to famous people who are now dead. The Antarctic Anthropophagi was dedicated to the memory of Robert Scott; The Gorilla’s Grasp said, ‘In the memory of David Livingstone’, and The Atomic Demon (which Feluda said was
the most nonsensical stuff he had ever read) had been dedicated to Einstein. Then, when he wrote The Himalayan Hemlock, he dedicated it to the memory of Sir Edmund Hillary. Feluda was furious at this.
Why, Lalmohan Babu, why did you have to kill a man who is very much alive?’
What! Hillary is alive?’ Lalmohan Babu asked, looking both apologetic and embarrassed, ‘I didn’t know. I mean . . . he hasn’t been in the news for a long time, and he does go about climbing mountains, doesn’t he? So I thought perhaps he had slipped and . . . well, you know . . .’ His voice trailed away.
The mistake was rectified when the second edition of the book came out.
Mahitosh Sinha-Roy might be a well-known shikari, but was he really as famous as all these other people? Why was the last book dedicated to him?
Well, you see,’ Lalmohan Babu explained, ‘I had to consult his book The Tiger and the Gun quite a few times when I was writing my own. In fact,’ he added with a smile, ‘I used a whole episode. So I felt I had to please him in some way.’



Priya
The Mystery Of The Elephant God – Ch 5
Lalmohan Babu and I followed him in. Goodness, was this where the great Maganlal lived, I thought in wonder, staring at the cows that stood in the dark, damp courtyard. Our appearance did not bother them at all. Each continued to chew the cud, gazing at us calmly.
This is quite common here,’ Feluda whispered. ‘Very few people have any open space to keep their cows in. So they keep them in their courtyard inside the house, for they can’t do without large quantities of milk and ghee.’
On our right and left were corridors, leading to nothing but darkness, as far as I could see. Presumably, there was a staircase somewhere, for I had noted outside that the house had three floors.
As we stood debating what to do next, my eyes suddenly fell on a figure that had emerged silently from the dark depths and was standing on our right.
It was a middle-aged man, of medium height, clad in a green kurta-pyjama, an embroidered white cotton cap on his head. A thick moustache drooped down, brushing against his chin. When he spoke, his voice sounded like an old, worn out gramophone record.
Sethji would like to meet you,’ he said. ‘Which Sethji?’
Seth Maganlalji.’
All right. Let’s go.’
Six
Jai Baba Vishwanath!’
I couldn’t see the look on Lalmohan Babu’s face, but I could tell from his voice how he felt.
Do you really have a lot of faith in Vishwanath?’ asked Feluda. I couldn’t imagine how he could speak so lightly.
Jai Baba Felunath!’ whispered Lalmohan Babu.
That’s better!’
We were groping our way upstairs, climbing a series of stairs that were amazingly high. Everything was in total darkness. The man who had come to fetch us hadn’t bothered to bring a light. Lalmohan Babu was still muttering under his breath. I caught the word ‘black hole’ a couple of times.
At last, we reached the top floor. Our emissary passed through a door. We followed him. He then took us through a room, a narrow passage, another chamber, and finally stopped before a small door, motioning us to go in.
We stepped into the room. At first I could see nothing except some coloured glass. Then I realized I was looking at a window. The light from outside was shining through its colourful panes.
Namaskar, Mr Mitter,’ said a deep, gruff voice.
A few things became visible. A thick mattress, covered with a white sheet, was spread on the floor. On it were four bolsters, also covered in white. The figure that sat leaning on one of these was that of the man we had seen from the rear at Abhay Chakravarty’s house.
With a faint click, a light on the ceiling came on. We were finally face to face with Maganlal Meghraj. The eyes that regarded us solemnly were sunk in, set under thick, bushy eyebrows. A blunt nose, thick lips and a pointed chin completed the picture. He too was wearing a kurta-pyjama. The buttons on his kurta might well have been diamonds. Besides these, on eight of his ten fingers flashed other stones of every possible colour.
Why are you standing? Do sit down,’ he invited. ‘Take a chair, if you like.’
There were low, Gujarati chairs placed by the side of the mattress. We took three of these.
I wanted to meet you, Mr Mitter. I would have invited you properly, but luckily you came here yourself.’ After a moment’s pause he added, ‘You may not know me, Mr Mitter, but I know all about you.’
I have heard your name,’ Feluda replied politely. ‘You’re pretty well known yourself.’
Well known?’ Maganlal laughed loudly, displaying paan-stained teeth. ‘Not well known, Mr Mitter. What you mean is infamous. Notorious. Come on, admit it!’
Feluda remained silent. Maganlal’s eyes turned towards me. ‘Is this your brother?’
My cousin.’
And who is this? Your uncle?’ Maganlal was smiling.
This is my friend, Lalmohan Ganguli.’
Very good! Lalmohan, Mohanlal, Maganlal . . . it’s all just the same, isn’t it? What d’you say, eh?’
