In the first part of this post (here), I started taking a look at some Indian fictional detectives, the stories they appear in, and writers who wrote them, for, as I mentioned in that post, I really didn’t know much about fictional detectives from Indian stories since many of them appeared in languages I don’t know, and as a result, don’t read in. Also, as I mentioned in that post, the ones I’ve come across on my searches so far have mostly been from Bengali detective fiction, with a couple from Tamil detective fiction. (There are a bunch that have appeared in detective fiction in English–those I’ll also go into, but in a separate post.) This post features another set of detectives, all from Bengali fiction. So here goes.
Debendra Bijoy Mitra, Arindham Basu, and Gobindoram
Debendra Bijoy Mitra, Arindham Basu, and Gobindoram were detectives created by author Panchkari Dey (1873-1945). The three appeared in twenty-eight stories written between the 1910’s and 1920s. These include ‘Neelbashna Sundari‘ (‘The Beauty in Blue’), ‘Maya Bini‘ (‘Mysterious Lady’), and ‘Hartoner Naola‘ (‘The Trick of the Cards’). While seen as the first ‘indigenously conceived’ detective stories, these are however also described as ‘Western Tales in Eastern Garb’. Of the detectives, Mitra and Basu adopt a hybrid form of dress including the Indian dhoti, but pleated shirts, and Derby shoes. Also like in the stories by Priyanath Mukhopadhyay (below), Mitra and Basu are employed as police officials under the colonial government, and work in and around Calcutta. And Basu is Mitra’s grandfather-in-law. [I couldn’t find anything about Gobindoram, other than his name].
Created by writer Premendra Mitra, Parashor Barma is a fictional detective whose passion is poetry; in fact he is a poet, though not a very good one. Like Byomkesh and Feluda (and literally, most fictional detectives from any language), he is accompanied by Kirttibhas Bhadra, editor of a magazine, and the narrator of the stories. Parashor relies on his intuition, sense of humour, and poetry, and like Poirot ‘his little grey cells’ to solve his cases, though he seems to approach them rather casually, which annoys Kirttibhas. He first appeared in ‘Goyenda Kabi Parashor‘ (Parashor, the Poet-Detective) in 1932.
Standing six and a half feet tall, fair, and stout, and described as the ‘most stylish detective’ is Kiriti Roy, a detective created by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta. He wears a ‘long coat and cap’ and has ‘a briar pipe hanging from his lips’, and while at home, he wears a silk kimono and tatami grass slippers. The stories are set in the 1940s. Roy’s clients are affluent, including royalty and zamindars. His is assisted by Subrata Roy, who also narrates some of the stories. The author, Dr Nihar Ranjan Gupta was a dermatologist (having also served in the army as a doctor during the second world war), as well as a novelist. He has written over 200 novels, short stories, and other writings. The Kirtti Roy stories have also been adapted for movies, as well as radio.
Col. Niladri Sarkar
Col. Niladri Sakar, a retired colonel and detective, was created by author Syed Mustafa Siraj (author of over 150 novels and 300 short stories) in stories for children. The colonel is a naturist, butterfly collector, and orinthologist, and is said to look like Santa Claus. The stories are as always narrated by his sidekick, in this case, a lazy journalist called Jayanta. The first story appeared in 1970. The stories have been translated into various Indian languages but only one collection, The Colonel Investigates, appeared in English in 2004.
Darogar Daphtar by Priyanath Mukhopadhyay
This one is not a specific detective but a periodical titled Darogar Daphtar or the Inspector’s Office, which was the first ever in Bengali dedicated to crime stories, and which was the first detective fiction in the language. The author Priyanath Mukhopadhyay, served for thirty-three years in the detective department of the Calcutta Police force, and wrote stories based on his own experiences in the force. His views however were of one working under the British administration, and thus inimical to his own countrymen, though in a later story ‘Ingrej Dakait’ (‘Englishman Dacoit’), he ‘obliquely hinted at evil in the colonisers’ psyche’ (here). The stories appeared in several volumes.
So this is my next set. I am still on the look out for more detectives from fiction in Indian languages so will be writing further posts when I have enough. [I haven’t read or come across any of these detectives before so all the information and descriptions are entirely from wikipedia and other sources I’ve listed below.] In the meanwhile, as mentioned, I will also be writing one on Indian fictional detectives in English.
Have you read or heard of any of the ones in my list? Any others that you have read which I can include? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
- Sources: https://scroll.in/article/863960/one-of-indias-earliest-crime-fiction-stories-was-about-a-delicious-scam-involving-books
- The Manchean Investigators: A Postcolonial and Cultural Rereading of the Sherlock Holmes and Byomkesh Bakshi Stories by Pinaki Roy
- All cover images are from goodreads, except The Colonel Investigates, which is from Amazon
7 thoughts on “Indian Fictional Detectives- II”
Haven’t heard of any of these, but you’ve forgotten Tenida and gang, who lived in Potol Gali.
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Will pop them in the next one.
I have English translations of Feluda, Byomkesh, Kirti Roy – and am now planning to buy Colonel Investigates. Are any of the Pareshar Barma works or the works by Debendra Mitra available in English? Similarly I have heard of Narayan Sanyal and Kanta series. I dont think his works too have been translated to English. Please do tell me if English editions of any of these works are available
Hello, no, so far as I am aware, Parashor Barma, Debendra Mitra and Narayan Sanyal stories seem to be available in Bengali only.
There is one volume of assorted stories The Moving Shadow translated by Arunava Sinha–this collection has one Parashor Barma story (I haven’t got this volume yet) in English.
Oh, and if you haven’t read Tenida stories, tonight enjoy them. They are children’s stories with a slight mystery element in some of them. One volume is available in English.