Q & A (novel)

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Q & A
First edition
Author Vikas Swarup
Country India
Language English
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
Pages 304 pp
ISBN 0-385-60813-6
OCLC 57564932
813/.6 22
LC Class PR9499.4.S93 Q13 2005

Q & A is a novel by Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat. Published in 2005, it was the author's first novel. Set in India, it tells the story of Ram Mohammad Thomas, a young waiter who becomes the biggest quiz show winner in history, only to be sent to jail on accusations (but with no evidence) that he cheated. In 2008, the book was adapted into the multiple Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.


The idea behind the story line was triggered by a report in a local newspaper about children living in the Indian slums using mobile phones and the internet - an indication that class barriers were breaking down. At the same time an English Major, Charles Ingram, was accused and found guilty of cheating in the British version of the television show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. To quote Swarup: “If a British army major can be accused of cheating, then an tiffin boy from the world’s biggest slum can definitely be accused of cheating.”


Q & A won South Africa's Boeke Prize 2006.[1] It was also nominated for the Best First Book by the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and won the Prix Grand Public at the 2007 Paris Book Fair.

To date, the book has sold translation rights in 42 languages, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Finnish, Slovenian, Croatian, Turkish, Icelandic, Chinese, Polish, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, Bulgarian, Serbian, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Sinhala, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese and Hebrew (both as The Riddle Boy from Mumbai), Portuguese.


Ram Mohammad Thomas: The main character, who tells his life story to the lawyer. He is in love with Nita and believes firmly in destiny. He possesses a "lucky" coin that he uses when confronted with big decisions—but both sides are "heads. so he doesn't believe in luck then doing hard work" Generally, he has a very optimistic and realistic view of life . As a result of that, he is confident of being positive element of society and has no idea of becoming rich. His name stands for three religions because it is unknown which religion his parents had. He is an orphan.

Salim Ilyasi: Ram's best friend, who has dreams of becoming a Bollywood movie star. When he was younger, a fortuneteller predicted that he would be more famous than his Bollywood idol, which spurred on his dreams. He is two years younger than Ram and very handsome, with a clear, musical voice. He also believes firmly in destiny. To sum up, his character is coined as a young, childish and naive person. Compared to Ram Mohammed Thomas, his outlook in life is positive.

Prem Kumar: The host of the quiz show Who Will Win a Billion? (or W3B). It is later revealed that he is the man who abused Ram's former employer and Nita. Ram joins the show to get revenge on him. By the end of the book, he has helped Ram win the show and commits suicide in his car, though Ram suspects the show's producers had a hand in his death.

Smita Shah: Ram's lawyer and childhood friend. She saves him from torture and listens to his story. Though she is at first skeptical, she slowly comes to believe what he is telling her. Her real name is Gudiya, and she was the abused girl he mentioned in one of his stories—the one whom he saved after he pushed her father down the stairs.

Nita: A young prostitute with who Ram falls in love. It is a tradition within her tribe to send one girl to be a prostitute. She bitterly tells Ram not to call her beautiful because that is the reason she was chosen instead of her plain-looking sister. Her brother is her pimp, so she implores Ram not to kill him. At the end of the book, she and Ram are married.

Shankar: A gentle friend who has a speech defect and is Swapna Devi's unacknowledged son who acquires rabies and dies. When he was very young, he caught his mother and uncle in bed together and, as a result, his mother kicked him out. He still has the mind of a six-year-old boy and cries out coherently for his "Mummy" when he is delirious from rabies. He has a blue notebook full of pictures that he has drawn for and of his mother.

Neelima Kumari: A famous actress who plays only lead roles and wants to stay that way forever. Ram spent some time with her as a servant. She is based on Meena Kumari. Known as the "Tragedy Queen," she is abused by Prem Kumar but refuses to turn him in, saying that a true Tragedy Queen must possess real sadness in her life. She commits suicide, wanting to be remembered as young, but the police find her body a month later—after it has decomposed.


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