Marginalisation affects a large part of Indian society, who are subjected to loss of rights and mistreatment due to their place in the caste system. In the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, a street boy, Ram Mohammad Thomas narrates the events of mistreatment and abuse in not only his life, but several others characters with the same fate. Throughout the novel, the experiences of Ram, Salim and Nita are told, contributing to the privileging of social, gender and religious marginalisation in Indian society as foregrounded by Swarup.
Ram Mohammad Thomas, throughout the novel narrates his experiences of marginalisation and mistreatment due to his social status in the caste system. Ram’s social marginalisation is privileged through the foregrounding of the caste system in Indian society where he is seen as an untouchable, someone who lives in a chawl, with no education, Ram states “…The brain is not an organ we are authorized to use. We are supposed to use only our hands and legs. ” (pg. 2), this foregrounds how as an untouchable in society, Ram is only seen as a slave to others, not someone with any kind of intelligence to have the mental capacity to partake in a quiz show. This is further foregrounded when Ram states “Like Godbole, you believe I am only good for serving chicken fry and whisky in a restaurant. That I am meant to live life like a dog and die an insect. Don’t you? ” (pg. 29), further stating how in Indian society people believe the place in the caste position you are born, you must stay and not partake in activities which are meant for higher class people.
Swarup positions the reader to feel sympathetic for Ram, by story after story of discrimination and see him as a representative of the untouchable class, someone who is just a street boy, with no control over their fate, and being at the bottom of the caste system leading him to be clearly shown as socially marginalised. Salim Ilyasi in the novel is Ram’s best friend, much like Ram, he is socially marginalised but also religiously marginalised for being Muslim.
His marginalisation is privileged through several stories throughout the novel, Ram revealed (speaking about Salim’s experience) “The moment the Hindi’s heard this they went on a rampage. Armed with machetes and pickaxes, sticks and torches, they raided the homes of all the Muslim families…Before his very eyes they set fire to the hut… His whole family was burnt to death…” (pg. 95). This quote illustrates how Salim’s family and many other Muslims, were marginalised and attacked purely because they were part of the religion that was getting accused.
Further, his religious marginalisation is shown where Salim stated (recounting his experience to Ram) “This bastard is definitely a Muslim, let’s kill him’ … ‘No. Killing him would be too easy. We will burn this motherfucker alive in this bus. Then he and his community will learn never to touch our homes,” (pg. 229), this further foregrounds how because Salim is Muslim, in Indian society he is religiously marginalised because of this. Along with the social and religious marginalisation associated with Ram and Salim, Nita is also gender marginalised through her religion.
Nita’s religious and gender marginalisation is privileged through the foregrounding of the religion she was born into, where she was chosen to become a prostitute only because she was born a girl with more beauty than her sister. This is shown when Ram states (recounting what Nita told him about her religion) “She is a Bedia tribal girl from the Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh… In her community, it is the tradition for one girl from each family to serve as a communal prostitute, called the Bedni.
This girl earns money for her family, while the males spend their time drinking and playing cards. ‘This is why the birth of a girl is an occasion to celebrate in our community, not a cause for gloom’” this foregrounds how in this one situation she is both gender marginalised for being a girl, and forced to become a prostitute, and religiously marginalised as this is not her choice, but the choice of her religion. Further, supporting the point of gender marginalisation against Nita in the book is the character Gudiya, who was abused by her father, Ram states “… What was Gudiya’s crime?
Simply that she was born a girl and Shantaram was her father”, this greatly privileges the aspect of marginalisation Swarup was aiming to depict and foregrounds that not only in that particular religion is gender marginalisation evident, but all over Indian society. In essence, throughout the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup marginalisation is privileged through the foregrounding of the carefully created stories of mistreatment and abuse against several characters. This positions the reader to understand and acknowledge the observation of Indian society and feel sympathetic for the representation of the untouchable class as interpreted in the novel.
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