Remembering Jasoosi Duniya by Ibn-e-Safi

My grandfather was a big fan of Detective Colonel Vinod of Vinod Series by Ibn-e-Safi (pen name of Asrar Ahmed). And my father and his siblings would compete with each other to be the first to lay their hands on those thrillers, that arrived every month by post.

Colonel Vinod (Faridi in original Urdu version), the main character of Jasoosi Duniya was huge at one point of time and almost as famous as James Bond or Sherlock Holmes. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, everyone loved him.

 For me it was different. I was born after Ibn-e-Safi’s death. As I grew up, titles of the books – ‘Tijori ka Geet’, ‘Khooni Pathar’, ‘Pahadon ki Malika’, ‘Baraf ke Bhoot’ –  intrigued me. And the pictures on the covers were fascinating too. One day, when I was in my teens, I just picked it up from a big box of books and read it at one go. That was the beginning. I soon got addicted to them.

Thankfully, my parents were not very strict about my reading those ‘kind of books’ because they knew that the series did not have sub standard or cheap material in it. Every member in the family could read it. However, they warned I may end up paying more attention to the thrillers rather than course books. But I managed to strike a balance.

After Devkinandan Khatri in the 19th century, it was Ibn-e-safi who set the beat of detective novels in the second half of the 20th century in Indian subcontinent. His contributions to not only Urdu but Hindi literature was immense. The books were published in Bengali, Tamil and Telugu as well. 


Wikipedia says about Jasoosi Duniya series – “Its first novel, Dilaer Mujrim was published in March 1952. In the following 27 years, Ibn-e-Safi wrote 127 books in the series with his last Jasoosi Dunya novel, Sehra’ee Deewana appearing in July 1979, a year before his death.” He was from India but migrated to Pakistan in 1947, post independence.

It is said that some Safi’s books have been inspired by English novels but the much-loved characters, Vinod and Rajesh (Faridi and Imran in original Urdu version) are his own creations.

My favourites were Colonel Vinod and his feisty aide Captain Hamid (akin to Dr Watson). As I read him more and more, I felt Ibn-e-Safi was well informed about the political situations in the world. He wove a glamourous and dangerous world in 1960s India that enchanted readers.

 I think Colonel Vinod was very much like Howard Roark of  Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’. Both of them had super integrity, both were brilliant at their jobs but appeared to be rather heartless (Colonel Vinod was nicknamed Father Hardstone by his friend Hamid). Both had lofty ideals. Infact, it was said that Ibn-e-Safi wrote very carefully about Vinod as people sort of worshipped him and would not tolerate anything untoward related to him.


Ibn-e-safi’s other lead character Rajesh (Imran in the Urdu version) was equally popular. A fool by the day and secret service chief by night, Rajesh’s unpredictability always left me in splits.
It should also be known that Safi’s works were widely plagiarised by writers who enjoyed limited fame but could not match his popularity. His books were often sold at black market prices in and around India. 

A big reason for the charm of the novels were the minor and comic characters Qasim, Black Force, gilehri jaan ( in Vinod series) as well as servant Bholu, Jolly, Madan (in Rajesh series). The master storyteller had the knack of drawing readers into the world of ensnaring beauties, night clubs, fancy locations, Lincolns, Tommy guns, poisonous needles and lethal enemies. 

Back in India, I always wondered about Lincoln – Colonel Vinod’s car and excitedly called up my father when I saw one in the US. 


The Hindi version of – Jasoosi Duniya series are hard to find in today’s world of Ebooks and downloads. I yearn for the crispy touch, musty smell and excitement that preceded reading the thrillers. It was heaven to read it in a quiet corner of my house, munching guavas and wondering what was going to happen next.

Gone are the days but who knows…I might still find my younger self somewhere inside one of those nail-biting books…!

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A letter to my classmate!

