Questions on the text
1. Why does Vikas Swarup choose the name “Ram Mohammad Thomas” for his protagonist? The names represent three different religions—besides displaying India’s diversity, what does this say about Ram Mohammad Thomas as a person?
2. When Ram recounts the story of Father Timothy, he repeatedly refers to himself as an “idiot orphan boy”. Considering how well Father Timothy treats him, why does he describe himself in this manner?
3. Ram has a recurring dream of a tall woman with black hair that obscures her face. At what moments does he have this dream, and why? What does this woman represent? Is she his biological mother? A symbol of hope? Abandonment?
4. In telling Gudiya’s story, Ram asks “But what was Gudiya’s crime? Simply that she was born a girl and Shantaram was her father?”. Are there other women in this novel who are treated poorly simply because of their sex? Do any female characters not need Ram’s protection? How would you describe his relationships with women?
5. Several characters, especially Ram and Salim, are big movie fans. Is there a reason for this? Do films help them escape their frequently dreary lives, is it simply a significant part of their culture, or is there another reason?
6. What are Ram’s ambitions in life? Why does he tell Prem Kumar he doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the billion rupees? Why does Ram turn in Colonel Taylor? Is this retribution for the colonel’s spying, his derogatory comments about Indians, or for the way he treats his family? Or does Ram simply want to collect his wages before returning to Mumbai?
7. “The city may have chosen to ignore the ugly growth of Dharavi, but a cancer cannot be stopped simply by being declared illegal” (pg. 134). Are there any other problems that go unacknowledged because they’re too painful to face? If so, what impact does this have on the characters?
8. What do you think of Salim’s decision to give Ahmed, the hit man, a picture of Maman? Did Salim have another choice? Is he guilty of murder? Did Ram have other options besides throwing Shantaram down the stairs? Are these violent acts justifiable considering the behavior of the victims?
9. Consider the impact of Western culture on Ram. He dreams of eating at places like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, and he practices “speaking Australian.” Why is this important to him?
10. Why does Ram want to have “manageable dreams” (pg. 279)? What does he mean by this? And does this conflict with him appearing on a game show to win one billion rupees?
11. Considering he believes he’s already murdered two people, why is Ram unable to kill Prem Kumar?
12. How do you think Ram changes, if at all, during his eighteen years? Is he a stronger person at the end of Q&A than he was as a boy? Which journey had the greatest impact on him, either for better or worse?
13. “I realized a long time ago that dreams have power only over your own mind; but with money you can have power over the minds of others”. In relation to this novel, would you agree with this statement? Are there characters without money that are able to influence others?
14. Despite his lack of formal education, Ram is able to answer twelve questions correctly in order to win a billion rupees. Was this pure luck, or do you think he’ll always be able to find the answers to life’s many questions? What do you envision the future holds for Ram?