There has been a ton of news and controversy recently about the saga surrounding the child actors of Slumdog Millionaire. My question: Has anyone read this book?? If so, you shouldn't be surprised. If you read Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance you shouldn't be surprised. Appalled yes, surprised no.
India is a strange place. I have been a couple of times, for business - both times being overwhelming and heartbreaking. People can tell you about the poverty, you can read books about it, you can even see pictures or television coverage. But nothing prepares you for the drive from the airport to the hotel in Mumbai and seeing it with your own eyes. I cried quietly for pretty much the entire taxi ride. It is extremely difficult to reconcile this reality with the historical beauty, mystery and spirituality of India. But it's a fact.
I am beginning to develop quite an affinity for stories about India. I love how Vikas Swarup and Mistry weave these intricate stories that balance the reality of the world their characters live in with hope, humour, humanity without demeaning them or losing the element of despair. The compassion with which Swarup writes this story is even more compelling given that he comes from a priviledged family.
Slumdog Millionaire (or Q & A as it was originally titled) is not all fun and humour and to label it as that kind of story does it a huge injustice. This story deals with serious issues: racism, corruption and of course, the ubiquitous caste system. The main character (and narrator) is completely warm and charming but at the end of the day, he is driven by revenge. This only serves to make him more human and the story much more impactful.
It was a beautiful read and I think this is one time where I won't spoil my regard for the book by seeing the movie.