BHOPAL: How far would authors go to research their books? Author Anny Cook once roasted and processed acorns in her apartment to see if they could be preserved for a survivalist novel she was writing, set in 500 BC America. In Madhya Pradesh, a serving bureaucrat is determined to share a jail with Abu Salem so that he can study the dreaded gangster intimately for a book on his romantic life.
Understandably, the state administration, which has never encountered a request of this sort, is flummoxed.
The application of officer Niyaz Ahmad Khan, currently posted as Additional Collector in Guna, has reached the General Administration Department (GAD). Khan is writing a book on the don's relationship with actress Monica Bedi and has requested the government to send him to the Navi Mumbai prison where Salem is incarcerated so he could research his subject.
It seems Khan has already picked a name for his novel — 'Love Demands Blood' — a dramatic thriller inspired by the tragedy of Salem and Bedi's relationship. A top official at the secretariat, who did not wish to be named, told HuffPost India, "It is a highly sensitive matter and we are examining it".
"No decision has been taken on the application as yet," he added.
This reporter had a copy of the letter. Khan has already written four novels — Ocean of Bliss, Untold Secrets of Ashram, Confessions of Black Grave and Destiny & Drugs — and as per rules, all of them were submitted to GAD of the state government.
"Salem is in jail. To complete my novel, and to do justice to the characters, I need to present the agony of the lovers. Only after studying the routine of Salem's life, I can present it in its true form."
Whether or not Khan's request is granted, his request seems only fair. How can one write about a gangster's heartbreak without actually meeting him? Khan had several questions for Salem.
"Salem is in jail. To complete my novel, and to do justice to the characters, I need to present the agony of the lovers. Only after studying the routine of Salem's life, I can present it in its true form," he said.
A state administrative officer, he is known to have ruffled enough feathers in his career to have been transferred several times. The long letter to GAD, also mentioned what he wanted to ask Salem.
'Had Monica Bedi escaped with him out of love, or fear, and whether he hoped to have a reunion with her in future', is one such question.
In the application, he also mentioned that after he returned, he would submit a separate study about his experience in jail. He argued that it would also help in prison reforms. Khan said his novel would be inspired by the don's story and even have a message for society.
"I hope I am given permission. I want to show to the world that if wrong path is chosen, one can never lead a happy life. It will give an ethical message too. I expect MP government to recommend Maharashtra government to allow me to go to jail and stay there on my own expenses," Khan said.
Bedi was extradited from Portugal along with Salem in November 2005. Salem is an accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, in which 257 people were killed, and is lodged at the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai. Salem is thought to be a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don accused of masterminding the blasts.