Lalmohan Babu had been shaking his legs with an ‘I-don’t-feel-nervous-at-all’ air. Maganlal’s words made his knees knock against each other. At this point, Maganlal suddenly brought his hand down on a bell, making it ring sharply. This startled Lalmohan Babu so much that he choked and began to splutter.
Does your throat feel a bit . . . dry?’ queried Maganlal.
The man who had brought us upstairs reappeared silently. ‘Bring some sherbet,’ ordered Maganlal.
It was now possible to see everything quite clearly. There were two steel almirahs in one corner. Behind Maganlal, the wall was covered with pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses. On the mattress, on his right, were a few papers and files, a small metal cash-box and a red telephone. On his left was a silver box stuffed with paan, and a silver spittoon.
Well, Mr Mitter,’ he asked gravely, ‘have you come to Banaras on holiday?’
That was my original plan,’ Feluda replied, looking straight at him.
Then . . . why . . . are . . . you . . . wasting . . . your . . . time?’ Maganlal spoke through clenched teeth, uttering each word distinctly.
Have you been to Sarnath?’ he went on. ‘Ramnagar? Durga Bari, Man Mandir, Hindu University?
No, I know you haven’t seen any of these famous places. You walked past the Vishwanath temple today, but did not go in. Yet, you keep going back to Umanath Ghoshal’s house. Why? Forget what he told you. I can make your stay in Kashi so much more enjoyable. I have my own barge, did you know that? Come any day to the river. I’ll take you on a cruise from one side to the other. You’d love it!’
You seem to be forgetting,’ said Feluda, still speaking calmly, ‘that I am a professional investigator. Mr Ghoshal has given me a specific task. I cannot think about having a holiday or going on a cruise on your boat until that task has been completed.’
What is your fee?’
Feluda was quiet for a few seconds. Then he said, ‘That depends—’
Here, take this!’
I gave an involuntary gasp. Maganlal had opened the cash-box and taken out a large fistful of
hundred rupee notes. He was now offering these to Feluda. Feluda’s lips became set. ‘I do not,’ he said clearly, ‘accept a fee without having done anything to earn it.’
I see, I see!’ Maganlal bared his paan-stained teeth again. ‘But how will you earn it, Mr Mitter?
How can you catch a thief when there has been no theft?’
What do you mean?’ This time even Feluda sounded surprised. ‘If no one stole anything, where has it gone?’
It,’ said Maganlal, ‘was sold to me. I paid Umanath thirty thousand for it.’
What rubbish is this?’
How could Feluda talk like this? My hands began to feel clammy. Lalmohan Babu, too, was looking decidedly pale.
Maganlal had started to laugh, but Feluda’s words instantly wiped the laughter from his face. A deep frown creased his brow, his eyes glinted under the light. ‘Rubbish? Maganlal doesn’t talk rubbish, Mr Mitter. Obviously, you don’t know enough about Umanath and his affairs. Did you know his business isn’t doing well? Are you aware how much he owes people? Did anyone tell you Umanath himself called me over to his house and took the Ganesh out of the chest? How do you propose to catch the culprit when it is none other than your client himself?’
I still don’t understand, Maganlalji,’ Feluda answered. ‘Why should Mr Ghoshal have to steal the Ganesh? Why couldn’t he simply take it out openly if he had decided to sell it to you?’
That Ganesh did not belong only to Umanath. It was the property of his family. His brother—who lives in England—and his father had an equal claim on it. It was his father who had had it all along, and he has certainly been lucky. Just look at how much money he’s earned, and what comfort he lives in. Umanath would never have dared tell his father he was selling their most precious heirloom!’
Feluda appeared to be thinking. Was he beginning to believe Maganlal?
I’ll tell you.’ Maganlal sat up. ‘He called me over to his house on the tenth of October, and offered to sell the Ganesh. I agreed. I have recently had a run of bad luck, as you may have heard. So I thought the Ganesh would help change my luck. Umanath knows nothing of the value of that green diamond. It’s actually worth far more than what I paid. Anyway, we had a chat on the tenth. He said he needed a little time to get things organized. So I said fine, take your time. On the fifteenth, he rang me again and said he had actually got the Ganesh. I told him to come to Machchli Baba’s meeting. We both arrived with a little bag in our pockets. His had the Ganesh. Mine had thirty thousand in hundred rupee notes. It didn’t take us long to exchange the bags. And that’s all. End of story.’
If what Maganlal was saying was true, then one had to admit Mr Ghoshal had deceived not just us but also the police. Perhaps he had hired Feluda only as a cover-up. But why was Maganlal telling us all this? What did he stand to gain?
To my surprise, Feluda asked him the same question. Maganlal’s small eyes narrowed further. ‘I know you are an intelligent man, Mr Mitter,’ he proclaimed. ‘In fact, your intelligence is reputed to be extraordinary. If you began an investigation, would you not have discovered the truth? And if you did, how do you suppose Umanath and I would have looked? The police would have driven us mad! After all, our dealing wasn’t exactly legal and above board, was it? Surely you can see that?’
Feluda did not say anything immediately. While Maganlal was talking, a man had brought in three glasses of sherbet, which were placed before us on a low table. Feluda picked up a glass and said, ‘That means you have got the Ganesh. May I see it? I am naturally curious to have a look at this object that’s created such a furore.’
