|01 June 2016|
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, thankfully, are almost uniformly good.
My first tryst with detective fiction was with Sherlock Holmes. I read Holmes in translation, serialized 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.