12 miles east of the main Sultanpur Bazaar is Agwanpur, famous for the gross Bamboo stocks in its forests. The village itself had attracted lots of attention after there were reported at least half a dozen instances of a strange crime. Reportedly, there was a pond on the northern side of the village, so sizable that one could mistake it for a lake. The rumors had it that inside it lived a sadhu who alleagadly was striping people of valuables and money.
We have found out this and more from the newspaper called Sultanpur Daily after Feluda recieved a call from a Mr. Radhemohan Shukla to investigate in the same. Mister Shukla happened to be the village head of Agwanpur and have heard of Feluda from one of his friend’s nefew, as it turned out.
We were actually having a free week ourselves and going to library has become the new routine for feluda. He wanted to always read more and more. “Reading adds to one’s insight of things, people and their affairs.”-he said.
It was a Monday morning when Mr. Shukla rang us. I picked the phone and a melodic voice spoke from the other end, a bit unsure of itself, ” Is this Mr. P..Pradosh Mitter Ji?”, “No, but let me call him in, just a moment please!” I chuckled supressing my excitement having sensed that a new mystery awaited us. I handed the receiver to Feluda who took it with utmost calmness in motion and expression of eyes. “Pradosh Mitter speaking”- he said with the same calm air.
In entire conversation he only said ‘alright’ twice, ‘I see’ once and ‘fine, thank you’ once before saying goodbye.
Mr. Shukla have booked two rooms in a hotel near railway station and arranged a Jeep as well. I don’t recall of having travelled in a Jeep before, so thought of travelling in an open Jeep gave me a bounce in heart. We booked ourselves three tickets for the Wednesday in Howrah Express till Varanasi, the next prominent city close to Sultanpur, from where we would take a local passenger train to Sultanpur.
Sultanpur is situated on the shores of river Gomti and is the birth-place of the famous Ghazal writer Mazrooh Sultanpuri. This place also has a HAL facility and a small private airfield.
Farmers mainly grow Rice, Wheat, Sugarcane and legumes. Seasonal vegetables are also a part of the same.
Many of sugar-mills take supply from Sultanpur and other adjoining districts. People also grow mint and have large forest-gardens for Mangoes, Bel, Jamun and Kathal- a produce eaten as vegetable as well as a fruit.
The place have trees of Eucalyptus in abundance and irrigation’s chief sources are tube-wells and rain. A fairly large village may have upto 200 houses, their cattle and at least one pond. A village is always surrounded by the farms and a forest in some distance. People are dependent on their forests as they still burn the wood and cow-dung cake as their fuel.
We reached Sultanpur 2 days prior to our meeting day, which was friday, to make some enquiries of our own about the place and the rumours. The hotel we stayed, was close to one that was booked for us by Mr. Shukla.