Author Archive | Tarquin Hall

Case Closed

One of the most satisfying parts of the writing process is getting a finished manuscript bound. It makes the whole process feel worthwhile! I get mine done in Delhi in leather with gold emboss. The lettering’s stamped by hand and, to be honest, it’s all a bit wonky, but then that’s part of the charm. This is a bound copy of the first draft of ‘The Case of the Love Commandos’ (to be published Oct 2013), corrections and all. Something nice to pass onto the kids. Perhaps between now and then, I’ll get myself a nice old antique glass cabinet to put my growing collection in.

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Booksgasm on Butter Chicken – ‘thoroughly enjoyable’

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken

by Mark Rose on March 8, 2013

Tarquin Hall’s THE CASE OF THE DEADLY BUTTER CHICKEN is the third charming entrant in his series starring Vish Puri, the sole proprietor of Delhi’s Most Private Investigations Ltd. Puri is a stolid Indian character, much in love with his country’s food, and much put upon for his weight by his beloved wife. He grows his own chilies in a rooftop garden; he sabotages the bathroom scale so that it looks like he’s not gaining weight; he is inordinately fond of his own mustache; and, in general, he seems a likable enough chap. Read more…


Bush Shirts and Safaris Clarified

Just came across this photo while sorting through my archive.  It’s of one of the notices I found pinned to the board in the  lobby of the Delhi Gymkhana Club in 2006.  I later quoted it verbatim in Vish Puri No.1, The Case of the Missing Servant. I’m still not quite clear what a Bush shirt is. If anyone’e got any examples or know where to get one, do let me know!

A notice I cam across in the Gymkhana Club lobby, Delhi and used verbatim in The Case of the Missing Servant


Postcard from the Kumbh

Pilgrims making their way to the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, Maha Kumbh Mela, Feb 14th 2013It was 5.30 am. I was standing in the middle of the largest gathering of humanity ever witnessed on the planet. Around me in a surreal half-light cast by rows of overhead halogen lights, millions upon millions of pilgrims were filing past in a remarkably quiet and orderly fashion – a vast multitude that made the crowds of Times Square seem positively puny.

It was Friday February 14th, one of the most auspicious days of the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest Kumbh Mela pilgrimage to be held in 144 years.

I had already visited the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and (mythical) Saraswati rivers and watched Hindu pilgrims washing away their sins. I’d seen fathers with children clutched in their arms bobbing up and down in the holy waters; emaciated old men stripped down to their underwear with rib cages prodding through taut skin like partially excavated dinosaur bones; women fully clothed in their saris, dripping wet in the cold night air yet grinning in  exultation.

At the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, Maha Kumbh Mela Feb 14th, 2013

The police had since cleared many of them away in preparation for the arrival of thousands of sadhus. The most celebrated of these ascetics go naked and smear their skin with Vibhuti, or sacred ash. Revered for their supposed spiritual powers, they’re a photographer’s dream. When they charged into the water looking like the cast of 10,000 BC, there were almost as many professional zoom lenses on display as exposed members.

But watching the pilgrims coming and going with bundles of possession propped on their heads and shoulders, all of them engaged in a single, common purpose was profoundly Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013moving. The sight of one family in particular is seared into my memory. Drawn from four generations and numbering a dozen strong, they shuffled along with a rope lassoed around all of them to ensure no one got lost. Their expressions bespoke of utter bewilderment, as if they themselves couldn’t quite believe what they were witnessing. And then they were gone, swallowed up by the hordes heading down to the water and salvation.

Sadhu out for a stroll

I lingered a little longer and a number of pilgrims took snaps of me on their mobile phones. I had unwittingly become a part of spectacle and wondered how I’d be described to people back home people back home. ‘Look at this white guy I came across!’ From then one, taking my own photographs felt less intrusive.

I drank a cup of milky chai sold by a tout carrying a steel pot with a contraption strapped beneath containing hot coals and then made my way back across one of the pontoon bridges leading to the vast tent city which houses millions of pilgrims every night. I passed rows of marquees where, later in the day, gurus and godmen would sit preaching before their adherents – and perhaps perform the odd miracle.

A family of pilgrims trying to keep warm at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, Maha Kumbh Mela, Feb 14th 2013

I stopped to photograph some elderly pilgrims warming their hands before a pile of burning logs. A holy man sporting dreadlocks appeared walking a Labrador pup. A tout offered me a shopping bag full of hashish. Over the loud speakers, an announcer reeled off a long list of names of pilgrims who’d gone missing. Then a young man walked straight up to me and asked, ‘Please which country?’

‘England,’ I replied. ‘Britain – United Kingdom.’

He gave a nod.  ‘Have you anything like this in your country mister?’

I glanced around me.  A dozen villagers were being off loaded from the back of a jeep. In this distance, a procession of floats rolled past with sadhus and godmen sitting atop of thrones while tossing marigold flowers into the adoring crowd. Pilgrims prostrated themselves on the ground in their wake, kissing the sandy soil. A myriad loudspeakers blared a cacophony of mantras and sermons.

‘No,’ I replied with a smile. ‘I don’t think anything quite compares to this.’

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th1As is befitting at the launch of any new enterprise here in India, I’m hanging a string of lemon and green chillies – a totka – on my new web site and blog. Hopefully they’ll satisfy the desire of Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, who is said to have a weakness for sour and pungent things, and she’ll refrain from entering the site.

As she’s described as being ‘antelope-footed’, ‘bull-toothed’ and – surely worst of all – ‘cow-repelling’, this seems no bad thing. Everyone else – benign gods and mere mortals besides – is more than welcome, and I hope to tempt you back with regular posts on life in Delhi over the coming months and years ahead!


Radfoot Strongdoctor

Background image courtesy of Eileen Kroll