Book Review: “The Counterfeiter: Abdul Karim Telgi and the Stamp Scam” by Bhaswar Mukherjee

By – Debasree Banerjee, Write India winner and author of ‘A Place called Eden’ and ‘A Trail of Roses’.

The dedication of the author’s book to “all who hope and strive for a corruption-free India” probably echoes the collective sentiment of everyone at some point. Yet we mostly slip into blissful oblivion, and this is where his pointed observation that “Indian society has been very accommodating when it comes to accepting corrupt or immoral individuals” strikes a chord. familiar with so many people. Alas! It is the scourge of our national situation.

That India consistently ranks poorly on the Corruption Index as well as the World Happiness Index speaks volumes about how much is probably wrong with our mindset. Bhaswar Mukherjee’s book is that piquant revelation, which is here to wake us from our moral slumber, and it is unique in so many ways. The trait, however, that far outweighs its other distinguishing attributes, is the depth of research the author has put into it. Considering that a writer is also an artist, even if he entertains with his pen, the amount of restraint with which Mukherjee has taken his artistic freedom here is the most striking thing about this book. The author skillfully and meticulously strings together snippets of information, to deliver a flawless story. However, it also neatly complements almost all information with relevant case numbers and references to journal articles etc.

Bhaswar Mukherjee delivers a heavy punch to a once hot and now lukewarm multi-million dollar nationwide scam that continuously grabbed the headlines nearly a quarter of a century ago. He walks confidently through murky waters comprising facts and assumptions in equal measure, but what matters is that his master storytelling ability shines through it all. It leaves enough intrigue to attract interested “B-Town” producers, and still maintains the facade of a proper documentary replete with a list of references. While he talks about Telgi’s supposed infatuation with Bollywood-like bar dancers and his much-talked-about follies about some of them, he doesn’t unreasonably stretch the portion to make it look like a cooking pot. average. While he identifies and chronicles his unholy affair with his group of scheming friends, he also traces his rise to the pinnacle of crime, emphasizing his intelligence and quirkiness, as his advantage and the nation’s disadvantage. Bhaswar Mukherjee speaks with the same unbiased disposition of Christopher Bhatti’s bloodcurdling murder as he does of the dark scene unfolding in an unspeakable graveyard in Khanapur during Telgi’s ‘Janazah’.

But what remains with readers is the author’s serious and unequivocal expression of the desire for a better India and a better world, where one person does not have to bear the brunt of another’s misdeeds . His empathy for those stamp sellers whose livelihoods and perhaps lives have perished as a result of this colossal debauchery, and his almost angry insinuations delivered through shattering facts and figures, which are in fact ethical pleas smartly dressed, are sure to give goosebumps to the sleeping patriots of the world’s greatest democracy. May we also become the greatest! Just start by picking up this book. Amen.


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