   
Hello,

Hope this letter finds you good. I felt an immediate need to write to you after visiting your facebook profile via our common friend’s profile. I was looking for a tall, gawky person but saw a different man there – aged with lined face and a pot belly. I was aghast! There was no sign of the boy who would enter the classroom bustling with energy, taking on the world in his languishing stride. 

It seems as if time has flown since I last saw him after our board exams (Kabuliwallah syndrome… remember the story?). We were sixteen then… fresh and so full of excitement to take on the world. I had half expected to find the same boy and initiate a chat with him. But for the first time, I experienced how much the world has changed… how much I have changed! In a flash, I felt being transported from teenage years right into my thirties.

He and I studied together from kindergarten till tenth. Although, we were never best of friends! Infact, I remember the boy was mean to me a number of times and I myself was not a model of good behaviour but we were comfortable around each other. I also visited other classmates via your profile but everyone has changed. Most of us have put on weight, have moved to different places, undergone varied experiences. Life truly has taken a toll on us.

I tried hard to find some semblance, something of the past in your picture but …I gave up.  You looked comfortable around your family…a typical man of the world who goes to work in the morning, returns home tired and waits for dinner to be served at night. Your wife is beautiful and kids are cute. One of them resembles you. I am glad life has been good to you. But again, you are so unlike him. He was fidgety and non-conformist. You are a stereotype family man!

He was ambitious, boisterous and haughty but you seem to avoid confrontations. He questioned everything and you seem to accept everything. I like that you are happy and settled but I liked him better – my happy go lucky classmate who would make the class laugh with his pranks. He was non predictable and creative, you are adjusting with what life has offered you. Good for you!

 I smile thinking that once upon a time,  my classmates were an intrinsic part of my world. I had enjoyed their encouragement and would take any discouragement to heart. Many a times, they were harsh and judgemental.

My classmates held the power to make or break me. I didn’t know then that all this would change so drastically. And that I would no longer have to compete with or conform to anyone’s notions. It felt good when I moved on from teenage angst towards maturity but in the process, I took you all for granted. I had never thought I would never find you all ever again…not in the same way. 

I get nostalgic remembering the last parting image of my classmates – excited bunch of boys and girls who loved to chat,  bitch, scream and dream. Where did they all go?

Lately, some of you crept into my memory and reminded me of those sweet-sour school years. Perhaps, wanting to re-live the past encouraged me to visit your FB page.  I wanted to meet you all and have a chat online. But I guess…I have lost the connect.

If my letter encourages you to find him – the gawky teenager, somewhere deep within you, then kindly let him know that I am thankful to him for being a part of my childhood. 

May be, my letter would make you  curious and you would want to check back my profile. But I warn you – you will hardly recognise me – a married woman with kids. You would not know what to say to me.

But perhaps if you let that tall boy visit my profile, he might find the quiet girl who loved doodling and reading. They will connect, have great conversation and laugh together like youngsters do. Please find and send him once for I am sure we all miss the innocent, musical laughter of our wonder years! Then, may be we will reconnect again with our past.

Best wishes for everything,

Your former friend

  
Images courtesy Google

A Drop of Tear!

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“At first, it looked like an ordinary marble, but it was far from it.” The vagabond looked at it closely. He had not seen anything like it in the whole wide world. It looked so delicate and fragile on the ground.

The vagabond had returned home after years of travelling…wiser but poorer. He needed money and perhaps, he had hit the jackpot on finding the stone. He was sure that the beauty could fetch him big bucks! But what kind of treasure was it exactly?

A deep heart-breaking sigh startled him. It was coming from the stone and made him feel wretched. He closed his eyes and knew it in his heart. It was a huge tear drop of a heart broken person!

The vagabond did not have the heart to sell it…instead he went to the temple and placed it with the Gods.

This story is a part of the wonderful ‘Mondays Finish The Story Challenge’ by Barbara Beacham. She provides us with a photo prompt, the first sentence, and approximately 150 words with which we are to use to write our story. To take up the challenge click here: Mondays Finish the Story.

