Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Amazing Mystery

Authors Note: This story is a tribute to the great detectives that lit up my imagination when I was a kid, and to a great extent, still do. And also to Malcolm Gladwell for pointing out the difference between a mystery and a puzzle. And also to … well… why don’t we get to that after we have read the story…

‘How do you know my name?’, Pheluda’s calm voice could not hide that fact that he was surprised.  

The charming lady sitting across the counter smiled as the golden panel behind her slid open to show a guilded silver door. 

Thopshe’s  jaws dropped in amazement as he stared at Pheluda, the lady and the door in quick succession, over and over again.

An imaginary sitar played in the background, with percussions increasing in volume.


Pheluda and Thopshe were in England on their latest case.

The pair does not need an introduction in India – the finest private investigators the country had ever seen. The detective scene in India had seen a giant leap, quite a bit of progress from amateur teenage detective duo Rajan & Iqbal and sensationalist macho Colonel Ranjeet.

Thanks to their discovery by Mr. Satyajit Ray, the country could now claim detectives that could give Sherlock Homes and Dr. Watson a run for their money, only if the two duos were not separated in time by a whole generation that is.

But Sherlock Holmes remained an inspiration for Pheluda, who besides picking up Sherlock’s idiosyncratic analytical skills, also picked up his encyclyclopedic knowledge of diverse scientific & anthropological subjects, unarmed combat skills, and of course - affinity to smoking.

It was only last week when Phelu and Thopse got their first international mystery project.  A rich heir in England had hired Pheluda for a case.

The case briefing by Lord Henry Williams III was literally, brief.

 ‘Find me the the person who has answers to all my questions’ , the man with a nasal twang had said slowly, ‘ I am willing to spend as much money as you want to get the work done’ , came the voice after a brief pause.

‘As -much –money- as- you- want’, he had repeated pausing between the words for emphasis.


The duo had headed over to the Dover Cliffs, which Pheluda wanted to visit in his pursuit of a vital clue.

It was a bit windy but they had dressed up appropriately in warm jackets. Pheluda guided Thopshe to one of the cliff trails. Spring had just started and they walked amidst the flora and fauna of the chalk grasslands, enjoying the view of the vast expanse of the channel and continental Europe far in the horizon.

 ‘How do you know that the clue for this case lies here?’, Thopshe asked Pheluda as they walk along the cliff trail.

‘I don’t, Pheluda said raising his chiseled nose in the air to smell the breeze laden with the salty scent of the sea, ‘ But I am sure the author of this story does…’, he concluded with a laugh as he lit up a Charminar cigarette and trotted briskly down the trail. Thopshe followed him with a puzzled expression on his face.

Just around the bend of the trail, there was a wooden sign pointing inland – “Phones”

‘See ! Didn’t I tell you …” , Pheluda said hopping onto the path leading to Phones , ‘That the author will figure out something !’ Thopse had a grin on his face.

The bumpy path led to a parking lot. There was a large four storied building in the middle of the vacant parking lot. It had a big blue neon sign with Phones written on it boldly. They walked into the building.

It was a bit dark inside. There were a row of phones arranged neatly on a table along the wall. None of them were connected– their chords lay folded neatly next to shiny golden phones .

'Hmm, the plot gets interesting' , Pheluda said with a smile.

He picked up a handset and suddenly out of nowhere, a door appeared in the wall!  The white door had a black doorknob. Right in the center of the back door knob was a telephone socket !

Pheluda tried to open the door but the doorknob did not budge.

‘How do we open this door?’ asked Thopshe.

‘Wait, I think I know’ said Pheluda.

Pheluda picked up the cord that was lying neatly folded next to the shiny golden phone . He plugged one end of the cord to the telephone. He took the other end and plugged it into the socket in the center of the black doorknob.

Nothing happened.

He picked up the receiver. ‘Hello?’, he said softly into the mouthpiece.

