New Delhi, Feb 3 Bihar is a goldmine of drama. A ruthless 'thakur', a landowner with vendetta in his blood and an unarmed man with a fortune to his name are chasing a rare diamond -- each for different reasons.
Bihar has perhaps spun its first homegrown thriller, a Western style potboiler, by son-of-the soil writer Hemant Kumar. A former journalist and corporate honcho, Kumar's novel "Prey By The Ganges (Wisdom Tree)" was released by MP Shatrughan Sinha in the capital Thursday.
The book explores the darkest depths of human consciousness, a morass which engulfed post-independence Bihar where might was right.
"I lived in Bihar for 17 years of my life. Even after I left Bihar in 1976 and travelled all over the country and abroad, the story kept playing on my mind. I kept going back to the state as journalist to report elections and politics," Hemant Kumar said.
He said "the sexually attractive and handsome thakur with his magnetic evil aura was the face of feudal Bihar of the late 1940s, 50s and 60s when oppression and crime were widespread".
"It is still there," Kumar said.
The malevolent thakur Gajanan Singh echoes a character the writer had met several years ago. "I used to know a man … a feudal landlord in a place near Ranchi (now in Jharkhand, but then in Bihar). He was a very good looking and an evil man, who picked up women like snacks on the way," Kumar recalled.
The action follows the trail of the meandering Ganges that sweeps past Patna city into dense jungles, sandflats and slides to form a strange arc -- often called the badlands of the wild east.
"I used to stroll along and across the Ganges when I vacationed in Patna every year. The Ganges was full of stories because of the crime that thrived around its banks. Robbery, treachery, rape and wife-snatching, the river was a hive of dark acts. But the darkest of them was rape," Kumar said.
In the book, rape becomes a symbol of caste and social status -- used as a tool of oppression.
The writer is working on a sequel on a much broader canvas. "It will be pure fiction without caste, society or politics," Kumar said. "Bihar has more intellect than it is given credit for."
Sobhit Arya, founder and publisher of Wisdom Tree, said: "'Prey By The Ganges' is the second book in the Chlorophyll series that we have launched to promote contemporary Indian and sub-continental fiction."
The third book in the series, "Breath of Death", a thriller by Pakistan-based writer and neurosurgeon Saad Shafqat, who co-wrote cricketer Javed Miandad's autobiography, will be published soon.