Fifty years in the company of Feluda

You probably met him when you were about 7 or 8. An average Bengali youth, with a not-so-average mind, on a vacation in Darjeeling with his young cousin. Possessing a sharp wit, a sharper eye for detail, and keen deductive power, he almost playfully solved the mystery of anonymous letters to Rajenbabu, in the process enlightening you about “curio”, “horrendous” and “thangka”! You were hooked. What followed was history! Solitary afternoons during summer vacation, late in the night as long as Ma would allow the lights to be on, breathlessly turning page after page; Lucknow, Kolkata, Gangtok, Rajasthan… adventure after adventure… mystery after mystery! What was curiosity, turned into pure, unadulterated hero-worship. And from this sea of awe and admiration, emerged the most prominent cult figure of Bangla Children’s literature – Feluda.

What makes his stories so endearing to us? More importantly, so enduring through time? Apart from brilliant storylines and an effortlessly engrossing narrative, three major points come to my mind.

  • The fascinating milieu of people surrounding the protagonist. Topshe – you instantly identify with this soft-spoken, intelligent storyteller with mastery in the skillful portrayal of characters and situation, developing into an able assistant to his illustrious cousin. Lalmohan babu – nothing defines the ‘bangaliyana’ of the stories more than Jatayu himself; the bumbling, bungling ‘bhadrolok’ depicts the quintessential goodness innate in the educated, middle-class Bengali, despite his more than an occasional gaffe. Sidhu Jyatha – the archetypal Mycroft to Feluda’s Sherlock, he represents this rare breed who actually existed long before Google, were as effective, and definitely much more interesting to interact with. Most of us know one such in our lifetime. Haripada babu – he may have been a late entrant along with the green Mark II ambassador, but he quickly established himself to be a loyal, intelligent, reliable person to have around and fall back on in dire need.

  • The illustrations, mostly in Satyajit Ray’s inimitable style. They were not simply depicting a scene from the story, they were a part of it, telling us about things that were not mentioned in so many words, letting us peep into the drama, egging us on to look closely just beyond the boundary of the picture. I would spend a good amount of time looking at the illustrations in each fresh story, and trying to guess the plot, before starting to read.

  • The treasure trove of trivia, seamlessly woven into the narration, never seemed like a lecture on Egyptology, geometry, philately, history of Kolkata, or anything else for that matter. How many of us have planned to visit Park Street cemetery after reading ‘Gorosthane Shabdhan’? The word ‘Stuntman’ came into my dictionary after reading ‘Bombaiyer Bombetey’. Learning about musical instruments in ‘Samaddarer Chaabi’, about ‘thhogi’ or thugs in ‘Gnosaipur Sargaram’, about word games in ‘Chhinnamasta-r Abhishaap’… the list is endless. With each new story, you knew you would find some unusual and interesting information, along with the regular dose of mystery and adventure.

Each of us has our own reason for re-visiting Feluda. Some may be more frequent than others. Whatever your frequency of reading, if you are an ardent Feluda-bhakto, the following questions should not be too difficult to answer. Get back with your answers in the Leave a Reply section. We will applaud the Feluda aficionado and share the answers within a fortnight. Let this be fair play, no ‘Googling’ or ‘Wiki-ing’ please! Put a little bit of pressure on your grey cells! But if you want to consult the original book(s) to get the answers? Well, that’s kind of the whole point!

  1. Feluda has crossed swords with innumerable ‘villains’ in his adventures. Which ignoble character, if any, has appeared in more than one story? Name these adventures.


  1. The story of ‘Gorosthane Shabdhan’ revolves around a rare watch from a famous maker. But there was another watch that played a pivotal role as well. Name these two watches.


  1. In another story, while playing Jol-Mati-Akash (in which within the count of 10, you have to give the name of a living being from the sphere your opponent has selected), Lalmohan babu answered – “Bengur” as a living being from Sky! What was his explanation? Which story was this?


  1. We have read about their nefarious deeds a million times, seen them even more. Give the original names of nakol Dr. Hazra and his companion.


  1. “Why does Topshe lie so much?” – little Runa asked Feluda in ‘Ambar Sen Antardhan Rahasya’. What lie is she talking about?


  1. Feluda lives in Rajani Sen Road, Lalmohan babu lives in Gorpar, where does Sidhu Jyatha live?


  1. What was the reward promised to Feluda by Kalikinkar Majumdar, if he succeeded in solving the riddle in ‘Ghurghutiya-r Ghatona’?


  1. This one’s easy. Which brand of cigarette does Feluda smoke? He prefers tea from which tea garden?


  1. Lalmohan babu idolizes this Bengali teacher from his school; so much so that he would often inundate Feluda and Topshe by reciting verses penned by this uncelebrated genius. Name the teacher and the school.


  1. At the beginning of the story, we see Feluda immersed in the epics, Ramayan and Mahabharat. He also resolves the mystery by drawing a simile with a weapon mentioned in the Ramayan. Which story is this and what is the weapon?


Go on, check how many of them you can answer. Even if you cannot be certain about any of them, wasn't it fun just to reminisce?