CHENNAI: Feluda was an indelible, almost omnipresent part of my childhood. I can never get bored of recounting nuggets of the detective adventures of Feluda with other Bengali-reading folks. Imagine my joy then, when this couple I am friends with, the husband’s a Tamilian, the wife’s a Kannadiga, mention to me when discussing the reading habits of their eleven-year old that, “He likes Feluda. Satyajit Ray’s detective stories. You are a Bengali, haven’t you read them?” The English translations are almost uniformly good.
My first tryst with detective fiction was with Sherlock Holmes. I read Holmes in translation, serialised for a fortnightly magazine in Bengali. The Holmes stories were brilliant, of course. Comparing fictional detectives, in my mind, comes with a caveat — ‘not considering Holmes’.
I worshipped the quirky, maverick turn-of- the-20th century Englishman, but could not really envisage myself walking alongside the great man across the moors, glens and hamlets of the British countryside.
But Feluda really took me in. You, as an eleven-year old, could envisage having an older cousin like Feluda. You would want to have someone who will effortlessly enrich your knowledge, build up your courage and lead by example. You would want to travel to all those exciting locations, face up to those devious criminals, and solve one criminal case after another. You would want to be smart and brave and strong and gentle and honest like Feluda. You would be jealous of Topshe, Feluda’s young cousin and the narrator of the stories — why is he there, and not I? Why am I not travelling to Banaras and Gangtok and Jaisalmer and Lucknow and Kedarnath and the Ajanta-Ellora caves, chasing criminals? Feluda and Topshe (and Jatayu, their friend and companion, the bumbling, hilarious writer of pulp thrillers) are so quintessentially Indian! Much before I travelled across India, I had discovered my country from my attic in my tiny, sleepy town through the adventures of Feluda.
We used to have the Book Fair in my town every year, and they would be held about a month after the major Book Fair in Kolkata. So even before the new Feluda book would be released to me, I would have got to know about it through magazines. I could not wait for the Book Fair to start — Feluda One Feluda Two is being released this year, or Nayan Rahasya. And neither could I resist the urge to read through a couple of Feluda stories today, while planning to write this piece. I promised myself only one story, but ended up finishing four. Some things never change.
On a stray thought, it is pleasing to have had your absence noticed — thank you, dear readers who messaged me and asked why I had gone on a hiatus. I have news. The storks have visited our home, and we have been blessed with little Diego. I’d love for him to play football and be true to his name, and I am waiting for the day when I can read the adventures of Feluda to him.
(The writer is Financial Architect in Bengaluru)