- When/where did the author live? Does this shed light on the book?
Vikas Swaurp was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. But he was not a Slumdog-kid as described in the book: He did his schooling at Boys' High School & College, Allahabad and pursued further studies at Allahabad University in Psychology, History and Philosophy.
- Background: place and setting of the story. Is this important for the story?
Yes, it is. The book is set in the slums of India and in the two big cities Mumbai and Delhi. The story is about a poor kid who wins one billion rupees in a quiz show, what is not really ordinary.
The main character is Ram Mohammed Thomas. His name is Hindu (Ram, a God in Hindu), Muslim (Mohammed) and Christian (Thomas). He is a poor Indian orphan boy, who lives in the Slums of India. He has experienced a lot, has seen many beloved people die, had so much pain but also felt love for the remaining people in his life. He participates in the quiz ‘Who Will Win A Billion’. But only at the end, you discover it is because of revenge and not because of money.
Salim, the best friend of Ram. He is a huge fan of Armaan Ali, a superhero in many films in Hindi films. He also lives in the slums as an orphan. His family was burnt to death when a hostile nation destroyed his village and set fire to all the houses.
- Who tells the story? Does the author comment on the story?
The story is told by Ram. That makes the story even more touching: you experience it like you are Ram, you feel his sorrow and pain.
- Structure of the book
The book is divided in chapters, named after the amount Ram will get if he answers the question in the quiz show right. In every chapter is described how he knew the answers of the questions in the show, so the whole book consists of flashbacks.
- Motifs: Are there any ideas, facts or objects that recur? Why?
I think poverty is the main motif. Religion is a motif as well, just like hope.
Psychological, because the story really makes you think. Mystery, because only at the and you discover why he participates the quiz and in a lot of chapters you also discover why he has done things before. Non-fiction, because it is a real story. The poor slum-kids, the poverty, the prostitution, the crime, everything is still going on right now.
- Central theme: Why was this book written? What is the idea/message behind it? What is the writer saying / proving / explaining / showing / wondering?
I don’t think it was written with a message behind it, just to show what is going on in the slums of India. In my opinion it is really good to read a book like this. It makes you think: how rich you are, how lucky you living in a safe environment with (most of) your family. A clean bed, clothes, enough food, an abundant of luxurious stuff. We really need to realize this sometimes, because right now there are kids in great famine and poverty.
- What is the connection between the theme and the title? Explain why.
The title is Slumdog Millionaire. Ram himself is many times abused for Slumdog. Millionaire is for the fact that Ram, as a Slumdog, becomes a millionaire.
- Atmosphere and language: tone /mood / use of language? What sort of language, style (ironic / satirical / pessimistic, etc.)
I think it is just a really pure language. Ram tells the story really honest and straight to the point. That is also a reason why I think this book is really touching.
- Personal evaluation
- What does the book call up in you (moving / upsetting / boring)? Why?
The book is really moving and, as I said before, touching. It is so hard to think there are still people living in this kind of poverty, just hoping for some money to buy food. Not knowing where to sleep, not having a mother or father to cry on. You just live in misery.
- Is the world described realistic, idealized, a warning? Why?
Realistic. As I said before, the poverty and the slums are still happening right now.
- Do you agree with the message in the book? Does the writer want to change your ideas and / or opinion? Does he open your eyes to certain problems? What is your opinion on the characters’ behaviour? Your final opinion?
The book really opens my eyes to the misery and poverty in India. Reading this makes you think. I feel so sorry for all the kids who live in Slums, not knowing if they will make it to the next day… It was touching, moving and emotional but beautiful. I like to read about Asia, maybe because I’ve been there myself last summer. That makes it interesting, but even more moving as well.
Ram Mohammed Thomas is at the police station, being questioned because he won a billion rupees in a quiz show. Not very ordinary for a Slumdog. The police suspects him for cheating in the show. After a lot of tortures, a friendly police-assistant called Smita, asks him to tell her how he knew the answers. Ram tells her his whole life-story.
Ram Mohammed Thomas was born in the Slums of India. His mother left him after he was born, and he was found in a bin. At first he was placed at Father Timothy, a parish priest. Father Timothy learned him to speak English and gave him a lot of (religious) knowledge. After an incident with another fake priest, Father Timothy dies and Ram has to find a place somewhere else.