Maganlal shook his head regretfully. ‘Very sorry, Mr Mitter, I do not have it here. You know this house was raided once. So I couldn’t keep it here. I’ve had to send it to a safer place.’
All right,’ Feluda spoke casually. ‘You did what you thought best, and I shan’t argue with that. But don’t you see that I have to carry on with my investigation simply to find out if you’re telling the truth?
If you are, we have nothing to worry about. But what if you’re not?’
Maganlal’s eyes virtually disappeared. His lips curled ominously. ‘You mean you don’t believe me?’
Feluda raised the glass to his lips and took a sip. Then he said, ‘You told me yourself I didn’t know you. So how can you expect me to believe all that you’ve just said? Would you believe everything a man told you the first time you met him? Especially if he clearly appeared to be tampering with the truth?’
Maganlal went on staring at him. In the silence, all I could hear was a clock ticking somewhere, but couldn’t see it. Then Maganlal raised his right arm and extended it towards Feluda. He was still clutching the money. ‘I have three thousand here,’ he said. ‘Take it, Mr Mitter, and enjoy yourself. Have a good holiday with your cousin and your uncle.’
No, Maganlalji, I do not take money like this.’
Does that mean you’ll continue working on this case?’
Yes. I have to.’
Very well.’
Maganlal struck the bell again. The same man came back. Maganlal said, without even looking at him, ‘Call Arjun. And get that box—number thirteen. And the wooden board.’ The man disappeared. God knew what he would come back with. Maganlal now turned towards Lalmohan Babu, a smile hovering on his lips. Lalmohan Babu’s right hand was curled around a glass, but it looked as though he couldn’t bring himself to drink from it.
What is it, Mohanbhog Babu, don’t you like my sherbet?’
No, no, I mean . . .’ Lalmohan Babu quickly brought the glass to his lips and swallowed some of its contents.
Don’t worry, Mohan Babu, that sherbet hasn’t been poisoned.’
No, no—’
I don’t like poison.’
Yes, of course. P-poison is,’ Lalmohan Babu gulped, ‘very bad.’
There are other things far more effective.’
Other things?’
I’ll show you what I mean.’
Lalmohan Babu choked again. There were footsteps outside. A strange creature entered the room. It was a man, I had to admit, but I had never seen a man like him. About five feet in height, he was remarkably thin. Every vein in his body stood out. His eyes suggested he might have been a Nepali, but his nose was long and sharp. His hair was cut very short, and his ears stuck out. There was not a single hair on his body. I could see his arms and legs and chest, for he was wearing a dirty, torn sleeveless vest and an old pair of shorts. It was impossible to guess his age.
The man gave Maganlal a salute, then stood waiting for instructions.
Two men now came in carrying a long wooden box. This was probably the box number thirteen Maganlal had mentioned. The noise it made when set down on the floor suggested that its contents were made of either iron or brass.



Thommo
The Mystery Of The Elephant GodCh 6
A large wooden board was then brought in and placed against the closed door behind us. Maganlal opened his mouth once more.
Do you know what knife-throwing is, Mr Mitter? Have you ever seen it in a circus?’
Yes, I have.’
I hadn’t, but I knew what it was. A man stood with his back to a board. Another threw knives at him which, instead of hitting him, hit the board, just a few inches away from his body. Even a slight mistake made by the thrower could result in serious—even fatal—injury. Was this creature called Arjun going to throw knives? At whom?
One of the men opened the box. It was filled with knives, each with an ivory handle, an identical pattern at one end.
The king of Harbanspur had a private circus. Arjun used to perform in it. Now he performs for me, in my own circus . . . ha ha ha!’
Twelve knives had been selected from the box and spread out on a marble table like a Japanese fan. ‘Come on, Uncle!’ said Maganlal.
Lalmohan Babu gave a violent start, spilling most of the remaining liquid in his glass on the floor.
Feluda spoke this time. ‘Why are you calling him?’ he asked, ice in his voice.
Maganlal’s fat body rocked with laughter. ‘Who else can stand before the board, tell me? If I asked you to stand there, you couldn’t see the game, could you? No, don’t say another word. You have insulted me today by calling me a liar. Let me warn you that I have other weapons, too. I don’t use just knives. Look at those small windows. Two guns are, at this moment, pointed at you. If you behave and don’t start an argument, you’ll come to no harm. Nor will your friend. Arjun is a master in this game, believe me.’
I didn’t dare look at the windows. A moment later, Lalmohan Babu rose shakily to his feet, saying, ‘If I l-live, no wo-worries about a p-plot . . .’ A couple of men grabbed him and took him to stand before the board. He closed his eyes. I couldn’t bear to look any more.
Lalmohan Babu was standing behind me. Before me stood Arjun, picking up the knives one by one, slowly but steadily. Each one flew over the top of my head and hit the board with a faint swish.
Feluda must have been facing Lalmohan Babu and actually watching the show, or no doubt one of the guns would have been fired.
