Sunday, August 24, 2014

Guest Blogger: Gigi Pandian--"Sharing the Road in India: Making Way for the Elephants, Goats, Monkeys, Camels..."

Every other Sunday is our day for Guest Author Postings by mystery writers who base their stories in non-US settings.  We think it a great way of introducing our readership to new experiences and places.  We’re pleased to have with us today a writer I (Jeff) had the fun of meeting at this year's Left Coast Crime when I moderated a panel titled, Mystery Far Afield. So it's with great pleasure I introduce you to USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian who writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series and the forthcoming Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Her debut novel, ARTIFACT, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. The follow-up, PIRATE VISHNU, is now available. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her anthropologist parents, giving her good fodder for her novels set in countries ranging from Scotland to India.

Welcome, Gigi!

Earlier this month, I read an article about how New Delhi is currently being overrun by rhesus monkeys. I’m lucky that I’ve never had my glasses stolen by a monkey while visiting the Indian capital, but reading about the thieving monkeys got me thinking about my various animal encounters in India—most of which have happened while traveling on modern highways.

On my last trip to India, I flew into the south Indian city of Bangalore, where my father and I were visiting family. We took an autorickshaw through the city streets, and one of the first things I saw is pictured in the image below: a goat riding inside an autorickshaw!

I should admit that the goat hadn’t hailed the three-wheeled taxi on his own. When my own taxi passed the goat, I was able to see that the animal was sitting next to his owner. (Or, as my father would say after his childhood in India caring for his family’s goats, it’s debatable which one is the owner...)

A more frequent sight than an animal sitting on a taxi seat is a larger animal serving as transportation, such as the elephant being ridden or a camel pulling a cart of goods.  

I live in urban California, a place where nobody would put up with being slowed down by animals on the road. But in India, a country far more populous and crowded, people make it work.

One of my favorite things about visiting different countries is seeing not only the famous sights, but ways of life that are so normal for millions of people while at the same time being so foreign to me.

It was on the highway in between Kanyakumari and Kochi, along the coast of southwest India, that my latest mystery novel came together. I’d already written a draft of Pirate Vishnu shortly before my last trip to India. The book is set half in San Francisco and half in south India, and I wrote it while living outside of San Francisco. Because India is an impossible country to forget, it was easy to use my memories to draft the book. However, once I stepped off the plane into the humid air and got onto the highway, I was overloaded with sensory details that made my head spin—and filled in key details for the book.

I had a great time getting slowed down on the road, because it enabled me to take in more of the country. To be fair, it’s not that Indians love being delayed by animals. Especially the animals who cross the road whenever they feel like it. 

I was glad that our driver kept this figurine of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, on his dashboard!

Guest Blogger Gigi Pandian––Sunday


  1. Gigi, so glad to have you with us. Thanks for taking us to a whole new land fascinating ocale

  2. Nice to be here today -- thanks for inviting me!

  3. Thanks again for stopping by with your dad, Gigi.:) I loved working with you on your post almost as much as I did moderating for you on your Pirate Vishnu's escapades!

    1. I'm so glad I got to meet you as my panel moderator! Looking forward to seeing you at Bouchercon :)

  4. Goat int the taxi is very interesting story in this blog. Detroit Metro Taxi Service is a big name in Detroit. Detroit airport taxi always care for its customers. We are providing luggage facility too.