The most common question asked to every child or teen is “Who is your favourite detective?” At least, that’s what used to be in my generation, about two decades ago. I’ve been gorging on detective stories since my pre-teens, haate-khori (baptism of writing) being done with Feluda. With Sonar Kella (1974) and Joy Baba Felunath (1979) being constant features on summer television, we didn’t have many options. Feluda ruled my childhood, along with Bangla translations of Sherlock Holmes in magazines. I loved Feluda, and was in awe of Sherlock, which strengthened as I began learning Chemistry. Those inferences from the criminal’s stained hat or a cigarette stub with his saliva on it made me wonder Holmes’s prowess. Could Feluda do similar stuff? Well, no, he was mostly a cerebral detective, with his Magajastra being the ultimate weapon.
Unlike many other children who just read and loved detectives, I wanted to be one. Seriously. I’ve read Holmes at an age when others didn’t, I’ve religiously read Kakababu and Arjun’s escapades, I’ve read Colonel Niladri Sarkar’s young adult stories, I’ve read Jayanta-Manik and Gogol. Bangla literature has a vast ensemble of detectives/sleuths, and that’s what most of them liked to be termed. All of them were smart, not all were young men though, and only Samaresh Majumdar’s Arjun had the suaveness to second Feluda. I wanted to be someone who had the forensic analytical bent of mind and yet an uber emotional psyche to grasp the criminal’s mind. As I grew up, I found him and though I couldn’t be like him, I let him rule my mind as the best ‘detective’ ever – Byomkesh Bakshi. Well, the most striking thing about Byomkesh is that he never liked to be called a ‘detective’. He fancied the term ‘Satyanweshi’ (truth-seeker) and stuck to it until Dibakar Banerjee decided to rip it off in his next film.