Why Johnson Thhat isnt Sobhraj

Written by Soma Das | Updated: Dec 1 2008, 05:20am hrs
At the outset, it seemed an uncomplicated call to what the Freudian school terms as raw instinctual urges sex and violence. The bikini symbolising sex and murders, a metaphor for violence. At the outset, one also seemed fairly confident of having exhausted the samskara of crime novels, long back, in those juvenile lanes of teenage. The book turned out to be a departure from both generalised presumptions. The provocative cover page with sprawling shapely legs and the title spread across in a splash of blood The Bikini Murders is just an entrapment to attract attention apart from Charles Sobhrajs historical connection to the theme. But in reality the narrative uses the delicate elements of sex and violence, sparingly, judiciously and tastefully as a dash of essence and flavour, not as the dough of flour itself.

There is little doubt that the gripping tale of Johnson Thhat alias Govind Jaisinghani alias Eduard du Monde has drawn more than just inspiration from the fascinating flesh and blood character of our times Charles Sobhraj, howmuchever Dhondy tries to convince us that those characters and incidents in the work are products of his own imagination. Obviously, he doesnt mean that in full faith and the same was proved beyond doubt. As I went about spotting the resemblances and sifting fact from fiction, Sobhraj threatened the author with defamation suit and legal consequences for writing an uncommissioned, unauthorised and misrepresented biography.

But the premises of Sobhrajs accusation dont stand convincingly. While Dhondy has used Sobhrajs life as a context to conduct extensive research and build up his narrative, he has taken the storyline far beyond and integrated the contemporary events on political stage with the narrative, fictionalising it far too much to qualify as a biography.

Johnsons razor sharp intelligence and disturbed childhood is what makes a controlled calculated executor out of him, though he detests attributing his criminal bent of mind to his past experiences. Like a true Budhhist, he owns up responsibility for his behaviour and admits that every act of his has been committed in full conciousness. Johnsons journey from Vietnam to Nepal via France, India and Thailand and his graduation from petty crimes to serious crimes followed by his final integration into the larger global terror network forms the central theme of the book. The author has made the transitions seem seamless, rational and convincing. The protagonists strength as an executor stems from the fact that he is attached to none, least of all his parents. Could that be the reason behind him adopting Budhhism, which denounces Moha of any kind But when he finally attaches a chord to a woman, his Godmother who initiated him into the world of serious crimes, defying a basic tenet of his religion, he is betrayed.

The book is a highly readable, intelligent account of myths that form around such mysterious criminals, revealing the nexus between legimate and illegitimate organisations of the contemporary world. The protagonist has been portrayed as a dark, fiercely attractive character who exercises full control over his life and surroundings. The central character hasnt only been glamourised but glorified to an extent.

A fascinating personality of our times who would have faded into oblivion will now survive into the fantasies of next generation.