Inspector Ghote and the Ghoti

You may have heard of the British crime writer HRF Keating, whose most well-known character was Inspector Ghote of the Bombay Police. There are about a dozen novels written from the 1960s to the 80s. The interesting part is that the author had never been to India until he had written the first 9 books.

There are precedents for this. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, was not known to have any connection with Africa. Most of James Hadley Chase’s novels are set in the US, though he had never been there except for brief visits.

Coming back to Keating and Inspector Ghote, the books had some popularity in Britain but did not sell much in India. “The Perfect Murder” with Naseeruddin Shah was filmed in English and Hindi in 1988 but was not too successful. The Hindi version can still be seen on Youtube.

One of the better known books was “Inspector Ghote Goes by Train” (1971) which largely describes the protagonist traveling from Bombay to Calcutta and back, dealing with a master criminal. As a sideline, the writer mentions the train passing this place near Nasik. All trains between Mumbai and Kolkata pass this station, but most expresses do not stop there.


As Bengalis would know, Ghoti is a semi-deregatory term for someone from West Bengal. The counterpart is Bangal for someone from East Bengal. These are supposed to be cultural rather than communal terms. Perhaps they are more used by Hindus rather than Muslims. Similarly, a Probashi is a Bengali permanently settled outside Bengal.

These terms are not mutually exclusive. For instance, it is possible to be of mixed Ghoti and Bangal ancestry and a Probashi at the same time.