At last, the last knife was thrown. Arjun stood mutely before the empty table, breathing heavily.
Maganlal said, ‘Well done!’ The invisible clock ticked away.
No one else spoke. Nobody moved. Then, a few seconds later, just as my own breathing was beginning to get normal, Lalmohan Babu staggered forward, and grabbed Arjun’s hand.
Thank you, sir,’ he said.
Then he swayed from side to side, and fell down on the mattress, unconscious.



Kavita
Danger in Darjeeling – near the end
We returned to our hotel from the station. But Feluda went out again and, this time, refused to take me with him. When he finally came back, it was time to go to Rajen Babu’s house to stay the night. As we set off, I said to him, ‘You might at least tell me where you were during the day.’ ‘I went to various places. Twice to the Mount Everest Hotel, once to Dr Mitra’s house, then to the curio shop, the library and one or two other places.’
I see.’
Is there anything else you’d like to know?’
Have you been able to figure out who is the real cul—?’
The time hasn’t come to disclose that. No, not yet.’
But who do you suspect the most?’
I suspect everybody, including you.’
Me?’
Yes. Anyone who has a mask is a suspect.’
Really? In that case, why don’t you include yourself in your list?’
Don’t talk rubbish.’
I’m not! You didn’t tell me that you knew Rajen Babu, which means you were not totally honest with me. Besides, you could have easily used that mask. I did not hide it anywhere, did I?’
Shut up, shut up!’
Rajen Babu seemed a lot better when we arrived at his house, although he still looked faintly uneasy. ‘I felt fine during the day,’ he told us, ‘but I must say I’m beginning to feel nervous again now it’s getting dark.’
Feluda gave him the packet from Tinkori Babu. Rajen Babu opened it quickly and took out a beautiful statue of the Buddha, the sight of which actually moved him to tears.
Did the police come to make enquiries?’ asked Feluda.
Oh yes. They asked a thousand questions. God knows if they’ll get anywhere, but at least they’ve agreed to post someone outside the house during the night. That’s a relief, anyway. In fact, if you wish to go back to your hotel, it will be quite all right.’
No, we’d rather stay here, if you don’t mind. It’s too noisy in our hotel. I need peace and quiet to think about this case.’
Rajen Babu smiled. ‘Of course you can stay. You’ll get your peace and quiet here, and I can promise you an excellent meal. That Nepali boy is a very good cook. I’ve asked him to make his special chicken curry. The food in your hotel could never be half as tasty, I’m sure.’
We were shown to our room. Feluda stretched out on his bed and lit a cigarette. I saw him blow out five smoke rings in a row. His eyes were half-closed. After a few seconds of silence, he said, ‘Dr Mitra did go out to see a patient last night. I found that out this morning. A rich businessman who lives in Cart Road. He was with his patient from eleven-thirty to half-past twelve.’
Does that rule him out completely?’
Feluda did not answer my question. Instead, he said, ‘Prabeer Majumdar has lived abroad for so long and has such a lot of money that I can’t see why he should suddenly arrive here and start threatening his father. He stands to gain very little, actually. Why, I learnt that he recently made a packet at the local races!’
I sat holding my breath. It was obvious that Feluda hadn’t finished. I was right. Feluda stubbed out his cigarette and continued, ‘Mr Gilmour has come to Darjeeling from his tea estate. I met him at the Planters’ Club. He told me there was only one Tibetan bell that had come out of the palace of the Dalai Lama, and it is with him. The one Rajen Babu has is a fake. Abani Ghoshal is aware of it.’
You mean the bell that we saw here isn’t all that valuable?’
No. Besides, both Abani Ghoshal and Prabeer Majumdar were at a party last night, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. They got totally drunk, I believe.’
That man wearing a mask came here soon after midnight, didn’t he?’
Yes.’
I began to feel rather strange. ‘Well then, who does that leave us with?’
Feluda did not reply. He sighed and rose to his feet. ‘I’m going to sit in the living room for a minute,’ he said. ‘Do not disturb me.’
I took his place on the bed when he left. It was getting dark, but I felt too lazy to get up and switch on the lights. Through the open window I could see lights in the distance, on Observatory Hill. The noise from the Mall had died down. I heard the sound of hooves after a while. They got louder and louder, then slowly faded away.
It soon grew almost totally dark. The hill and the houses on it were now practically invisible. Perhaps a mist was rising again. I began to feel sleepy. Just as my eyes started to close, I suddenly sensed the presence of someone else in the room. My blood froze. Too terrified to look in the direction of the door, I kept my eyes fixed on the window. But I could feel the man move closer to the bed. There, he was now standing right next to me, and was leaning over my face. Transfixed, I
watched his face come closer . . . oh, how horrible it was . . . a mask! He was wearing a mask!
I opened my mouth to scream, but an unseen hand pulled the mask away, and my scream became a nervous gasp. ‘Feluda! Oh my God, it’s you!’
