‘Blue Star’ by Parashuram: Short Story Analysis
‘Blue Star’ is a short story penned by the Bengali Indian humorist writer Parashuram. It is a story which stars the legendary characters in literature, namely, detective Sherlock Holmes and his associate Doctor Watson. The story takes place in Calcutta during the Victorian era. Holmes and Doctor Watson, along with a Bengali policeman-cum-interpreter come to the home of a schoolmaster, Rakhal Mustafi, who fancies himself to be a great poet in the making. Mustaufi is unmarried and lives alone with his student Naran who loves to read poems composed by Mustaufi and others. The story is true to the form of a Sherlock Holmes tale, with a lot of subtle but delicate humor, laced between the deductions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would undoubtedly have approved of the deference Parashuram has paid to his immortal characters. I think this story titled ‘Blue Star’ would be what we today call a ‘fandom’ short story.
Like most of the stories of Sherlock Holmes, this mystery concerns a precious stone that was worth about ten thousand rupees in that era. It is called the ‘Blue Star’, and it seems to be missing. The person who owned it was an Indian King, Raja Raupendranarayan, or the Kumar of Rupchandpur. He gave it to his second wife or the younger ‘Rani’ to win her affections when he married her. She did not return his affections and one day made off with the Blue Star. The whereabouts of both the Blue Star jewel and the missing Rani is what the reigning King, Kumar Bahadur, wants to know. Therefore, he sends his agent to London to seek advice and consult with the greatest private detective of all time, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
To come to the point, Holmes has already hit the Rani’s identity and has in his possession the Blue Star. He met Mustaufi to close up the case by analyzing the last link in this chain of the disappearance of the Blue Star. Mustaufi seems to be as good an analyzer of deductive reasoning as Sherlock Holmes. He guesses many humorous facts about Holmes, Watson, and the police interpreter by looking keenly at them. This is because Mustaufi was once a practitioner of the ancient medical system ‘Kaviraji’. By this system of medicine, he can carefully observe all symptoms of a disease and then infer the cause for it all, putting him on par with Holmes’s methods of reasoning. These are the facts that Mustaufi deduces:
- That Holmes was new to India, but Doctor Watson had been to India before and was a ‘pukka sahib’. This he realized because Holmes good-naturedly tipped his hat and greeted Mustaufi sincerely. At the same time, Watson just referred to him in a lowly manner as ‘babu’, which was how Britishers addressed Indians of lower rank in the nineteenth century.
- That Holmes and Watson had been having pepper chilies or spicy food known in Bengali as ‘Lanka’. He deduced this from the fact that though Holmes’s yellow-stained fingers pointed to the fact that he smoked, he wasn’t doing so now because of the tingling sensation on the tip of his tongue. This was visible in both Holmes and Watson even though Watson was smoking a cigarette.
- He realized that Holmes and Watson had not slept that night because of the lingering mosquito marks on their faces. This was because Holmes and Watson had failed to sleep under a mosquito net.
- He realized that the Bengali interpreter with them was a native policeman by his overall bearing and traditional drill clothing.
- He also deduced that the policeman had got a trashing with many ‘lathis’ as his wounds were still fresh.
As you can see, this was all mentioned in a humorous manner creating a genial atmosphere despite the sentimental conclusion of the mystery of the Blue Star. This is Parashuram’s specialty and a reason why he is considered one of the best nineteenth-century humorists in the country. He is also very good at twisting the Bengali language to create different meanings of homophones, which we see in the ‘Lanka’ deduction. To think of Holmes and Watson getting bitten by Indian mosquitoes must have been a laughing riot when this story was published. The way the policeman tries to threaten Mustaufi is hilarious. But notice how Holmes treats Mustaufi with respect whereas the policeman, Mustaufi’s countryman, looks down upon him.
One is often surprised and delighted when Mustaufi mentions that:
- He reads books in Bengali and English but doesn’t recognize Holmes.
- He reads crime books but not those penned by Watson, aka Arthur Conan Doyle.
- He had not read the Strand Magazine because he could not afford it.
- He does not recognize who Holmes is but can tell that he is a newcomer and not a ‘pukka sahib’.
The tale reveals surprise after surprise until we come to the simple realization that Holmes had to leave London for India to solve the case of the Blue Star. Holmes finds out quite quickly that the former Kumar was a rogue interested only in alcohol and women. Years ago, he had, without the consent of a young woman called Savitri, kidnapped her from her wedding to a decent young Bengali man. He tried to win her affections by gifting her the Blue Star, but to no avail. Savitri still loved her young Bengali man. One day Savitri runs away with the Blue Star from Kumar. He is unable to find her or his precious stone. Also, because of secrecy on the part of the young Bengali man, it was difficult to locate where he was until Holmes found out in an anticlimax moment that Mustaufi was that mysterious Bengali groom.
The revelation is just thrown to us to swallow. There is no deductive analysis given in detail about how Holmes had come upon the fact except that Mustaufi was that very man who had settled in Calcutta with his aged mother who had since passed away two years ago. Holmes declares to Mustaufi that he has found Savitri’s whereabouts. He says that she is a teacher and still pines for Mustaufi. Then he urges Mustaufi to do the following:
- Marry Savitri, his bride by right, who is now a widow.
- Quote four lakhs for the Blue Star from the present Kumar, since the Kumar is superstitious about the legendary good luck of the stone.
- Settle down and lead a happy married life together.
To talk about the Blue Star, it is a ‘lucky stone’ in this story not only for the present Kumar and the previous kings but also for the union of Savitri and Mustaufi. The stone worth a paltry sum by today’s standard had gifted many people fair advantages.
There are many loopholes in the story, one major one being that if Savitri had run away, why didn’t she seek out her groom of old? However, the happy ending makes us forget the many sidetracking elements in the story, and we just are so glad that Holmes made it to India too. There are many takeaway points that one can ponder and laugh about in this story:
- When we read the descriptions of Holmes and Watson, we hardly realize that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters are being described until Watson brings out slowly the topic of Strand Magazine.
- Holmes was very curious about the tobacco that Mustaufi smoked and mentions his usual claim to be aware of sixty-three kinds of tobacco aroma tossing in a few names.
- The wicked Kumar who kidnapped the second Rani when the Blue Star, as well as the Rani, went missing, had a nasty fall. He broke his legs and hands, became bedridden, and ultimately died. This is not tied up very well, and one wonders how he came about this accident and whether it was an act somehow by the second Rani?
- The present Kumar did not care for Savitri, just so long as he could get hold of the Blue Star.
- The lines of poetry narrated by Mustaufi are indeed excellent, especially his last couplet describing his future days of joy and happiness. One wonders how he failed in getting his poems published.
I enjoyed this story very much. I like fandom literature but don’t read much of it. However, it was a pleasure to read this late-nineteenth-century early fandom short story of the detective, Sherlock Holmes. I have a lot of fandom literature on characters from classic books that I will read and analyze for you.
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