A Crime-Solving Elephant- it makes perfect sense! Guest post by Vaseem Khan
Today I welcome Vaseem Khan, the author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, a surprising read for me, and one that I really enjoyed. Vaseem Khan is the author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, first in the Baby
Ganesh Detective Agency series set in India and featuring a baby
elephant! He first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road
in 1997 when he arrived in the city of Mumbai, India to work as a
management consultant. It was the most unusual sight he had ever
encountered and served as the inspiration behind his light-hearted crime
novels. Vaseem was born in London in 1973, went on to gain a Bachelors
degree in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics,
before spending a decade on the subcontinent helping one of India's
premier hotel groups establish a chain of five-star environmentally
friendly 'ecotels' around the country. He returned to the UK in 2006 and
has since worked at University College London for the Department of
Security and Crime Science. Elephants are third on his list of passions,
first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that
Vaseem Khan: A Crime-Solving Elephant – it makes perfect sense!
The first elephant I encountered in literature was named Uncle. Uncle wore a purple dressing gown, held a degree from Oxford, lived in a castle, and appeared in six wonderful books by J.P. Martin, written in the sixties. You could say this was where my love affair with elephants began. Add to this the decade I spent in India during my twenties and it was inevitable that my debut novel The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, would feature a baby elephant.
The novel follows Mumbai police inspector, Ashwin Chopra, forced into early retirement, but unable to let go of the final case of his career – the death of a poor local boy – whilst simultaneously faced with the outlandish dilemma of taking in an infant elephant named Ganesha sent to him by his enigmatic uncle.
Readers ask me why I chose an elephant as a sidekick for Chopra. Aside from the fact that I am passionate about these incredible creatures, there are many practical reasons why an elephant makes perfect sense as a crime fighter. Firstly, elephants are supremely intelligent, one of just a few animals classified as being ‘self-aware’. They also possess excellent memories, a trait that has been amply employed by many renowned fictional detectives – elephants really do not forget! Elephants are also known for their complex emotions. This emotional range is important to me – part of the charm of my series lies in the relationship that develops between the somewhat rigid Chopra, his exuberant wife Poppy, and the, at first, despondent elephant calf that has been sent into their care. There is also the fact that elephants and humans have worked together in many arenas – industry, the circus, pageantry, transport, and war. When you think about it, it’s not beyond reason that an elephant might partner with a private investigator!
With this series I take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India, where I spent ten incredible years at a time when she was transforming into the global powerhouse that she is today. Mumbai is one of the world’s great metropolises, often called ‘the city of dreams’. People come to Mumbai to make their fortune, to become famous on the sets of the world’s most prolific movie industry, to start micro-businesses in the city’s slums. But where there are dreams there are also nightmares, and Mumbai suffers from high rates of crime, as well as many other social problems. Like most Indian metropolises the city is facing a cultural onslaught from westernisation – which brings both good and bad, as I describe in my novel. The sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes of this modern India flesh out my canvas as Chopra and little Ganesha pursue an exotic gallery of villains over the course of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series.
The second installment is out soon and is called The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown – about the theft of the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond, first mined in India, now a part of the British Crown Jewels which, in my story, are being exhibited in Mumbai, where a daring heist takes place. Inevitably Chopra and little Ganesha are called in to investigate!