Tuesday 28 May 2024

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Culture | Literature

Detective ‘Shorty’ returns to Goa, from Bomboi


Goa born ace private eye, Shorty Gomes is in Goa. And so is his maker, Ahmed Bunglowala. One’s fictional; the latter’s real; both have made their presence felt amidst literary circles here with the publishing of the ‘refreshed’ version of Shorty Gomes, the 220-page plus collection of the investigative adventures of the Dhobi Talao-based (Mumbai’s Little Goa) sleuth.

Earlier this month, at the Monday Night Events, organized regularly by the creative People Tree in Asagao, the book with new material added, was released by publisher Fredrick Noronha of 1556, the alternate book publishing house in Goa. What is fascinating about this book release experience are two positive and encouraging features of this publishing venture..

Shorty Gomes is a sardonic workaholic, a loner who loves his XXX Rum and the chase of an investigative case. Born in Cortalim, Goa, but living in a flophouse in Dhobi Talao, Mumbai, Shorty is a Bomboikar Goan  who lives his dangerous calling as a private detective in the City of Dreams - a city governed by the dehumanizing nexus involving heartless businessmen, sleazy Godmen, shady politicians, alluring women, brutal thugs, corrupt cops and more.  

On the other hand, Ahmed is a laid back half of the twosome couple (thank heavens for the stabilizing presence of wife Vijaya, affectionately called Viji), writer of native classic crime fiction of the 80s in Bombay. For Ahmed ‘workaholic’ translates to the dexterous handling of pen, paper and pint – not necessary in that order. Influenced by the classic detective novels made famous by American writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Ahmed has crafted a Goan-Bombayite investigator with indigenously cultural characteristics. In 2010 came the move from Pune (often referred to as the Pensioner’s Paradise) to Goa, following his retirement as a PR professional. He now is conjuring the further exploits of Shorty Gomes from his Goan house in Verla-Canca near Mapusa.

The novel is a collection of four long-short stories (novellas); four cases that brings to the fore the life of a private eye in the Bombay of the 80s and 90s. Ahmed knows his Bombay intimately and has used that to great advantage while crafting Shorty’s various maneuverings and exploits. And his character too. Shorty is not one to give up easily, has his ear to the ground and keeps his nose to the grindstone. In all the four adventurous exploits, he displays a persona that “gets under your skin.”

And herein lies the second, and more significant feature of this ‘enterprise – the alternative book publishing finance model. Over the years Shorty has become a cult figure and has a reasonable and faithful over 20-year-old fan following, big enough for each well wisher to come forward and put down Rs. 1000 each to crowd-fund Ahmed’s refreshed second edition of Shorty’s episodes.

Mooted by Fredrick Noronha of 1556, the idea was to help fund the refreshed version by raising contributions from a large number of well-wishers and Shorty fans. That alone brought in close Rs. 40 K. The rest of the monies came from striking a deal with the Golden Heart Emporium to purchase and sell a pre-book print order. The two incomes combined to ensure that the whole project was self-financed, with a limited print run, serving the reading needs of different social and cultural communities all over the country and beyond. A welcome option for creative and promising fringe writers who seek more economical, viable publishing model, while retaining hold to creative freedom of their manuscripts.

In fact way back in the 80s, Ahmed chanced upon an idea of keeping cyclostyled copies of the first Shorty Gomes case (The Dark Side of Diamonds) at the Jaico Book Shop. The response was encouraging going by the comments from friends and reviews in the media. This promo laid the foundation for Shorty’s fan base that developed as Ahmed went on to write the series of novellas. The book also carries an Afterword: Bombay High, a revelation of the voyage the author and his work has made and what lies in store for the future.    

The book entitled then, The Days and Nights of Shorty Gomes, had its first run in 1993 - after an anguishing period of rejections, disappointments and delays. Then publishers Rupa & Co stepped forward to publish a first edition release of 3000 copies – of which a few collector’s copies are presently on sale at Amazon for 15 US dollars.

The book was officially released at The People Tree, Asagao, with selective readings of the book by aspiring authoress Beena Datwani. The other highlight of the evening was the impromptu interaction by  Arushi Singh of Lotuseaters Book Store in Anjuna  with author Ahmed Bunglowala and publisher Frederick Noronha. When interrogated, a-la-Shorty style, by the evening gathering about reviving the ace detective’s career in Goa, Ahmed confessed that he has been looking at several plots and we could still see the protagonist sleuth go on to unearth dirty deeds and bring powerful criminal minds to justice. A prospect the growing number of Shorty’s friends will truly welcome.

(The writer is  a former journalist and presently a trainer. He can also be contacted at  lestergoa@gmail.com or  +919890950964)

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