I think I was in seventh grade when I first picked up a copy of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, on a hot afternoon at a roadside bookstall in Mumbai. It was a second-hand purchase; the book was purple-tinted and dog-eared, rough and sturdy to touch. Little did I know that I had just picked up the gateway into the world of one of the greatest literary creations I have ever known, and it is from that moment onwards that my love for my favourite literary detective, Sherlock Holmes, began.
My sweet! My precious!
(photo taken by me)
What I find so magical about Holmes are the sheer multiplicities Sir Arthur Conan Doyle managed to include in his character. Holmes at his worst is taciturn and cruel, addicted to opium and tobacco, strangely ignorant, insufferably vain and almost impossible to live with. As the long-suffering Dr Watson points out, Holmes practices gun-shooting indoors, performs chemical experiments that make skunks blush with their smells, snaps at anyone who he considers to be less intelligent- which is literally everyone- and should be, by all accounts, an unbearable person to know and live with- and yet in Conan Doyle’s creation, I see an extraordinary gentleness and profundity, coupled with complete irreverence for conventions, hardly found anywhere else.
In “A Scandal in Bohemia”, Holmes bluntly tells the King of Bohemia that he is a manipulative narcissist who does not deserve the woman he wants; along with other characters in “The Adventure of the Yellow Mask”, he embraces a little African-American girl- in the 1890s- as one of his own; his loathing of his nemesis, Charles Augustus Milverton, rests entirely on his sympathy with his victims. His kindness shines through when in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”, Holmes lets a thief go, risking felony charges in the process, because he believes the man deserves another chance; in “The Mystery of the Veiled Lodger”, as he comforts a wretched woman, hoping that there will be “some compensation” for her in the world beyond, we see in him a philosopher; having caught his man in “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”, he has the compassion to ask Watson, “What is the meaning of this… circle of misery and violence and fear?”
The second of my loves!
(photo taken by me)
Holmes is not just a stereotype of rudeness and eccentricity to me, although he has plenty of both; he is not merely his ruthless dedication to his art; he is not defined only by his relationships to Dr Watson, Professor Moriarty or Irene Adler. Of course his bromance with Dr Watson melts my withered soul, and the fact that he regards the independent and resourceful Violet Hunter, and the equally intelligent Ms Adler, not as romantic or sexual objects but just as really kickass human beings makes me, as a reader and a woman, very happy indeed. But it is the individual Sherlock Holmes, with his many moods, his violin playing, his mischievous sense of humour and his instinctive hope for humankind that I love above practically every other creation in English Literature.
You see, I perceive Sherlock Holmes almost as a real person. In my mind, greatness, fondness, and a sense of familiarity, almost of home, is synonymous with the figure with the pipe, the magnifying glass and the deer-stalker, and if he were indeed a real person, I have no doubt that he would be one of the greatest men that ever lived.
My original fanart for my favourite detective, created circa 2013.
This is an entry for the Marathon Blogging Contest for the Kolkata Literature Festival 2015.