The story begins with Ram Mohammed Thomas, a poor boy from the slums of Mumbai who finds himself in prison for winning the most popular tv show at the time, “kaun banega crorepati” (Who wants to be a bilionare). The authorities are puzzled as to how someone with no education and living in dire poverty could possibly answered all 13 trivia questions correctly to win the highest sum ever paid out in a game show. Ram Mohammed Thomas is represented in court by an attorney, whom he tells the story of his life and how some aspect of his upbringing, travels, and misfortune allowed him to gather the answers to each of these questions. He tells the story of his years trying to deduce how he acquired his name, a rogue who disables children them to make them effective beggars, and his years at the taj mahal as a tour guide.
The story was engaging, but I was pretty incredulous because I couldn’t believe that someone could have gone through all of that at such a young age and come full circle by the end of the book. What is more surprising is the relative light-heartedness with which Swarup tells the story of Thomas’ unfortunate, sometimes utterly depressing adventures. There’s no subtlety, no allusions, no chance for too much suspense – the problems are often presented and resolved in a span of a few pages. In addition, this book lacks sophisticated prose, and the reader is rarely given a chance to absorb the magnitude of what has just happened because Swarup quickly moves on to the next installment of the story. Don’t read this if you’re looking for a completely believable story or fantastic writing, but do pick it up if you’re looking for some entertainment.