Having crossed the stage of adolescence a while ago, I don’t know when but just someday- somehow, over these past few years; I stopped reading books that were written for children in their pre- teens years or school years. But it was not before I started reading about the too-smart-for-his-age private investigator Pojo that it struck me – I had been foolishly denying myself the innocence and charm of a book that has a child and his or her imagination as its chief protagonists; a grave mistake.
Set in the backdrop of Heathcote High, a boarding school, the story is a strong reminder of the era when we all were in school and engrossed in our disputes with the teacher’s assignments. Meghna Singhee’s Pojo is as peculiar as his name. He idolises detectives like Sherlock, Poirot and his friend slash uncle Inspector Maurya and wanders school halls at night (didn’t we all dream about doing that whilst we were in school?) to make detailed maps of the school premises. He has a ledger which is filled with intrinsic details about each of his classmates and colleagues and believes that ‘until proven innocent, everybody is guilty’. This peculiar 13 year old forms an unconventional bond with a cat that is called Mr Heathcote by the students, after their founder. The cat has been a part of Heathcote High ever since it mysteriously appeared on the school premises, after the death of the school’s founder Mr Heathcote and hence, every one believes that the cat is possessed with the late founder’s ghost. Thus the name. The cat acts as an unwilling guide to Pojo and helps him discover the secrets of the school one by one until the day Mr Heathcote is found dead in the kitchen of the school. After carefully examining the evidences Pojo begins to believe that the death was not caused by old age but by poisoning. He is now certain that Mr Heathcote was murdered. Thus begins Pojo’s journey to solve his biggest case yet – the death of the school mascot and along the way he gains two accomplices – one being an even peculiar 10 year old, Pops and the other a senior, who has a mind of her own, Radha Rao.
As the book follows the trio’s journey in finding the culprit and bringing closure to the children and staff of Heathcote High, it touches a few important segments of the human nature that in my mind makes this book a little different from the rest. Not only is the protagonist an unconventional child who doesn’t socialise and finds solace in solving mysteries rather than say obsessing over girls or football; Meghna Singhee doesn’t shy away from touching upon the complex situations that make people who they are. There is Radha who is a tough girl but yet, doesn’t believe in overpowering someone just because they are smaller to her in age. Then there is the boy who slept through it all or so he says, Hashim, who goes to great lengths to cover his one mistake but somewhere in the end, kind of redeems himself by saving Pojo. Then there is the school rival, Shady, who may look and may actually be a bully but deep down he is only looking for approval from his father. There is also a certain Baba Somdev whose intentions are certainly quite far apart from his teachings. These multi layered characters stand out the most for me because the author brings to light the quirks of these characters in such a way that you almost understand them; almost get why they are the way they are.
The language of the book is simple and is written keeping in mind its youngest readers. The narration is good, as each scene is brought efficiently together as if to give a continuous flow to the story. The story is especially hilarious in certain places, especially the instances where the Pops is involved or those when Pojo discovers that his elaborate theories on various suspects were exactly that- too elaborate and all for naught.
The mystery is kept alive till the very end, adding to the reader’s interest and curiosity. The new characters are introduced well and thoughtfully, giving you enough information about the character to gauge their importance in the story or that particular scene.
The way Meghna Singhee transforms the reluctant boy who has no sentimental value attached to the school into the school hero itself, is marvellous. In my opinion, it catches the readers off guard and thus helps shed a light on Pojo’s character once again.
The answer to the mystery of Mr Heathcote’s missing is brilliantly thought of and makes you scratch your head quite a few times. Characters and story lines join beautifully together to help you determine who the culprit was after all.
All in all, the story of PI Pojo and his adventures is a must read for all ages and certainly not for just children. If you are looking for a wonderful reminder of your childhood adventures, this is the book for you. Or if you’re looking for a wonderful mystery to solve, I am sure PI Pojo and Mr Heathcote will be happy to help you out!