Monday, May 17, 2010

विमल, or meet Vimal, India's pulp hero

Oh boy, have I learned a lot from The Sixty-Five Lakh Heist, fourth of Surender Mohan Pathak's many Vimal novels.

I have learned that the author tired of his first series after the first hundred books or so before he created Vimal. I have learned that Vimal is an elusive thief and a master of disguise, a kind of Punjabi mix of Richard Stark's Parker and Frank McAuliffe's Augustus Mandrell.

I have learned, among many new words, dacoit: "robber, usually one who attacks in broad daylight, in a group." I have learned that lakh in the novel's title means hundred thousand; the title refers to the 6.5 million-rupee bank robbery in which Vimal is stiffed by a colleague before embarking on a violent quest to recover what's his.

And I have learned that Surender Mohan Pathak had better slow down to a stately Simenon-like pace, or he'll soon have to express his own output in lakh. At age 70, he has written about 300 novels and translated Ian Fleming and James Hadley Chase into Hindi, the latter while working full-time for the Indian phone company.

Check out Vimal and more at the publisher's Web site, Blaft Publications. And check out this essay on Vimal by Brian Lindemuth, to whom I owe my acquaintance with Vimal.

ਬੱਲੇ!, which means, roughly speaking, "Vimal is one righteous dude!"

P.S. Vimal apparently means "clean, pure, spotless" in Sanskrit, and yet Vimal is just one of the hero's many names ...

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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35 Comments:

Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Having played cricket with many Indians, I have taken to learning about their culture. My nickname is "Swami" among my teamates. Lagaan is a terrific movie, as are a few others I have seen. "Dil Chahta Hai" is very funny. I still do not dig the musical interludes that are usually included. I have never read any Indian literature, but I shall add Mr.Pathak to my list.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Very good! You haven't seen a professional hockey game since 1972, but you play cricket. That doesn't sound like the South Boston or Charlestown I remember.

This novel comes with a helpful glossary. Among the words it explains is filmi: "Film-like. Bollywoodish, often used as a derogatory term for garish costumes."

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Inspector Morse is to blame. Lewis went undercover and played. I was fascinated by it. The 2005 Ashes was underway, and I started following it. Still Play lacrosse as well, a sport that the U.S and Canada both share a passion for. Beats playing softball if you still like to rough it up.

Some of my cricket mates from IRE,NZ,AUS, and NZ play rugby, a sport I have no desire to play. They are crazymen, and I value my teeth, and knees.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall tell Colin Dexter, should I chat with him in Bristol this week, that he is responsible for your conversion to cricket.

I was visiting a friend in England during an England-West Indies Test, and he explained some of the rules to me as we watched an evening highlights show. A light went on over my head, and suddenty I understood an Andy Capp punch line that had made no sense before.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Cricket players and observers may enjoy Joseph O"Neill's Netherland, which talks of similar unlikely connections when the game is played in the United States.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I saw what I guessed was a group of students from the Indian subcontinent practicing cricket at the University of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. I don't think the batsman was very good. He couldn't hit anything. Maybe his swing was banjaxed.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Mayhap.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Forsooth, the batsman was a very maladroit.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Since Blogger is eating posts again, Seana, would you tell the world that my "Forsooth" was in response to your "Mayhap"? I wouldn't want the reading public to think I'm losing my grip.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

The exchange shows up on my screen, so I doubt you have to worry about public perception overmuch...

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And now it shows up on my screen, as well. 'Sblood, Blogger has been erratic in recent weeks.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

'Sblood is good though.

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Zounds, it's good!

May 17, 2010  
Blogger Wilhem Spihntingle said...

Seana,

I will check out Netherland.

Peter,

The Twenty20 format (20 over's each team)is the wave of the future, and is what will help garner interest with mainstream Americans. The First ICC sanctioned matches are being played in Florida this weekend( NZ vs Sri Lanka. This will reveal a lot about the future of the game in the US. Pass along my regards & admiration to Mr. Dexter ;)

May 18, 2010  
Anonymous Private Investigator said...

I never read an Indian novel actually but "the 65 lakh heist" seems interesting. that's why I have to read it. & about the Indian cricket or players I am a fan of Sachin Tandulkar.

May 18, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

The baseball stuff was bad enough. But cricket? I may just cancel my subscription.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

William, even your simple statement tested my knowledge of cricket. It appears that the Twenty20 form might satisfy Americans' desire for speed and brevity of play in their games. But I also see that that Twenty20 has gained some popularity internationally.

Thanks for your comment.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

PI, be aware that "The Sixty-Five Lakh Heist" has no cricket in it!

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, maybe you're no sports fan. Or maybe you prefer this game.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Solo,

Sorry man. My head and arms are locked in the stockade. Fire away!

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

I'm glad you gave it a try and seem to be enjoying it so far. It really is a cool book.

I read an article on the Indian pulp industry and some of the authors were publishing 40 books a year. Even if they are shorter books that's still quite prolific.

