The world of ‘Whodunits’

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Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Do you know, the TEST which will detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the Covid-19 infection accurately, in just two hours, has been named Feluda?” My father squealed excitedly on the phone. This expression of joy was double edged…firstly, a cheap, fast and safe test for the virus has been approved by the Drugs Control General of India and secondly, the nomenclature- Feluda (I am sure the team of scientists were fans too.)

Feluda is a popular fictional detective created by Satyajit Ray, in West Bengal. This is the Indian state where I belong and most of us are huge fans of detectives and crime thrillers like Feluda, ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ and many more.

I think I was born with a detective chip within me, that got triggered off when I began reading Enid Blyton’s Five Find-outers and Famous Five. Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle further nudged me into converting any essay topic that was given to us in school into a mysterious, thriller story. And ‘221 B, Baker Street’ in London is on my bucket list.

It was in the boarding school that I formed a detective group of three investigators, in grade 5. Nancy Drew was my ideal, by then. We went around looking for mysteries to solve. The first case that we worked on was the ‘Mystery of the broken Spectacles’. In our hostel, there were about eleven girls who wore glasses, on the whole. Somebody had begun breaking the spectacles. The style of rampaging the glasses was similar. The temples of the specs would be cruelly twisted and pulled apart. It was almost like serial killing. While reading crime thrillers we wrote down pointers as to how to catch the perpetrator. In this case we decided to go ahead with “baiting”. Suzette quipped, “Remember, don’t go by looks and the obvious-Sherlock had said, ‘The most attractive woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning 3 little children and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who spent millions upon the London poor’.”

Till then six glasses had been broken. So, we expected that one of the remaining five girls would be targeted next. We observed that the ‘breaking’ was usually done at night, on Friday or Saturday. We decided on keeping vigilance. And in a couple of days we caught the culprit. The girl had lost her mother a year back, within a month her father had remarried and she was sent to the hostel. She somehow hated her step-mother who was a bespectacled lady. Now as an adult when I look back, I feel sorry for her. Of course, she was counselled by the matron and we were asked to be more affectionate towards her.

As the years rolled by, my ambition to study forensic anthropology took a back seat. Nonetheless, I continued to read and watch crime thrillers. The last few locked down months have seen me delve into a plethora of detective series on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I hopped onto Unsolved Mysteries, that showcases in a documentary style “unexplained disappearances, tragic events, and bizarre occurrences.” Smitten by The Mentalist- Patrick Jane and his shenanigans as he solved cases in the most incongruous ways possible, I felt myself being pulled into the quicksand of ‘whodunits’.

Then began the real-life one, on Indian news channels. The case that’s perturbed many a Bollywood fan, is the mysterious death of Sushant Singh Rajput an Indian actor. The key-expression that is being used to the point of being cliched, in relation to this case is “murkier and murkier” and rightly so. From all the information that I could compile, I tried to make sense of what could have happened. The hyperventilating news anchors reminded me more of Sherlock’s ‘Hounds of Baskerville’. With each passing day, as I follow the case I pray for closure, closure for the passing of the young man who left us too soon. In the meantime, I maintain what Sherlock says- “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

For the time being, I relegate my amateur self to mundane cases, like the mystery of the missing socks, mystery of the misplaced pen and where lies the Bermuda Triangle that invariably soaks up the television remote.

— Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @VpNavanita

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