Yesterday Once More

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Yesterday, my older one ran to me and asked to inhale the perfume his father had put on him. I smiled and told him he smelt great. He does this every time but yesterday it made me think. Would he come running to me like this always? Would he reach out for my hand whenever we go out? I think not, naturally. But then how will the transformation take place? I want to remember the day and time when he will let go of me and my opinions? Would this happen on a particular day or gradually? It is entirely expected that soon he will find it silly and outgrow it and move on. But I want to watch it consciously and make a note of it. Just like that!

I am sure I will stay on and wait for his every little acknowledgement just like my parents stayed and I moved on. I still wonder how the transformation took place in me and how much I left behind and simply forgot about it.

We just outgrow and let go of so many little things. We don’t remember the last time, date, moment when that particular ritual ceased to exist. We just abandon it, find a replacement, move on or just forget about it.

There are so many beautiful and mundane happenings from my wonder years that I want to relive one last time…but those days have gone, new routine has taken it’s place. In the years to come, I will miss my present too. We have a habit of taking our present for granted. I took it for granted while growing up. I have learnt from experience that we should not let go of our present without living it to the fullest.

I may not be able to go back and grab those moments once again but at least I can recount it, talk about it and list it…just to experience it indirectly, while I write. And to smile fondly, sincerely and simply. Here are some cherished moments straight from the innocent days when the world was a little more brighter, clearer and beautiful.

  • My father’s fictional stories of adventures in Africa on cold winter nights while eating ground nuts.
  • My mother’s laughter and mock fights with father and our intervention to settle the quarrel.
  • My grandmother’s ringing laughter that continued for minutes.
  • My late maternal grandmother’s amazing delicacies which included a variety of pickles and jams.
  • The laughter and jokes cracked by uncles and aunts in every family get together.
  • Attending marriages and vying with other kids to be the first one to peep at the veiled bride’s crimson face.
  • The sound of the bangles of our old bangles seller.
  • The comforting presence of our staff.
  • Our old two in one tape recorder and shutter TV.
  • Guava trees – my refuge from unpleasant situations.
  • Berry tree – the place where we kids learnt to weave dreams.
  • Our games – I spy, Fire in the Mountain, I want, basket ball, flying disc or just chasing games.
  • Wearing stitched dresses by the local tailor and feeling like a queen.
  • Teasing siblings until they cried.
  • Dreaming of Mickey Mouse.
  • Imagining seeing something supernatural and making up stories.
  • Screaming and overreacting at the mention of ghosts, murkatwa (the beheading killer) and witches.
  • The little old stores and their store owners in our small town.
  • The unveiling of the statue of Goddess Durga during Durga puja.
  • Lighting of earthen lamps throughout our house in Deepawali and the impatience to burn crackers.
  • Playing Holi with ink from our fountain pens.
  • Banging and shouting on the last day of every school session and before holidays.
  • Admiring the beauty queens from magazines.
  • Visits to our village where age old traditions still exist.
  • Praying for restoring of current after power cuts while watching Sunday movies on national television.
  • Staging dramas and dances for the family.
  • Little fights and outbursts but clean hearts.
  • Confiding in older sister about everything.
  • Nodding and sleeping in the school bus.
  • Jumping up and down in mud during and after rainfall.
  • Toppling down from stack of hay every harvest season.
  • Cleaning VCR head in between movies.
  • The sound of the bell of the ground nut seller, ice candy and cotton candy man.
  • The fragrance of mango flowers in the house.
  • The laid back existence without any urgency to complete a task.
  • The yearly fair in our compound and the rustic crowd.
  • The myriad colours of Chath festival.
  • Picnics at Betla National Forest and near Kechki River.
  • These are just a few of those memories. (The picture is of Betla National Forest). I would love to know about yours too, please do not forget to share. Come on, let’s live yesterday once more…