Had you dozed off? Of course it’s me. Who did you think . . .?’ Feluda started to laugh, but suddenly grew grave. Then he sat down next to me, and said, ‘I was simply trying on all those masks in the living room. Why don’t you wear this one for a second?’ He passed me his mask. I put it on.
Can you sense something unusual?’
Why, no! It’s a size too large for me, that’s all.’
Think carefully. Isn’t there anything else that might strike you as odd?’
Well . . . there’s a faint smell, I think.’
Of what?’
Cheroot?’
Exactly.’
Feluda took the mask off. My heart started to beat faster again. ‘T-t-t-inkori Babu?’ I stammered.



Talitha
The Mystery of the Elephant God – Ch 2
It was much more quiet here. All that could be heard were strains of a Hindi song being played somewhere on a loudspeaker, and the noise of people washing clothes at the ghat, a few feet below.
On our right was a banyan tree. Its top branches leant towards the roof of a yellow two-storey house.
A shout from the roof made us all glance up quickly.
A boy was standing on the parapet on top of the roof, facing a red house just opposite. There was obviously someone on the roof of the red house as well, though he was hidden from sight. It was this unseen figure the boy was shouting at.
Shaitan Singh!’ he shouted again, like a film hero.
That child’s from the Ghoshal family,’ whispered Niranjan Babu. ‘A reckless devil!’
My stomach began to churn. If the boy lost his balance just once, he’d drop straight to the concrete pavement. No one could save him.
There is no point in hiding any more!’ he yelled. ‘I know where you are!’
Lalmohan Babu spoke this time. His voice sounded hoarse. ‘Shaitan Singh is a creation of my rival writer Akrur Nandi.’
I am coming to get you!’ said the boy. ‘Get ready to surrender.’ The boy disappeared. An instant later, a long bamboo pole appeared from one corner of the roof of the yellow house, stretching to that of the red one, making a bridge between the two.
What is he trying to do?’ Feluda said softly.
Shaitan Singh, I’ll grab you before you can finish counting up to ten!’ What followed made us break into a cold sweat.
The boy climbed over the railing, and began swinging from the bamboo pole.
One . . . two . . . three . . . four. . .’
Shaitan Singh was counting from the red house. The boy started making his way to his adversary, still hanging from the pole.
Do something!’ urged Niranjan Babu. ‘My colic pain’s coming back!’
Sh-h-h,’ hissed Feluda. There was nothing we could do, except watch breathlessly what happened next.
. . . six . . . seven . . . eight. . . nine . . .’
The boy had reached the opposite house. Now he swung himself over the wall and dropped on to the roof. This was followed by a piercing scream from Shaitan Singh and gleeful laughter from our hero.
Did he actually kill him, do you think?’ Lalmohan Babu asked anxiously. ‘I thought I saw something like a dagger hanging from his waist.’
Feluda began striding towards the red house. ‘God knows what the villain is like, but the hero is clearly remarkably brave,’ he said.
We must tell the child’s father,’ observed Niranjan Babu.
We didn’t actually have to enter the red house. Just as we reached its front door, we heard footsteps coming down a flight of stairs, and the voice of the first boy.
. . . Then he’ll fall into the river with a loud splash, and the river will carry him straight to the sea.
Then a shark will come and swallow him. But when this shark charges at Captain Spark, Captain Spark will strike it with a harpoon, and . . .’
He couldn’t finish, for the two boys had come out of the door and seen us. They stopped abruptly, staring. The first one was a very good-looking child, about ten years old. The other seemed a bit older, and clearly not from a Bengali family. Both had chewing gum in their mouth.
Feluda said to the first boy, ‘I can see that your friend is Shaitan Singh. Who are you?’
Captain Spark,’ said the boy sharply.
Don’t you have another name? What does your father call you?’
My name is Captain Spark. Shaitan Singh killed my father in the jungles of Africa with a poisoned arrow. I was seven then. My eyes sparkle with the light of revenge. That’s why I am called Captain Spark.’
Good Lord!’ exclaimed Lalmohan Babu. ‘This boy seems to have memorized every word Akrur Nandi ever wrote!’



Preeti
A Killer in Kailash – Ch 2
The main site had been cordoned off. There was no way we could get any closer. So we started walking around the cordon. Some of the policemen were picking up objects from the ground and inspecting them: a portion of a stethoscope, a briefcase, a flask, a small mirror that glinted brightly in the sun. The site was on our right. We were slowly moving in that direction, when suddenly Feluda saw something on a mango tree on our left and stopped.
A little boy was sitting on a low branch, clutching a half-burnt leather shoe. He must have found it among the debris. Feluda glanced up and asked, ‘You found a lot of things, didn’t you?’ The boy did not reply, but stared solemnly at Feluda. ‘What’s the matter? Can’t you speak?’ Feluda asked again. Still he got no reply. ‘Hopeless!’ he exclaimed and walked on, away from the debris and towards the village. Balaram Ghosh became curious once more.
Are you looking for something special, sir?’ he asked.
Yes. The head of a statue, made of red stone.’
