Arrested during a visit to Nepal five years ago and sent to prison for life for the murder of an American backpacker during the hippie era, criminal mastermind Charles Sobhraj has finally found a silver lining in his ordeal - love.
The 64-year-old has cast the remnants of his old charm from behind bars on a Nepali belle and the two are now engaged.
It is a winter-spring romance with Sobhraj's new love being a 20-year-old who has just completed school and was toying with the idea of pursuing a career in political journalism.
Articulate, pretty and determined, Nihita Biswas is the result of a mixed marriage between a Bengali from Kolkata and a successful Nepali career woman, just like Sobhraj, the son of a Sindhi tailor and a Vietnamese mother.
The two met three months ago in Kathmandu's central jail, where Sobhraj is serving his prison sentence. His French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre was arriving in Kathmandu from Paris to inspect the status of their appeal against the life term and Sobhraj was looking for someone intelligent and reliable who could act as her guide and interpreter.
“It sounded like a good job,” says Nihita, who was told about the assignment by someone who knew both Sobhraj and her. Unfortunately, when she arrived at the prison, the lawyer had already left.
But when she introduced herself to Sobhraj, it was a case of love at first sight for both.
Though he no longer needed an interpreter, Sobhraj did not want to lose sight of her and pretended he had an assignment for her.
Then she broke the news to her mother and took her to the prison to meet the man she loved.
Nihita and Sobhraj have exchanged rings and become engaged. He is confident that his appeal against the “guilty” verdict will be overturned by Nepal's Supreme Court and he will be released this year.
If that happens, the lovers are planning a Hindu ceremony in Kathmandu, to be followed by a civil and legal ceremony in Paris, where Sobhraj has been living since he was deported from India in the 80s.
Nihita says she is neither bothered by the age difference nor her fiance's past criminal record.
“I don't know what he was,” she says firmly. “But I know what he is now. He is a good and caring man and that's what's important.”
Though suspected of murder of over 20 backpackers in different countries, Sobhraj was convicted only of manslaughter in India where he served a 21-year jail term in New Delhi's Tihar Jail.