May 18, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Incidentally, on the subject of cricket and hurling, Patrick O'Brian has a comic scene in The Fortune of War where he has his half Irish, half Catalan character Stephen Maturin take part in a cricket match, while under the assumption that the rules of cricket and hurling are essentially the same:

The Admiral held the ball to his nose for a long moment, fixing his adversary, and then delivered a lob that hummed as it flew. Stephen watched its course, danced out to take it as it touched the ground, checked its bounce, dribbled the ball towards the astonished cover-point and running still he scooped it into the hollow of his hurley, raced on with twinkling steps to mid-off, there checked his run amidst the stark silent amazement, flicked the ball into his hand, tossed it high and with a screech drove it straight at Jack's wicket, shattering the near stump and sending its upper half in a long, graceful trajectory. . .

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, I think I'll try to track down the other Vimal title that Blaft publishes. I read that another publisher is also issuing one of the books, and I'll look for that, too.

Sounds as if the Indian pulp writers are doing just what their American counterparts used to do.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, the "long, graceful trajectory" -- the precision, too -- of the goals were singularly impressive to this first-time viewer when I saw Kilkenny and Waterford play.

Perhaps "The Fortune of War" will get me reading Patrick O'Brian.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean, are you prepared to be whacked by hurleys or by fast bowlers?

May 18, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

This piece on the dark side of cricket just popped up on Slate and I felt I would be remiss not to pass it along.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Peter,

Don't know a thing about Hurling other than a girl I work with is from Ireland, and has posters of the all-Ireland team circa 2004 and 2005 in her cube. They look like pretty ominous dudes.

I have been hit by the cricket ball, usually the torso / arms, as they are unprotected. I take some ribbing for wearing a helmet, but two years ago,in the nets, a mate from SA lost four of his front teeth getting hit by bouncer.

A lacrosse ball hurts more, but at least doesn't lacerate the skin, like a cricket ball can

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's a sobering article, Seana. Cricket is not all white flannels adn tea with the queen. Thanks.

May 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean, I used to play a little pickup lacrosse as a youth. We occasionally used a tennis ball or some other substitute, but often a real lacrosse ball. Man, those things are as hard a rock and as heavy, too.

The hurling match I saw was not as violent as I expected. I guessed that in a game on that level, the players are not screwing around. On the other hand, Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor limps because of a beating he took from a hurley, and one of Garbhan Downey's fictional gangsters is Harry the Hurler.

I suspect the nickname is not due to his prowess on the field but rather is analogous that of his counterpart across the sectarian divide, Switchblade Vic.

May 18, 2010  
Anonymous Garbhan Downey said...

Couldn't be righter, Peter. The hurl/hurley stick was the favoured method of chastisement used by (republican) paramilitaries for many years. The obvious advantage was that the stick could inflict serious damage, without guaranteeing you the five-stretch you'd get if you were caught on your way to a kneecapping with a loaded pistol.

May 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Garbhan, that goes long toward explaining the association that the beautiful game and its implements has with violence, at least in Irish crime fiction.
\
Did the British authories never develop a test of hurling skills they could administer to paramilitaries caught with a hurley to determine whether they were legitimate players of the sport?

Gerard Brennan took me for a visit to the Republican Museum on the Falls Road. Naturally I noticed that the display of implements said to have been carved by prisoners included even mopre hurleys than harps -- almost as many hurleys as Celtic crosses.

May 20, 2010  
Anonymous Garbhan Downey said...

In later years, republicans adopted the baseball bat as their preferred whacking tool. One night I was interviewing a prominent ex-IRA man in his home, when I remarked on an antique bat he had on a specially-made stand over his mantelpiece.
"Can I look at it?" I asked.
"Sure," he said.
So I took it down and it was a tremendous piece of work - fashioned from some heavy dark wood and polished so you could so see your face in it.
I put it back and told him it was beautiful.
"Yeah," he said. "But I never touch it myself unless I'm wearing gloves..."

May 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Yeah," he said. "But I never touch it myself unless I'm wearing gloves..."

Man, your books write themselves. You must have been a fine reporter to get people to make such winkingly incriminating statement.

Allan Guthrie;s "Two-Way Split" has much about baseball bats and their surprising popularity in Scotland. Who says American exports are dying?

May 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Allan Guthrie's 'Two-Way Split' has much about baseball bats and their surprising popularity in Scotland."

Peter, I think you've been reading too many books too fast! I believe it's AG's "Kiss Her Goodbye" that features baseball bats as a handy weapon.

Every dame should keep one at the side of her bed (as well as a .22 in the drawer of her nightstand).

And a "hello" to you in the UK from the annual meeting of the American Assoc of Museums in LA!

May 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Peter, I think you've been reading too many books too fast! I believe it's AG's `Kiss Her Goodbye' that features baseball bats as a handy weapon."

Aye.

May 22, 2010  

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