I see. Just the head? OK.’ He started searching in the grass. There was a peepul tree about a hundred yards away, under which a group of old men were sitting, smoking hookahs. The oldest among them asked Feluda, ‘Where are you from?’
Calcutta. Your village hasn’t come to any harm, has it?’
No, babu. Allah saved us. There was a fire as soon as the plane came down—it made such a big noise that we all thought a bomb had gone off—and then the whole village was filled with smoke. We could see the fire in the wood, but none of us knew what to do . . . but soon it started to rain, and then the fire brigade arrived.’
Did any of you go near the plane when the fire went out?’
No, babu. We’re old men, we were simply glad to have been spared.’
What about the young boys? Didn’t they go and collect things before the police got here?’ The old men fell silent. By this time, several other people had gathered to listen to this exchange. Feluda spotted a boy and beckoned him. ‘What’s your name?’ he asked as the boy came closer. His tone was gentle and friendly.
Ali.’
Feluda placed a hand on his shoulder and lowered his voice. ‘A lot of things scattered everywhere when the plane crashed. You’ve seen that for yourself, haven’t you? Now, there should have been the head of a statue among those things. Just the head of a statue of a woman. Do you know if anyone saw it?’‘
Ask him!’ Ali replied, pointing at another boy. Feluda had to repeat the whole process once more.
What’s your name?’
Panu.’
Did you see the head of a statue? Did you take it?’
Silence. ‘Look, Panu,’ Feluda said even more gently, ‘it’s all right. No one’s going to get angry with you. But if you can give me that head, I’ll pay you for it. Have you got it with you?’
More silence. This time, one of the old men shouted at him, ‘Go on, Panu, answer the gentleman. He hasn’t got all day.’
Panu finally opened his mouth. ‘I haven’t got it with me now.’
What do you mean?’
I found it, babu. I swear I did. But I gave it to someone else, only a few minutes ago.’
What! Could this really be true? My heart started hammering in my chest.
Who was it?’ Feluda asked sharply.
I don’t know. He was a man from the city, like you. He came in a car, a blue car.

Shoba
The Royal Bengal Mystery – Ch 1
It came as no surprise to me that Feluda agreed to visit a forest so readily. My own heart was jumping with joy. The fact was that one of our uncles was a shikari as well. Our ancestral home was in the village of Shonadeeghi, near Dhaka. My father was the youngest of three brothers. The oldest worked as the manager of an estate in Mymansinh. He was renowned in the area for having killed wild deer, boars and even tigers in the Madhupur forest to the north of Mymansinh. The second brother— Feluda’s father—used to teach mathematics and Sanskrit in a school. However, that did not stop him from being terrific at sports, including swimming, wrestling and shooting. Unfortunately, he died very young after only a brief spell of illness. Feluda was nine years old at the time. Naturally, his father’s death came as an enormous shock to everyone. Feluda was brought to our house and raised by my parents. My own father has never shown any interest in anything that calls for great physical strength, but I do know that his will power and mental strength is much stronger than most people’s.
Feluda himself has always been fascinated by tales of shikar. He has read every book written by Corbett and Kenneth Anderson. Although he’s never been on a shikar, he did learn to shoot and is now a crack shot. There is no doubt in my mind that he could easily kill a tiger, should he be required to do so. He has often told me that the mind of an animal is a lot less complex than that of humans. Even the simplest of men would have a more complex mind than a ferocious tiger. Catching a criminal was, therefore, no less difficult than killing a tiger.
Feluda was trying to explain this to Lalmohan Babu in the train. Lalmohan Babu was carrying the first book Mahitosh Sinha-Roy had written. The front page had a photograph of the writer, which showed him standing with one foot on a dead Royal Bengal tiger, a rifle in his hand. His face wasn’t clear, but it was easy to spot the set of his jaws, his broad shoulders and an impressive moustache under a sharp, long nose.
Lalmohan Babu stared at the photo for a few seconds and said, ‘Thank goodness you are going with me, Felu Babu. In front of such a personality, I’d have looked like a . . . a worm!’ Jatayu’s height was five foot four inches, and at first glance his appearance suggested that he might be a comedian on the stage or in films. Anyone even slightly taller and better built than him made him look like a worm. Certainly, when he stood next to Feluda, the description seemed apt enough.


Saras
The Royal Bengal Mystery – Ch 2
Is that your grandfather?’ Feluda asked, looking at an oil painting on the wall.
Yes. That is Adityanarayan Sinha-Roy.’
It was an impressive figure. His eyes glinted, in his left hand was a rifle, and the right one was placed lightly on a table. He looked directly at us, holding himself erect, his head tilted proudly. His beard and moustache reminded me of King George V.
My grandfather exchanged letters with Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. He was in college at the time Devi Chowdhurani was published. He wrote to Bankim after reading the book.’
The novel was set in these parts, wasn’t it?’
Yes,’ Mahitosh Babu replied with enthusiasm, ‘The Teesta you crossed today was the Trisrota river described in the book. Devi’s barge used to float on this river. But the jungles Bankim described have now become tea estates.’
When did your grandfather become a shikari?’ Lalmohan Babu asked suddenly.
