Q & A


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 rags to riches 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 loosely 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, Charles Ingram, an ex-British Army Major, 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 ignorant tiffin boy from the world's biggest slum can definitely be accused of cheating.”


Q & A won the 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 43 languages, including Arabic, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Finnish, Slovenian, Croatian, Turkish, Icelandic, Chinese, Polish, Russian (Question — Answer), Norwegian, Swedish, Bulgarian, Serbian, Hindi, Gujarati (as Jackpot), Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Sinhala, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Hebrew (both as The Riddle Boy from Mumbai), and Portuguese.


Ram Mohammad Thomas: The main character, who tells his life story to the lawyer he met in the strip club. 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". Generally, he has a very pessimistic and realistic view of life. His name stands for three religions because it is unknown which religion his parents had. He is an orphan like Shiva.

Salim Ilyasi: Ram's best friend and cousin, 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 young and childish, compared to Ram Mohammed Thomas.

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 take revenge. 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, since Ram wasn't supposed to win the quiz show.

Smita Shah: Ram's lawyer and childhood friend. She saves him from torture and listens to his story. Though she is skeptical at first, 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 — he promised to be like a brother to her and protect her so he pushed her drunkard father down the stairs.

Nita: A young prostitute with whom Ram falls in love. It is a tradition within her culture to send the most beautiful girl in the family 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 is bitten by a mad dog, gets 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", in his dreams, 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 female (tragic) lead roles and wants to stay "young" 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 the young and beautiful actress, but the police find her body a month later — after it has decomposed.

  1. ^ It's quiz time, folks!
External links
  • Slumdog "Millionaire riveting despite changes: Swarup" - Times of India
  • "Slumdog has my stamp of approval says Vikas" - Times of India
  • "The Hole in the Wall Project" - Dr Sugata Mitra

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