Punjabi Superstar Vish Puri solves
The Case of the Reincarnated Client

A conversation with Tarquin Hall about hypnosis, arranged marriage, and global drama.

A conversation with Tarquin Hall about hypnosis, arranged marriage, and global drama.

Tarquin Hall served as the South Asia bureau chief of Associated Press TV in New Delhi. His reporting career featured high-intensity subjects like the Taliban, the PKK, rattlesnake hunters, and an English woman who married a Sudanese guerilla commander. Now a mystery author, he captivates readers with the adventures of his celebrated Punjabi detective, Vish Puri.

In The Case of the Reincarnated Client, Vish Puri discovers that his mother is looking into the unsolved case of a missing housewife. A new witness believes she’s the reincarnation of that very housewife who disappeared decades ago. To unlock the truth, Puri must delve into a dark moment from Delhi’s past.

Have you ever been hypnotized or undergone past life regression therapy? If so, what was it like?

A: Years ago, I was hypnotized by a friend who was studying self-hypnosis. I found it relaxing and came out feeling refreshed. I don't think she implanted any weird suggestions in my sub-conscious. I never started clucking like a chicken involuntarily or speaking in strange tongues—nothing like that. As for past life regression therapy, no I haven't tried it and I wouldn't want to. I think it's an over-simplified idea that we are re-born and transferred from one form to the next depending on whether we've been naughty or nice. But there are plenty of takers for past life regression therapy in India. Most people believe in reincarnation and the idea that, through hypnotism, you can reach back into past lives and heal perceived hurts or latent trauma.

Your book reminds me of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. Why does English literature feature so many detectives?

I think this idea of solving mysteries really appeals to the British temperament. It's deep down there in the DNA. My pet theory is that it comes from living in a deeply tribal society. The British Isles have always been a place populated by lots of tribes. Everyone's always trying to work out where everyone's from, what their accent denotes, what their class background and education is. So, in a way, we're all Sherlock Holmes judging others from the cut of their suit or whether they add milk to the cup before or after pouring the tea.

Vish Puri is “India’s Most Private Investigator.” How does he compare to Hercule Poirot?

Puri's moustache has been compared to Hercule Poirot's. But, I'm afraid he's quite disparaging of that narrow appendage that sits upon the Belgian detective's upper lip. Puri's is a proper Punjabi moustache: fat and bushy and unapologetic.

Your wife is Indian-born. Vish Puri is often hired to conduct pre-matrimonial investigations. Are those customary?

Nearly all marriages in India are arranged to one degree or other. My in-laws were married thanks to a priest who knew both families and vouched for them both. But nowadays it's often the case that two families aren't known to one another, so they will bring in a detective to sniff around.  The detective will find out if the bride or groom has had past relationships, if they are from the caste they claim to be, whether there have been any family scandals, dodgy financial dealings and so forth. 

A character says, “If there’s one thing we Indians excel at, it is getting around the rules.” Why is it that way?

Everything in India is done through family or personal contacts. That's a generalization, of course, but it usually holds true. This means that when you need to get something done—and the rules say you can't or shouldn't or there's some kind of obstacle—you generally try to find a way round them. Indians are far better at problem solving than Westerners and it makes for a far less predictable and uniform society. 

You have lived and worked all over the world, including in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Kenya, and the United States. What do you make of our present season of global unrest?

I keep hearing people say that we're going through unpredictable times.  And I suppose there is more economic uncertainty in the Western world than we have been used to in the past thirty years. Also, the internet is having a profound effect on the way we digest information. Fear is more easily spread. We are all affected when, in fact, much of humanity is enjoying more stability and opportunity than ever. To be alive now is a huge privilege.   



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