Monday June 25, 2018

Was Sherlock Holmes completely opposite? A Priest-Detective and his cases (Column: Bookends)

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Sherlock Holmes, Wikimedia
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April 16, 2017: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” The Shadow, the mysterious narrator of a 1930 American radio show, knows — as he told us with his eerie laugh — but he wasn’t the only one. Various detectives — Sherlock Holmes, et al — made it their business to find out too, as well one whose calling exposed him to it. And he was equally effective despite being Holmes’ polar opposite.

Unlike the tall and lean and striking Holmes, Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest, is short and stumpy, with “a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling”, “eyes as empty as the North Sea” beneath his spectacles, wears shapeless black clerical garb and always carries a large umbrella.

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The real difference is in their methods. While Holmes uses the deductive approach — reasoning from one or more premises towards a logical conclusion — as well as the abductive, using his superb observation and sharp brain to fashion from available evidence a theory that can explain it, Father Brown is intuitive, seeking to place himself in the criminal’s mind to find how the deed was done and thus ascertain who did it.

But there were similarities too. Both rejected supernatural causes and had keen insights into evil — Holmes by dint of research and our priest by his work, once telling an adversary: “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?”

Debuting in 1911, Father Brown was the creation of author and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), a colossus both in appearance and intellect, and also a poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, and a literary and art critic.

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Chesterton, who had read Holmes (he prepared a number of illustrations for them — which weren’t used and have been only recently discovered), however sought to create a counterpoint to the trend of the coldly analytical detective. The good priest’s reliance on philosophical and spiritual truths also serves to express Chesterton’s own point of view of the world.

The 50-odd stories, 48 published in five collections: “The Innocence/Wisdom/ Incredulity/Secret/Scandal of Father Brown” between 1911 and 1935 (three stories were found and published posthumously) are masterpieces of the genre, with their ingenious puzzles, fiendish plots set out against evocative descriptions of time and place, and spirited dialogue and observations. Chesterton, termed the “prince of paradox”, was also gifted in creating a supernatural ambience — but one that is easily dissipated and stumping us with the unexpected, but perfectly reasonable, solution.

Brown debuts in “The Blue Cross” in which French policeman Valentin, in England on the trail of notorious criminal Flambeau, sees him in his rail carriage but dismisses him as pitiable. But it is the seemingly oblivious priest who enables the arrest of Flambeau (disguised as a fellow priest) by identifying and outsmarting him while laying a strange but unmistakable trail across London for Valentin to follow.

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But after encountering Flambeau in two further stories in the first volume itself, Brown succeeds in weaning him off a life of crime and making him a companion (like Dr Watson) in most of the canon, a strange assortment of tales, set not only in Britain, but also in rest of Europe, the US and in Latin America. And all may not be crimes, despite the evidence (if you pardon the pun).

A recently-deceased Scottish lord’s castle has several strange things — candles without candlesticks, jewels lying loose, prayer books mutilated and so on — and when his body is exhumed, the skull is missing (“The Honour of Israel Gow”); a retired soldier faces some inexplicable attempts on his life after a strange curse in India while an assailant runs off with condiments from the dinner table (“The Salad of Colonel Cray”); a dog howls in despair at the time its master is stabbed to death back at home (“The Oracle of the Dog”); an unclaimed glass which held whiskey helps to solve a murder in a bar (“The Quick One”); are the simultaneous murders of three American millionaires (“The Ghost of Gideon Wise”) a conspiracy by the militant trade unionists and so on.

Father Brown also shows how a revolution-minded university teacher cannot have murdered two businessmen in an Oxbridge college (“The Crime of the Communist”) , how an eminent criminologist and psychic researcher are misled in two cases (“The Absence of Mr Glass” and “The Blast of the Book”), and exposes a number of charlatans, including holy men drawn from various sects/religions.

But the priest-detective, who like Holmes, continues to be written about long after his creator passed on and appearing in other media, had another prominent legacy. The good father, who according to Italian Marxist ideologue Antonio Gramsci, far outstripped Holmes, also inspired the trend of clergy detectives (nearly 350 according to Philip Grosset of www.detecs.org, mainly from Christianity and Judaism but even Buddhism). Other religions are only represented by devout laity. Anyone keen to address the deficiency?  (IANS)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)