If asked who my best friends are, I will say without hesitation my best friends are the Five Find-Outers. Yes, although all the hair on my head (there aren't many; I can count them if I want to) have turned grey, Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets continue to be my best friends. It was well over four decades ago that I was introduced to the world of Enid Blyton. I enjoy reading Enid Blyton's books even today!
Thereafter, I graduated to reading Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple (Agatha Christie), Perry Mason (Erle Stanley Gardner), Feluda (Satyajit Ray) and Byomkesh Bakshi (Sardindu Bandopadhyay). It is only after reading medical books, engineering books and books on law that one becomes a doctor or an engineer or a lawyer. Isn't that so? Well, if that is the case then why shouldn't reading detective books turn me into a detective?
So, yes, I considered myself capable of solving all mysteries. Of course, I never got an opportunity to solve any real mystery. But that did not deter me from observing people and drawing conclusions about their character from the way they talked, walked or shifted their gaze. Again, I never could discover whether the conclusions I had drawn were really right or wrong. One day, however, I did get a first-hand opportunity to check the correctness of my conclusions, and I discovered that they were wrong with not even an iota of correctness.
It happened this way. My office sent me on a fortnight's training to the headquarters in the metropolis. I had to check in a lodge where I had to share the room with another person. I like my privacy and hated sharing the room; but, it was a matter of only fifteen days. When you can't change circumstances, you had better change yourself to gel with the circumstances. I became pally with my room-mate.
On the first day we had been busy unpacking whatever we had brought along and, so, had no time to say "hello" or introduce ourselves. As my room-mate was removing things from his bag, a book tumbled down and fell on the floor. He did not notice. I picked up the book and by force of habit leafed through it. The name "Pravin ...." was neatly written on the first page. His name is Praveen, I said to myself. "Hi Praveen, here's your book; it had fallen down," I said to him. I was feeling quite perked up by this little detective work .... the man is sure to be impressed at being addressed by his name by a stranger, I thought to myself.
The man wasn't impressed. "Oh thanks," he said. "My name is Manish. Praveen is my nephew's name; I have borrowed this book from him." He was a better detective than me; he had guessed at once why I had addressed him as Praveen.
That wasn't a good start. I was feeling deflated. I introduced myself half-heartedly and, after the unpacking had been done, invited him to a cup of tea at the restaurant below.
When the waiter placed the tray on the table, Manish picked up the cup with his left hand. "Aha!" I said to myself, "he is left-handed; I can still impress him with my deductive prowess".
"Does being left-handed cause you any trouble in this right-handed world?" I asked him in a round-about manner so as to sound impressive.
"I am not left-handed," he said. "I hold the cup in my left hand for health reasons." Once again he had at once guessed why I had taken him to be a left-handed person.
"Health reasons?" I was astonished. How could holding a cup in the left hand improve your health?
"Almost all the people are right-handed," he went on to explain. "When they hold the cup by the handle in their right hand, they naturally put to lips that side of the cup which is to the left of the handle."
I was still in the dark as to how that affected the health of a tea drinker.
Manish lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper and said, "Can you imagine the teeming multitude of germs from peoples' mouths which must be accumulating on that side of the cup? By holding the cup by its handle in my left hand I put to lips that side of the cup which is to the right of the handle. This side is never put to mouth by others and is, therefore, germ-free."
I was aghast by the explanation. It did not occur to me to ask him how he drank from a glass which did not have a handle. But I stopped being a detective since that day!