Mahitosh Babu smiled. ‘Oh, that’s quite a story,’ he replied, ‘My grandfather was very fond of dogs. He used to go and buy pups from all over this region. There was a time when there must have been at least fifty dogs in this house, of all possible lineages, shapes, sizes and temperament. Among these, his favourite was a Bhutanese dog. There is a Shiva temple near here called the temple of Jalpeshwar. The local people hold a big fair every year during Shivaratri. A lot of people from Bhutan come down for that fair, bringing dogs and pups for sale. My grandfather bought one of these —a large, hairy animal, very cuddly—and brought it home. When the dog was three and a half years old, he was attacked and killed by a cheetah. Grandfather was then a young man. He decided he would settle scores by killing all the cheetahs and any other big cats he could find. He got himself rifles and guns, learnt to shoot and then . . . that was it. He must have killed around one hundred and fifty tigers in twenty-two years. I couldn’t tell you how many other animals he killed—they were endless.’
And you?’
I?’ Mahitosh Babu grinned, then turned to his right. ‘Go on, Shashanka, tell them.’
I noticed with a start that while we were all listening to Mahitosh Babu’s story, another gentleman had quietly entered the room and taken the chair to our left.
Tigers? Why, you have written so many books, you tell them!’ Shashanka Babu replied with a smile.
Mahitosh Babu turned back to us. ‘I haven’t been able to reach three figures, I must admit. I killed seventy-one tigers and over fifty leopards. Meet my friend, Shashanka Sanyal. We’ve known each other since we were small children. He looks after my timber business.’


Zakia
A Killer in Kailashnear the end
Feluda explained everything to us over dinner that night. We had dinner at the guest house. With us were Mr Kulkarni, Mr Ghote and Mr Mallik.
The first thing I should tell you,’ Feluda began, ‘is that Raxit isn’t his real name. His real name is Chattoraj. He is a member of a gang of criminals, who operate from Delhi. Their main aim is to steal valuable statues, or even parts of statues, from old temples, and sell them to foreign buyers, thereby filling their own pockets with tidy little sums. There must be many other gangs like this one, but at least we have managed to get hold of one. Chattoraj was made to come clean, and he gave us all the details we needed. It was he who had stolen that head, brought it to Calcutta and sold it to Silverstein. Then, when he heard of the plane crash, he rushed to the spot, bought it back from that boy called Panu for just ten rupees, and then chased Lewison all the way to Ellora. He wanted to kill two birds with one stone. The yakshi’s head could be sold to Lewison, and Chattoraj could steal another statue from Kailash. Sadly for him, he didn’t manage to do either of these things. Lewison agreed to buy the stolen statue, but Chattoraj lost it before he could pass it on to Lewison. As a result, Lewison got very cross with him and left. He might have succeeded in removing a statue from Kailash, but two things stopped him. One was the sudden appearance of Shubhankar Bose. The other was a small pebble, thrown on the courtyard before cave number fifteen.’
Feluda stopped for breath. I started feeling most confused. ‘What about Mr Mallik?’ I blurted out.
Feluda smiled. ‘The presence of Jayant Mallik can be very easily explained. In fact, it was so simple that even I could not figure it out at first. Mr Mallik was simply following Chattoraj.
Why?’
For the same reason that I was chasing him! He wanted to retrieve the statue, like me. But that isn’t all. He and I do the same job. Yes, he’s a private detective, just like me.’


KumKum
The Secret of the Cemetery (pp 721 – 722) Ch 12 (toward the end)
Feluda took out a large red envelope from his bag. A photograph emerged from it. ‘Look at these people, Mr Biswas. See if you know who they are. Perhaps you don’t have this photo in your house. But there was a copy at Bourne & Shepherd.’
The photo showed a couple. Presumably, it was taken soon after their wedding. The man looked amazingly like Girin Biswas. The woman was clearly British.
Do you know these people?’ Feluda went on, ‘the gentleman is Parvati Charan—P.C. Biswas, your great-grandfather. It is obvious from his clothes that he had become a Christian. The lady is Thomas ”
Godwin’s granddaughter, Victoria. It was she who wrote that letter. In fact, she had her photo taken even before she was married. Bourne & Shepherd have a copy of that, too. Victoria fell in love with your great-grandfather, a native Christian. So she fell out of favour with her own grandfather, Thomas Godwin. However, before he died, he forgave Victoria and gave her his blessings. A year later, Victoria and Parvati Charan were married.
What this means is that Tom Godwin’s name is linked with not one, but two families in Calcutta—one in Ripon Lane, and the other in New Alipore. What is more intriguing is that both families had old documents that mentioned Tom’s watch. One was the letter from Victoria; the other was Thomas Godwin’s daughter, Charlotte’s diary.’
How extraordinary! Truth was really stranger than fiction. It turned out that a bundle of letters written by Victoria was lying in an old trunk in Naren Biswas’s house. It had remained there for decades, but no one had bothered to read the letters. When Naren Biswas began to read up on the history of Calcutta, he came across the bundle one day and read every letter. That was how he learned about the Perigal repeater and told his brother, Girin.
