I picked up Bhaswar Mukherjee’s The Counterfeiter: Abdul Karim Telgi & The Stamp Scam with immense excitement, especially after my friend Monica Singh’s glowing review. We share a love for similar genres and when she rated the book 4/5, my interest was piqued.
I was returning to reading a non-fiction book after eons (okay, full disclosure. Probably after a decade or so), but what a way to start. The Counterfeiter: Abdul Karim Telgi & The Stamp Scam unravels layer by layer how Abdul Laadsahib Karim Telgi could do what no other scamster has yet managed to do in India. A scam unparalleled, peerless. So much so that its extent appears much like the proverbial tail of Lord Hanuman. Never-ending.
Bhashwar’s minute detailing has brought to life the entire life story of Telgi, from his humble beginnings to how he orchestrated the scam, and to the end of his innings. While reading the book, I was (and continue to be) awestruck by the extent of research that must have gone into writing the book. The innumerable FIRs, the named conspirators and co-conspirators, their backstories, other governmental documents, their chronological appearances, and the names of the police/government officers who investigated, participated and indulged in the scam.
Often, while reading the book, I had to pause to think about how did Bhaswar do it. How did he magically transform a dry, drab, mind-numbing boring paper-rich story into something that is exciting and applause-worthy?
Even though one is aware of how the book ends, the journey that leads us from the start to the end is interesting and Bhaswar doesn’t shy away from showing us most of it. He, without any personal prejudice or political partisanship, exposes the underbelly of the government, its sheer and complete lackadaisical approach, its shuffling-feet investigations, and red-tape-covered incidents. It makes you shudder to think how many more Telgis are hidden in the cracks and whitewashed by the very government we vote in power.
If you are someone like me, who thrives on expanding their knowledge base, this is the book for you. It is a perfect example of how to research, transform, and regurgitate information/events into a book that is in equal parts shocking with respect to the brazen behaviour of the titular character and the lack of impediments in his reign of scam.
Please do note that despite the fact that Bhaswar has simplified the process for the readers, the book is a heavy read as it plunges back and forth across the various timelines and throws light upon detailed documents, the various legal papers, testimonies, witness statements, etc.
The Counterfeiter: Abdul Karim Telgi & The Stamp Scam is definitely an eye-opener of a book especially when it does something in reverse – puts in words what we all of us watched on the television.