Eat Your Heart Out, 007

India Today - - LEISURE - —Vishi Sinha

Suren­der Mo­han Pathak has long been the undis­puted em­peror of Hindi crime fic­tion. But for his lat­est novel, Di­a­monds Are for All, the au­thor him­self penned an English ver­sion to be pub­lished si­mul­ta­ne­ously. It’s the 11th novel fea­tur­ing one of Pathak’s most suc­cess­ful char­ac­ters, Jeet Singh, and the king of crime once again de­liv­ers the goods—evok­ing a world that rarely makes the pages of so-called “In­dian writ­ing in English”.

Self-con­scious about his poor ed­u­ca­tion and av­er­age ap­pear­ance, Jeet Singh has had a seem­ingly never-end­ing af­fair with be­tray­als, both in love and on the job. Of course, his pro­fes­sion is slightly un­ortho­dox. An ex­pert safe­cracker, he has been in­volved with all man­ner of clients, some­times un­der pres­sure, some­times due to his per­sonal help­less­ness. He’s made the hit lists of sev­eral un­der­world king­pins. He has es­caped death by a whisker at least a dozen times. And in or­der to save his own life, he has killed on nearly as many oc­ca­sions. At the open­ing of Di­a­monds Are for All, though, he’s work­ing as a cab­bie to try and stay away from the world of crime.

As the ti­tle sug­gests, the plot re­volves around stolen di­a­monds. One night, a pas­sen­ger flee­ing goons gets into Jeet Singh’s cab. He soon leaps out of the mov­ing taxi, but only af­ter giv­ing Singh a brief­case the goons are af­ter—and en­trust­ing him with the task of de­liv­er­ing it.

The mys­te­ri­ous pas­sen­ger turns up dead by the rail­way tracks the next morn­ing. And when Singh tries to de­liver the brief­case to the ad­dress the man gave him, he dis­cov­ers that the girl who lived there has also been mur­dered. In­side the case are di­a­monds worth hun­dreds of mil­lions—with sev­eral dif­fer­ent gangs of thugs hot on their trail.

The fast-plot­ted tale of Jeet Singh’s at­tempts to get rid of the goons and the stones with­out get­ting him­self killed is easy to fin­ish in a sit­ting. But Pathak’s lively por­trayal of Mum­bai’s un­der­belly—right down to his ut­terly con­vinc­ing use of Mum­bai’s tapori di­alect—makes the book more than a sim­ple page-turner. Ev­ery char­ac­ter fits per­fectly, leav­ing lit­tle space for any­thing un­nec­es­sary or un­war­ranted. By writ­ing it in English, Pathak may well force the coun­try’s snootier read­ers to re­con­sider their flawed opin­ion that In­dian genre fic­tion lacks a mas­ter on the level of Ge­orges Si­menon or El­more Leonard.

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