The Journal of a Police Inspector – Darogar Daptar
Darogar Daptar (“The Journal of a Police Inspector”) was an extremely popular serial that continued for well over a decade even though it was a workmanlike account and did not boast of much literary flavour. Incidentally, the appearance of Darogar Daptar coincided with the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Strand magazine. However, Priyanath Mukherjee (1855-1947) was no Conan Doyle. His work was more in the line of Mémoirs de Vidocq, the experiences of an outstanding personality called Francois Eugene Vidocq, who was a soldier, a criminal, an entrepreneur, a policeman and a private detective. His memoirs, first published in 1828, may be considered the first modern work of crime writing in Europe.
Coming back to Bengal, the popularity enjoyed by Priyanath Mukherjee and his series inspired other writers to explore this genre. Slowly, the Bengali detective, or goenda, came into being: super-smart, sharp-eyed, extraordinarily analytical. This character was, of course, honed to perfection by the tall, brooding gentleman of 221B, Baker Street in far away London, but the cult in Bengal grew and its hold over our imagination hasn’t slackened in the past 150-odd years.
Banomali Daser Hatya (The Murder of Banomali Das; 1892), the first in the Darogar Daptar series is considered the first Bengali detective story, authored by former policeman Priyanath Mukhopadhyay (1855-1947). Academician Pinaki Roy in The Manichean Investigators argues that a lot of early pre-Independence Bengali detective fiction were daroga (police) tales favouring the colonizers, probably influenced by European detective fiction.
Mukherjee occupies a canonical position in contemporary Bengali literary history – over two hundred of the Darogar Daptar stories were collected in two volumes by Arun Mukherjee and re-issued in 2004.