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‘I am a businessman, writing is my business’

Despite having a staggering 267 books to his name, Surender Mohan Pathak has no grand idea of himself as a writer.

books Updated: Sep 06, 2008 23:35 IST

On Thursday, January 29, the SHO of Tardeo police station was murdered in a deserted ground near Timber Bunder, which caused a sensation in the police ranks. The Police Commissioner personally ordered a manhunt, on a war footing, and announced that he be spared at no cost.

The murderer was like the pupil of the police’s eye. For the eye sees everything but itself. This is the reason why Jeet Singh could not be seen. Jeet Singh! The man accused of robbing Tardeo’s Super Self-Service Store.

In the eyes of the police — especially those of Inspector Govilkar, who had arrested him and produced him in court — he was a lock-breaker, safe-cracker, vault-buster, a lowly human being, a societal blister, and an insect who deserved to be shot!

In the eyes of Govilkar, the police had an open-and-shut case..., since they had found an eyewitness — a taxi driver called Gailo... What else could the police need?

But while giving his testimony in front of a magistrate, the witness turned hostile... Why did he refuse?

Despite having a staggering 267 books to his name, Surender Mohan Pathak has no grand idea of himself as a writer. “I am a businessman, writing is my business. I write what entertains people, what sells. I’m used to the comforts of life... and this is my workshop,” says Pathak, ushering us into his cosy, air-conditioned study in Krishna Nagar, East Delhi.

Pathak, the author with arguably the largest repertoire in India, wrote his first novel Hotel Mein Khoon in 1963, when he was 23, and has churned out bestsellers at a regular pace ever since. At 68, Pathak still gets four books out every year. And the advance he gets for each book would make most Indian authors who write in English turn a nasty shade of green. “I sell a novel for a minimum of Rs 4 lakh,” he says matter-of-factly.

Murder, he says, is his secret of success. Ask him where he gets so many ideas, and he says with his characteristic candour, “Writing murder mysteries is no big deal; it’s the same story with different combinations and permutations. But at times, writers of literary fiction,too, find merit in my books.”

Among his readership are criminals, too. Two years back, Pathak hit the headlines when a man looted Rs 40 lakh from a UTI Bank branch claiming he had bombs strapped to his body. Later, the robber confessed that he was inspired by Pathak’s novel Zameer Ka Qaidi.

The author, who has several English thrillers lining the walls of his study, says people buy English novels as “items of interior decoration”, not to read them. What does he think of the big names of Indian writing in English? “I have a copy of Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, so that people don’t think I’m ignorant. But I seriously want to read Chetan Bhagat — he’s the only guy giving us a run for our money.”