Jul 23, 2009

Q and A - Vikas Swarup

The brouhaha on Slumdog Millionaire hasn’t fully subsided yet and I have already forgotten the name of the book which inspired the Academy award winning film. I was looking at the cover of the book Q and A – by Vikas Swarup and I felt there was something familiar about it. Had I heard about this book? I still could not remember. I finally looked at the cover and decided to take it.I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I decided it doesn’t harm to make a try.

I also liked the fact that it didn’t have an intriguing cover. Some covers have enticing pictures, some have the author’s name swamped all over , almost enveloping the almost invisible book title and some have intriguing covers; the word we would have used in college would have been fundoo. You didn’t even know what was striking about it, but there was a weird attraction. At times I felt the mere attraction in the cover was the fact that its author was famous or the book had won some prestigious award. Hence when I saw a white book with a big Q and A in pink-magenta combinations across it, I was rather pleased. After I finished the book, I was quite happy with the story. It was a feel-good and they lived happily ever kind of story.

I haven’t seen Slumdog Millionaire yet. I have a tendency to delay watching such blockbuster hits. God only knows why. However this time it helped me to read the book without any bias of watching the story on screen earlier.

Ram Mohammed Thomas is a waiter who is punished for being lucky and his luck helps him in winning the reality quiz show “ Who Will Win a Billion “ or W3B. While reading the entire story, it feels that Thomas as he is known, is way too lucky. An orphan by abandonment, Thomas views all kind of child and human abuse but he never faces it himself. In some situations it is explained that his knowledge of English saves him from a lot of troubles. Despite Hindi being the national language, India has a die-hard attraction towards English. The knowledge of the language does make a difference all over the country but saving oneself from street gangs, child abusers with help of English is probably pushing the envelope a bit too far.

The format of the story is interesting. Once Thomas proceeds to tell his tale, it proceeds according to the different levels of the W3B game. While the story is interesting, the twists in each incident become rather predictable. Some how the whole story has a Bollywood feel to it where Thomas escapes street gangs, police rather easily and manages to kill villains as well. In the end, it just feels that Thomas is made to live different lives in the course of one story which does not even cover his entire life. Some of the stories do tug at your heart, but somehow there is this feeling of déjà vu while reading about Thomas’ travails and it is probably all due to the predictability factor emanating through out the story.

I guess I will have to applaud Danny Boyle for making this into an Oscar winner as I would have never dared to think beyond Bollywood for such a story.

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