Monday, April 18, 2011

Q & A By: Vikas Swarup

Q & A, also published as Slumdog Millionaire, by Vikas Swarup, is a novel about the journeys of an orphan Indian street urchin named Ram Mohammad Thomas. The book begins with Ram being beaten and interrogated by the police because he won a game show. Ram answered all of the questions on the game show Who Will Win A Billion? correctly to win the billion dollars. However, people believe that he must have cheated because he is a homeless street boy who could not know the answers to all the questions. For this reason, he is arrested in the middle of the night. He is beaten by the police and questioned by them without being given food or water for days. Just as he is about to give in a young lawyer comes to his rescue. She makes the police hand him over to her to take back to her home to prepare a defense for his trial. He does not know anything about who she is and she only tells him that her name is Smita Shah and that as soon as she heard of his arrest on TV she came to help him. Smita gives him food and lets him sleep at her home, and then begins to ask him how he was able to win the game show. Swarup writes that Ram tells Smita truthfully that he did not cheat, but he got lucky- every question that was asked he knew the answer to (17). Everything that had happened to him through his life up to that point provided him with the answers to the trivia questions. He tells Smita that there was no one reason why he was able to answer all of the questions, but he knew each answer because of a specific experience that he had had. He says, “Do you notice when you breathe? No. You simply know that you are breathing. I did not go to school. I did not read books. But I tell you, I knew those answers” (18). The rest of the book is divided into twelve chapters, a chapter for each question that Ram answered. With each chapter, Ram tells about the part of his life that allowed him to know the answer to that question, from living with a Catholic priest to being a tour guide at the Taj Mahal, to rescuing a young girl being abused by her father in the slums, and living with an Indian tragedy film star in her mansion. In the process he falls in love, and the reader finds out about his intentions of going on the game show in the first place. A twist at the end connects the whole book and the reader is left with a fulfilling end to a modern Cinderella story.

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