Can an incredibly busy medical doctor find time to produce a book that reads like a thriller of unique kind? And are 180 printed pages adequate to tell a story having a set of players and characters who travel back and forth from Nepal to India, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and countries en route ? The answer to these questions would undoubtedly be in the affirmative. This view, I believe, are shared by existing as well as potential readers of this literary work.
Denizens of the Kathmandu valley---and beyond---might recall a sensational news of 4th May 2006, eporting that one of the country's leading medical professionals ( a pediatrician, to be precise ), Dr. Hemang Dixit was shot at by unidentified assailants as his car washeading towards his workplace : Kathmandu Medical College. But God saved him---probably to enable the doctor to save several other lives subsequently. And the doctor who had this miraculous escape was no other person than our present novelist, Mani Dixit. The story,t herefore, is bound to be a lively tale full of anecdotes and dialogues. " Taking that [incident] as my starting point," says Dixit in the preface, " I have tried to weave a story of present-day Nepal."Actually, this prelude is good enough to assure his readers---those at home and abroad---that the author has not gone too far from the real world.
Shatru is the central figure of story at hand. It is the shortened version of his full name : Shatrughan. Since the young man got involved in an "extortion racket " from early youthful days, his name sounds as if he was born to be the enemy to those who run manpower agencies and "export " credulous men and women to be turned into slaves in the countries of the Gulf. As the storyline goes, Shatru is one of the two persons who have to flee Nepal immediately after an accidental shooting of a Canadian visitor. As the extortion gang itself instantly realizes, the visitor, an anaesthetist, was the wrong target. So in a bid to evade police arrest the two in the gang decide to run away from Nepal for the time being. Accordingly,Shatru flies to Singapore and the other guy travels by road and crosses the "open" border to the south and reaches New Delhi. Shatru gets admitted into a hotel management course; and meets a young girl, Rita, there. Shortly afterwards, Shatru sneaks into nearby Malaysia and takes up the job as a factory worker. His employer, Pudke Chang , is attracted by his potential and offers him a special training opportunity in a jungle site. It enhances his confidence as a extortionist, who could now fire sure shots at targets. The final aim of all those in the training group is common : to collect or extract as much money as possible without having to work for it.
Using one of his three passports---two Nepali under different names and one Indian---Shatru returns to Kathmandu, accompanied by his employer, Pudke Chang. They set up a sports-wear shop in a downtown market place; and it prospers in no time. Then they look for greener pastures. Fly to New Delhi and then on to Canada. Lenient laws there initially encourage them to try growing marijuana (ganja) in an isolated area on the outskirts of Ottawa, the capital city. But the project does not take much of a headway persuading them to their change plans. In New Delhi, Shatru's friend Rocky talks about his Boss, apparently an NRI in Canada, who is prepared to spend some of his earnings to help Nepal revert back to its Hindu status. Create some disturbances so that a need to return to the original order arises quickly. And the process could require to eliminate a couple of politicians of discredited political parties. Shatru, remains unconvinced at first, citing his ethnicity as a Janajati and his open hatred towards Bahun-Chhetri community. But later changes his mind, mainly lured by the "good money " being offered. Back in Kathmandu, the racket expands together with its criminal activities. The network includes even a hired hand from Kosovo in the Balkans. Then there is a Kashmiri Muslim, Abdul, who has a shop in Thamel area. At this point,police intelligence does some good work in would-be Nayaa Nepal, forcing the Tiger Gang to dismantle itself. The story ends on an optimistic note with the group members agreeing to form a Tiger Inc,an NGO committed to engage in social welfare activities.
The author's observations—both plain and satirical---can be found all along the story. To cite one example, those who prefer to call themselves NRNs---using Western amenities, and living thousands of miles away from Nepal---are rightly criticized for being unkind about their own homeland. " The only thing they send back are e-mails to publish in the English dailies saying how bad things are in Nepal," says the author through Shatru. Like their Indian counterparts, NRIs, some erstwhile Nepalis want dual citizenship so that they can reap benefits from both sides ! As the saying goes, the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. Those who live in Kathmandu and urban centers elsewhere are enduring upto seventy-hours-a week of load-shedding. And several million others are trying to survive chilling winter cold without warmth of fire or a simple blanket. The ironies abound.
Mani Dixit deserves sincere appreciation for detailed explanations, and also for having depicted the issues, from almost all possible angles, contemporary Nepal is facing.
Let's hope Dixit's pen does not stop here.