The Literary City

Untold Intrigues Of Charles Sobhraj And Fragments Of Farrukh Dhondy

July 06, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 2 Episode 27
The Literary City
Untold Intrigues Of Charles Sobhraj And Fragments Of Farrukh Dhondy
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Most know who Charles Sobhraj is. 

But even if he has become something of a legend, Sobhraj was—by many accounts—a thief and murderer after petty gains. And not an international crook engaged in high profile art and diamond heists. Nor an international arms dealer whose shenanigans get the collective underwear of nations in a twist.

Or was he?

My guest today—the renowned writer, Farrukh Dhondy—spent considerable time with Charles Sobhraj. Farrukh’s descriptions of those  meetings resulted in his latest book, Hawk and Hyena. The book reveals aspects of Sobhraj’s life— that of an opportunist...a wannabe businessman. One of those guys we have all met—a person of indeterminate skill and dodgy provenance, never peddling the same thing twice.

Importantly, the book raises a startling and surprising question—did Charles Sobhraj hold the key to a potentially unpalatable truth—that maybe Sadaam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction after all?

In a similar question, did the Government of India seek the assistance of Charles Sobhraj in getting the release of the hostages from the hijacked Air India plane in Kandahar in 1999?

Was Charles Sobhraj more than a small-time crook who seduced hippies and liberated them from life and lustrous diamond?

Hawk and Hyena by Farrukh Dhondy raises those questions and answers many.

This book is his latest offering in a fascinating life of journalism, TV shows, films, plays and books and political activism—he was a marxist member of the British Black Panthers. There’s a link to his Wikipedia page below.

Here’s another book I recommend, Fragments Against My Ruin: A Life—Farrukh Dhondy’s memoirs, or autobiography.

This book is a riot. From a humility that can only come from someone inherently funny, Farrukh Dhondy turns important incidents into escapades and wit into wackiness.

My own introduction to his writing was from columns he wrote—and writes—in various papers. He frequently opened with the line, “As an elder of the community I am often asked..." For many reasons, I found that line delightful. 

Some years ago, a friend brought Farrukh to my office in an unplanned visit and neither of us can remember why. We had coffee. I was happy for this social surprise. But I had no idea what to say to him if only because I had too much to say to him and I had been blindsided.

Happily, that’s not the case today.

It is both honour and privilege to have Farrukh Dhondy join me from his home in London as my guest.

Buy Hawk & Hyena:
Buy Fragments Against My Ruin: A Life:

Farrukh Dhondy is a British-Indian writer. Born in 1944 in Pune, he studied in Pune, Cambridge and Leicester Universities. He writes fiction, non-fiction, journalism, stage drama, TV and films.

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", where they discuss the origins of the phrase "Undies in a twist".

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