Slumdog diplomat

A month ago Vikas Swarup was an unassuming Indian diplomat with a flair for writing. Now he is the toast of Hollywood.

Ever since Slumdog Millionaire – the hit movie based on his novel Q&A – started hoovering up awards, the mandarin-turned-novelist has been catapulted into the limelight.

Swarup now lives a double life as deputy high commissioner in Pretoria and best-selling author whose book has been translated into 37 languages and is flying off the shelves.

Diplomats in London might well have run into Swarup. A seasoned diplomat, he has served in Turkey, the US, Ethiopia and, of course London, which provided the initial spark for his book.

Soon after he arrived in town, the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was mired in scandal after Charles Ingram, an army major, coughed and cheated his way into winning the million-pound jackpot.

The ensuing media frenzy got Swarup thinking. “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,” he said.

So, in 2003, in the two months leave before taking up his next posting, Swarup churned out the underdog saga on his laptop in leafy Golders Green, thousands of miles from the Mumbai’s slums.

No sooner had he found an agent than the book was snapped up by a major publisher. It wasn’t long before Hollywood producers came knocking.

Since then he has completed his second page-turner, Six Suspects. Not that Swarup has any intention of giving up the day job. “There is no better time to be an Indian diplomat,” he says.