The door on the wall opened !


Pheluda  and Thopshe walked into a huge windowless room filled with white florescent light. It was a bit chilly in the room.

There was a charming lady sitting behind a gilded counter at the other end of room. It was a very long walk to her table and they were a bit winded when they reached there.

‘Welcome to the Blah Blah land!’ she said with a pleasant tone.

 ‘Blah Blah land ?’, Topshe asked with a puzzled look on his face.

‘Oooh … I am sorry, I should have explained – please don’t go on the words – words can be misleading”, she said with a smile, ‘Just rely on your intuition and use the words as a stepping stone. Get off the words as soon as you get the concept!'

'We manage all types of Blah Blah that takes place all over the world’, she continued ,‘All conversations, phone calls, newspapers, magazines, texting, emails  ...all Blah Blah’s’

‘How about conversations with people who have answers to all our questions? ’ Pheluda asked after a pause.

‘Yes even that’, the lady replied without batting her eylids. ‘But that is a very small department, you know. And pretty unused.  Those folks don’t converse that much nowadays’

 ‘C-C-Can I make a call, Pheluda said, staring the lady. He could not believe his luck! A stroll along the Dover cliff had led him right to the answer of his amazing mystery! 

‘The author of this story is surely motivated to come the point pretty quickly!’ he thought as an amused grin spread on his face.

‘I-I need make a quick phone call - to a person who wants to talk to the folks who have answers to all questions – the small department you just mentioned …  can I make a call from here?’, Pheluda asked the lady.

‘Sure, here you go’, She produced a sparkling golden phone out of nowhere and put it on the counter.

Pheluda  picked up the handset and was relieved to hear the soothing dial tone. As he put his fingers on the dial pad, to his surprise, he realized that I did not remember the number to dial!

‘The phone number of Lord Henry Williams III was in the phone book which I left in the hotel”, he said as droplets of sweat formed on his forehead. ‘Topshe, do you remember his number?’ he asked Topshe with urgency in his voice. Topshe shook his head feebly.

The dial tone in the phone ended playing a message.

If you want to dial a number, please hang up and try again’, said a lady from the other end. The distant message coming from the receiver filled up that quiet cold room.

‘Oh, did you get the Hang up and dial again department Mr. Phelu?’ the receptionist asked with a smile, “The Poor folks are pretty overworked – for some reason, a lot of people are not dialing the correct number nowadays …” , she said with a sigh.  Pheluda nodded feebly, not knowing what to do.

“How do you know my name?”, Pheluda’s calm voice could not hide that fact that he was surprised.  

The charming lady sitting across the counter smiled as the golden panel behind her slid open to show a gilded silver door.“Follow me”, the lady said opening the gilded silver door. The door opened into a Inside there was a very long gallery with doors on either side. There was a very familiar figure standing in the corridor.

Mr. Holmes, Pheluda is here”, the lady chirped in a cheerful voice.

’He asked the same questions that you did when you came here – maybe he is looking for the same thing as you are and you two can work on it together”

Phelu and Topshe stared in amazement at the tall figure with sharp nose, black hair, intense eyes and unmistakable features who was smoking a pipe. Sherlock Holmes was standing in the corridor with a cynical smile on his face.

“Welcome Mr Mitter ! I was waiting for you …”, Holmes said in a deep baritone voice.

Thopshe’s  jaws dropped in amazement as he stared at Pheluda and Sherlock Holmes quick succession, over and over again.

An imaginary sitar played in the background, with percussions increasing in volume.

Continued  in The Amazing Case ….


triloki nagpal said...

The suspense is killing...
when is next part coming.

rachna said...

This is like creativity got drunk. :) All the madness of Alice in Wonderland. Col Ranjeet, Feluda and Holmes - what a potboiler. I'm waiting for part 2 too. Hope it comes before I chew off all my fingernails. ps: it's reassuring to know that superdetectives forget numbers too.

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