Tarquin Hall · 311 pages
Rating: (6.9K votes)
“per hour. Handbrake knew that he could keep up with the best of them. Ambassadors might look old-fashioned and slow, but the latest models had Japanese engines. But he soon learned to keep it under seventy. Time and again, as his competitors raced up behind him and made their impatience known by the use of their horns and flashing high beams, he grudgingly gave way, pulling into the slow lane among the trucks, tractors and bullock carts. Soon, the lush mustard and sugarcane fields of Haryana gave way to the scrub and desert of Rajasthan. Four hours later, they reached the rocky hills surrounding the Pink City, passing in the shadow of the Amber Fort with its soaring ramparts and towering gatehouse. The road led past the Jal Mahal palace, beached on a sandy lake bed, into Jaipur’s ancient quarter. It was almost noon and the bazaars along the city’s crenellated walls were stirring into life. Beneath faded, dusty awnings, cobblers crouched, sewing sequins and gold thread onto leather slippers with curled-up toes. Spice merchants sat surrounded by heaps of lal mirch, haldi and ground jeera, their colours as clean and sharp as new watercolor paints. Sweets sellers lit the gas under blackened woks of oil and prepared sticky jalebis. Lassi vendors chipped away at great blocks of ice delivered by camel cart. In front of a few of the shops, small boys, who by law should have been at school, swept the pavements, sprinkling them with water to keep down the dust. One dragged a doormat into the road where the wheels of passing vehicles ran over it, doing the job of carpet beaters. Handbrake honked his way through the light traffic as they neared the Ajmeri Gate, watching the faces that passed by his window: skinny bicycle rickshaw drivers, straining against the weight of fat aunties; wild-eyed Rajasthani men with long handlebar moustaches and sun-baked faces almost as bright as their turbans; sinewy peasant women wearing gold nose rings and red glass bangles on their arms; a couple of pink-faced goras straining under their backpacks; a naked sadhu, his body half covered in ash like a caveman. Handbrake turned into the old British Civil Lines, where the roads were wide and straight and the houses and gardens were set well apart. Ajay Kasliwal’s residence was number”
“Handbrake found the drive to Jaipur that morning particularly frustrating. The new tarmac-surfaced toll road, which was part of India’s proliferating highway system, had four lanes running in both directions, and although it presented all manner of hazards, including the occasional herd of goats, a few overturned trucks and the odd gaping pothole, it held out an irresistible invitation to speed. Indeed, many of the other cars travelled as fast as 100 miles”
“agents shall be recruited from orphans. They shall be trained in the following techniques: interpretation of signs and marks, palmistry and similar techniques of interpreting body marks, magic and illusions, the duties of the ashramas, the stages of life, and the science of omens and augury. Alternatively, they can be trained in physiology and sociology, the art of men and society.”
“Guru-ji, I am the winner of the Super Sleuth World Federation of Detectives award for 1999. Also, I was on the cover of India Today magazine. It’s a distinction no other”
“Fortunately, getting hold of people’s garbage was a cinch. Indian detectives were much luckier than their counterparts in, say, America, who were forever rooting around in people’s dustbins down dark, seedy alleyways. In India, one could simply purchase an individual’s trash on the open market. All you had to do was befriend the right rag picker. Tens of thousands of untouchables of all ages still worked as unofficial dustmen and women across the country. Every morning, they came pushing their barrows, calling, “Kooray Wallah!” and took away all the household rubbish. In the colony’s open rubbish dump, surrounded by cows, goats, dogs and crows, they would sift through piles of stinking muck by hand, separating biodegradable waste from the plastic wrappers, aluminium foil, tin cans and glass bottles.”
“Nothing had happened to me. I was born with a defective mind. As my father’s sole contribution to my life knifed its way into my mother’s egg, it unleashed a faulty genetic code that warped the normal brain development of fetus me, growing wrong inside my mother. I was a thing that should never have been.”
“I think of the horizon at midnight, the sky and sea blurring together.”
“You're unusual. That's better than popular if you have some courage.”
“We were each our own island, gathered together into one messed-up archipelago.”
“Lale smiles at him. ‘Not what I was expecting either.’ ‘Where do you think we’re going?’ ‘It doesn’t matter. Just remember, we are here to keep our families safe”
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