What is this about?: Inspector Chopra has retired after decades of service in the police force in India, and finds himself at odds with himself – what is he to do now that he cannot do the one thing he believes he was meant for? Investigate a murder of course, and so the Baby Ganesh Investigative Agency is born.
What else is this about?: A slice of life for a man who is out of time in modern India. Chopra is funny, righteous and wishes the traditions of Indian were not forgotten now that modern India is moving forward. However, this is delivered with some humour, so it makes it somewhat bearable. But he’s also a man trying to find his place in this India, without the protection or bubble of the police force – and even with his wife, Poppy, who worries about his health and worries she’s losing him.
And then, there’s the baby elephant he inherited from his favourite uncle.
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra opens on the day Chopra retires, and receives a baby elephant from his favourite uncle.
And Ganesh, the baby elephant is utterly gorgeous.
I had no idea how Ganesh would work in the story given the title of the series, but before I get to gushing, let me actually talk about the plot.
Retirement sucks for Inspector Chopra
It really does. Chopra is or was a dedicated cop, and it shows – from the way he talks about his underlings and how they adore him in turn, to how at odds he is the first morning of retirement.
Poppy, his wife, on the other hand is ecstatic – she has been worried about his health since his heart attack months before. They are an unusual couple – Poppy is fire and emotion, and Chopra is logical, to the point that Poppy tends to assume the worst when it comes to him because he is so reserved. But they work, and he adores her and she him.
The last day of his retirement a case comes across Chopra’s desk: that of a young man who is assumed a suicide. His mother insists not, and accuses Chopra and his force of not paying as much attention to the death of a poor boy, as opposed to a rich one. It’s that which lingers in Chopra’s mind, and prompts his continued investigation of the death – which makes Poppy think that he’s seeing another woman.
And into this investigation, Chopra drags Ganesh along.
Imagine a policeman leading a baby elephant in the Mumbai streets
It’s a hilarious image, and humour is something that this book is filled with. Ganesh is a baby, in a new place and trying to make sense of his new world. Chopra is also trying to do right by Ganesh and proceeds to buy books, visit vets and a zoo in order to ensure he’s doing everything he can for Ganesh and indeed to try and understand him better.
Then there’s the scene where Chopra saves the elephant from monsoon rains that are flooding everything and takes him into his apartment building, and up a lift – I swear, it’s the funniest thing. But it’s Poppy that has my heart with how she takes to Ganesh (it takes some time) and takes care of him.
It’s adorable, and cute and it brings up something else between Chopra and Poppy: the lack of a child. It’s something to do with her medically speaking, but in ways that are very representative of their characters, Poppy wants to talk about this, wants to talk about adoption, about why he’s against it, and Chopra does not. Poppy thinks a child might save her marriage when she thinks he’s having an affair, and thinks up a plan that is worthy for any soap opera (Indian or otherwise) and a Bollywood movie to be able to keep him.
There are lingering issues between them that are unresolved in this, which I appreciated, but Chopra’s reserve wore thin towards the end, though I would hope over the series, and outside of the force, his character growth would be to not be reserved. Or learn how not to be reserved.
The rest of the plot
The book begins with the murder of a young man, and a case the evolves into something much larger, and touching on themes like the rampant corruption in politics and the force.
Chopra is a manly man, coated in his righteousness like the Bollywood heroes of old, which is when I last watched a Bollywood movie. No idea what the heroes are like now, but that’s what he reminded me of. I would like to see Chopra recognise and realise that the world is filled with shades of grey, and isn’t so black and white like he assumes in all instances.
Though to be fair that might not be the point of this book in the series because Chopra is a Bollywood hero, doing the right thing and being the icon of righteousness while surrounded by corruptness.
Ganesh comes along through all this, saving Chopra along the way. Highlight of this book? Chopra coaxing Ganesh into a mall and trying to get him up an escalator with chocolate. Comedy gold!