All these details emerged slowly, as Feluda continued to shoot a volley of questions at Girin Biswas. Mr Biswas began to wilt visibly, but Feluda hadn’t finished. Rather abruptly, he asked, ‘Are you in the habit of going to the races, Mr Biswas?’
Mr Choudhury spoke before Girin Biswas could say anything. ‘He took an advance from me!’ he barked. ‘And then he “lost that money in the races, didn’t he? Now he brings me a Cooke-Kelvey watch. Useless fellow!’
Feluda ignored Mr Choudhury. ‘That means you inherited one of Tom’s traits. Is that why you were prepared to take such an enormous risk?’
Girin Biswas made a spirited reply. ‘Mr Mitter, there’s one thing you seem to be forgetting. Anyone can bury his property in a grave. But, a hundred years after its burial, no one can make a personal claim on it. That watch is no longer Tom Godwin’s property.’
I am aware of that. The watch now belongs to the state. Even you cannot claim ownership. The truth is, you see, you didn’t just try to steal from the cemetery. You did something else. That is also a criminal offence.”

Joe
The Secret of the Cemetery, p.701-703 Ch 9
The huge living room we were in was as shiny and polished as its owner. There was not even a speck of dust anywhere, and its nooks and corners certainly seemed free of ants and cockroaches.
Mr Choudhury raised a gold cigarette holder to his lips, inhaled and glanced at Feluda. ‘Well? Have you brought that clock?’ he asked.
We were all startled by the question. ‘Clock? What clock?’ Feluda said.
Didn’t you say you wanted to see me regarding a clock? I thought you had seen my ad in the papers and that’s why you were calling.’
Forgive me, Mr Choudhury,’ Feluda told him, ‘I did not see your advertisement. I need some information. It may be related to a clock. I was told you know a lot about the subject, so I . . .’
Creases appeared on the velvety surface. Mr Choudhury shifted in his chair, looking faintly irritated. ‘I haven’t got a lot of time, Mr Mitter. I am about to leave town. Please try to be brief.'
'What is a Perigal repeater? That’s all I want to know.’
The velvet suddenly turned to stone. The cigarette-holder was poised a couple of inches from his mouth. Mr Choudhury’s eyes were still, fixed unblinkingly on Feluda.
Where did you find that name?’
In a nineteenth-century English novel.’
There were times when Feluda did not hesitate to lie, if it helped in getting results. I had seen him do it before. ‘I know that a repeater can be either a gun or a clock. I saw that in a dictionary. But no one can tell me anything about Perigal.’
Mr Choudhury was still staring at Feluda. When he spoke, the velvet in his voice had taken on a sharp edge. ‘If you come across an unfamiliar word, Mr Mitter, do you always visit complete strangers just to learn its meaning?’
Yes, if need be.’
I thought Mr Choudhury would want to know what the pressing need was in this particular case. But, instead of asking such a question, he continued to stare at Feluda. The remark he made a few seconds later made my heart race faster, thudding loudly in my ears, matching the loud ticking of the clock kept on a side table.
You are a detective, aren’t you?’
I had to marvel at Feluda’s steady nerve. There was a delay of about five seconds before his reply came. But when he spoke, his own voice sounded perfectly smooth. ‘I see that you are well informed!’
I have to be, Mr Mitter. I have people who gather information and pass it on to me.’
'You seem to have forgotten the question I just asked you. Perhaps you don’t know the answer. If you do know it, but do not wish to tell me, I will take your leave. There’s no point in wasting your time any further.’
Sit down, Mr Mitter!’
Feluda had risen to his feet, hence that command. I glanced quickly at Lalmohan Babu. He looked as if he had no strength left in his body, and would need assistance to get up.
Sit down, please,’ said Mr Choudhury
Feluda sat down.
A repeater is a gun,’ Mahadev Choudhury informed us. ‘However, if you add “Perigal” to it, it becomes a watch. A pocket watch. Francis Perigal. An Englishman. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, there were few watchmakers in the world as skilled as Perigal. Two hundred years ago, the best watches were made in England, not Switzlerland.’
How much would a Perigal repeater be worth today?'
'You could never afford to buy such a watch, Mr Mitter.’
Yes, I know.’
I could.’
I know that, too.’
Then why do you wish to know its price?’
Simple curiosity.’
Idle curiosity. It’s useless.’
Mr Choudhury took one last puff from his cigarette, took it out of its holder and stubbed it out in a glass ashtray. Then he stood up.
You have got the information you wanted. You may leave now. There is only one Perigal repeater in Calcutta. I am going to get it, not you . . . Pyarelal!’
The same man returned, who had met us on arrival. As we were leaving the room, the smooth, velvety voice spoke once more: ‘I have a different kind of repeater, Mr Mitter. The sound it makes isn’t as melodious as a clock.'

1 comment:

Shipra said...

It was a lovely Reading Session. Thank you all, fellow KRG members, for your participations.
Thank you Joe, your blog post is great!
KumKum