At one moment, he lives in a chawl together with Salim. When he gets new neighbours, family Bapat, the father of the family does not allow him to speak to his daughter, his wife or to him. The father is a scientist, specialized in Astronomy. But he is an alcoholic as well, and starts beating his wife and daughter Gudiya. Ram can hear all this through the thin walls, and feels really sorry for Gudiya. He speaks with her through a hole in the wall, holds her hand. He feels like he is her brother. Ram says he will find a solution for all this. At one night, when Mr. Bapat is really drunk again, he throws hot tea in Gudiya’s face and she has to go to the hospital. One week later, Ram pushes him off the stairs. Mr. Bapat is dead. Ram has to flee again. But because of the astronomical knowledge of Mr. Bapat, Ram knows the smallest planet in our universe: Pluto. An answer at a question in the quiz show.
He is picked up in a house with a lot of other kids. Because he is a really good English speaker, he won’t ever be raped like the other children in the house. Once at a time, an inspector comes across to pick up children to give them a better future. Salim is chosen because of his good looks, but the housefather wants the inspector to also take Ram, luckily enough. The move to the house of the inspector. There only are blind kids, or kids with one leg or one arm. At one night, Ram and Salim hear the inspector will make them both blind so they have to sing for money and give it to the inspector for shelter. The decide to flee. But Ram accidentally learned which blind poet an adherent of the God Krishna was and could answer another question in the quiz show right.
Ram ends up as a servant in a rich Australian family without Salim. He makes some money and the family is nice to him. After a while, the police discovers that the father of the family is a murderer, and Ram has to look for another home again. But also with knowledge of the Australian family, Ram can answer the question about diplomats and this brings him to the next question.
He can work in a bar because of his good knowledge of the English language. Here he hears the story of a man, married with at first a poor woman. The man discovers she is a voodoo mistress and comes into big trouble. With this story told, Ram knows what the capitol of Papua New Guinea is in the quiz show. Another question down.
One day, Ram is at the train station with all his money he earned at the Australian family. He booked a luxurious bed, the first time in his life. He shares the compartment with another Indian family. But then there is a raid, and Ram loses his 50.000 rupees. He shoots the raider with the raider’s gun. He has to flee again, but because of the gun he used to shoot the raider, he know the answer at the question who invented the gun: Samuel Colt.
Ram is in a bunker: there is a war starting between India and Pakistan. An old servant tells his story, that he had no recognition of his rights. When the army comes to speak to the people in the bunker, it turns out that the story-teller is a liar. It leads him to the answer at the question which distinction you get if you did great deeds in war: the Param Vie Chackra.
After 5 years, Ram goes back to Mumbai where he meets Salim again. Salim is doing an actor-course, which is paid by a famous actor. Ram can live at Ahmed’s house as a servant. After a while, he discovers Ahmed is an assassin. He needs to flee, but knows, because Ahmed was a great cricket fan, the answer at the next question.
Ram lives as a servant in the house of Neelima Kumari, once a famous actress. The time Ram lives at her place, he discovers the sad and lonely life of an actress’s faded glory. She was beaten and hurt by an unknown man. Neelima commits suicide. After all, Ram could answer the question about Neelima Kumari in the quiz show.
Ram ends up in a place near the Taj Mahal. He starts earning money by illegally guiding tourists. He meets a group of rich boys, who take him to an expensive restaurant and to the Red Light District of Mumbai. He has sex with a young prostitute, Nita, and falls in love with her. She also loves him, but can’t leave the brothel because of her brother who forces her to prostitute. Nita’s brother tells Ram he needs 400.000 rupees to buy Nita free. He steals the money from the woman where he is living, but gives it to a man who begs him to give the money to him to buy the medicines of his deathly sick son. At he question in the quiz show, he calls this man because he is a teacher. He doesn’t know the answer, but Ram answers it right. In which of the plays of Shakespeare is one of the characters named ‘Costard’? The answer is Love labour’s lost.
The last question has arrived, but Ram doesn’t know the answer. In the break, Ram wants to shoot Prem Kumar, the quiz master. Prem was the unknown man who hurt Neelima. He forces him to give the right answer, and wins the show.
He finished his story. Smita tells him that she is not named Smita. She is Gudiya, the daughter of Mr. Bapat. Now she knows he did not cheat, she helps him to get free.
Page 306: “Love doesn’t happen in an instant. It creeps up on you and then it turns your life upside-down. It colours your waking moments and fills your dreams. You begin to walk on air and see life in brilliant new shades. But it also brings with it a sweet agony, a delicious torture.”
- Special questions
There is not a book similar with the books I’ve read. I really liked this one because of its purity, its honesty. It is very realistic. But I would like to say that you must not watch the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ just after reading the book. It is a film based on the book, but totally different. I was affronted because I loved the book so much and it was not how the story goes in the book. It is a beautiful film as well, but I liked the book more.