A compelling espionage thriller that does not border on didacticism or sensationalism and violates readers’ expectations for the obvious, Ajit Menon’s and Arvind Menon’s first book in a 6-part series, 'The Panther’s Ghosts: The Beginning', published by Bloomsbury India, was launched at Kolkata Raj Bhavan on May 25. A crusader against corruption concealed in the fabric of many institutions in the country, this book proposes, “Think not of revenge, but think how you can destroy the cause of revenge.”Photos: Amit Datta
Debashis Bandyopadhyay, head of the department of English at Rabindra Bharati University, set the tone for a discussion around 'The Panther’s Ghosts' by articulating his response to the book. By way of introduction, he commented on the aesthetic appeal of this one-of-its-kind thriller and its narrative structure. He said, “The realistic representation of how corrupt statesmen collude with immoral mafias to affect the body politic of a nation is striking. This book is a brilliant fusion of journalistic and fictional modes of writing… . This is one of the best Indian spy literatures that gives us a window into the pathologies that beset the country.”
According to the corporate professional-turned author Ajit Menon, writing this book was an attempt to finish many sentences his father, Arvind Menon, a retired Intelligence bureau officer, had left unsaid. Driven by the intent to bring to light stories of many unsung heroes who subordinate themselves to the cause of the nation and its people, the author briefly recorded his literary journey — “My father used to fictionalise parts of the stories he used to tell us to avoid giving away the confidential aspects. The stories abruptly ended with ‘The rest I cannot discuss’. I fictionalised only those bits to offer my readers a sense of closure. The genre of my book can be best described as ‘real-reel’ — real events are written in a cinematic language to give readers the feel of watching a spy film.”
His Excellency, the Hon’ble Governor of West Bengal, Dr CV Ananda Bose, began his speech with a line from Milton’s Areopagitica — “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on a purpose to a life beyond life.” With humour, wit and criticism parcelled into his speech, the Governor eulogised the real panthers of India — people working tirelessly in the intelligence agencies and espionage systems — who are prepared to triumph over all kinds of overt and covert attacks on the nation. He added, “I want an India which is ready to live so that humanity does not die.”
The Governor was full of praise for his former corporate executive friend with whom he worked towards providing state-of-the-art facilities in various sites of cultural and historical importance in the country. Commenting on Menon’s art, he said, “What is the difference between poetry and prose? Poetry comprises the best words in the best order. Prose is about using the right words in the right order. Ajit has put the right words in the best order — that is the creative potential he is endowed with.”
Alongside the dignitaries on the dais, the event witnessed an august gathering of scholars, professionals and cultural activists of the city in the library of Raj Bhavan that exudes grandeur and breathes history.
Author Ajit Menon, sitting amid a treasure trove of century-old books, signing copies of 'The Panther’s Ghosts', which is presently ranked among the 15 must-read books of 2023. As his eager readers continue to guess what the sequel to this book will be about, he said, “All I can tell you is that the other books in the series will have various other missions that are being delved into now, following the new Indian doctrine of defensive offence.”