VARIOUS TEXTS: From Q&A (Slumdog Millionaire) by Vikas Swarup

Nita is a former prostitute, who has been forced into prostitution by her parents, in order to earn money for them. Nita and Ram, the protagonist of the story, go to the famous Taj Mahal near Agra. They are in love with each other and wonder about the power of love that has come upon them.

A new year has dawned, bringing with it new hopes and new dreams. Nita and I have both turned eighteen - the legal age for marriage. For the first time, I begin lo think about the future and to believe I might even have one. With Nita by my side. I stop lending money to people in the outhouse1. I need every penny now.

Today is a Friday, and also a night of the full moon, a very rare combination indeed. I persuade Nita not to go to the movies, but instead to come with me to the Taj Mahal. We sit on the marble pedestal2 late in the evening and wait for the moon to appear beyond the jets of fountains and the rows of dark-green cypresses. First comes a glimmer of silver through the tall trees on our right, as the moon struggles to break free of the cluster of low buildings and foliage3, and then, suddenly, it rises majestically in the sky. The curtain of the night is pushed aside and the Taj Mahal stands revealed in all its glory. Nita and I are awestruck. The Taj appears like a vision of paradise, a silvery apparition risen from the Yamuna river. We clasp hands, oblivious4 to the hordes of foreign tourists who have paid fifty dollars each for the privilege of seeing the Taj by the light of the full moon.

I gaze at the Taj and then I gaze at Nita. The sterile perfection of the Taj begins to pale in comparison with the flawless beauty of her face. And tears start falling from my eyes as all the love I have bottled up in my heart for eighteen long years comes out in a tumultuous rush. I sense an emotional release like the bursting of a dam, and experience for the first time what Emperor Shahjahan must have felt for Mumtaz Mahal.

This is the moment I have been waiting for all my life and I have practised for it well. Najmi, the bearded poet, left a book of Urdu poetry for me before going to jail, and I have memorized several romantic verses. In a burst of inspiration, Najmi had even composed an original ghazal5 in praise of Nita, for my use. It went something like this:

Your beauty is an elixir,
Which has given an orphan life,
Lovesick I will die, from the grave I will cry,
Should you decline to become my wife.

I also recall many immortal dialogues from famous celluloid love stories. But sitting with Nita under the moonlit Taj Mahal, I forsake the world of poetry and films. I look into her eyes and ask her simply, 'Do you love me?' And she replies with just one word, 'Yes.' That one word holds more meaning for me than all the books on poetry and all the guidebooks on Agra. And when I hear it, my heart takes a joyous leap. My mighty love breaks free of the earth, takes wing and soars into the sky, like a kite. And then, for the first time, the Taj Mahal feels like a living house instead of an impersonal tomb; the full moon over our heads becomes a personal satellite, shining a private light, and we feel blessed to be bathed in its celestial glow, in our own exclusive heaven.
557 words

Source: Q & A by Vikas Swarup, Black Swan Book, , London 2006, pp. 311-313

1. outhouse - here: poor housing for service peopleon the premises of a palace
2. pedestal - Sockel
3. foliage - Blattwerk
4. to be oblivious to - etwas nicht wahrnehmen
5. ghazal - a Persian verse form. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.

1. How do the moon and the Taj Mahal affect Ram's feelings towards Nita?
2. Ram being an orphan is overwhelmed by love. What do you think is the reason for the intensity of his love to Nita?
3. Choose three examples of figurative language. Determine what figures of speech they are and explain their function.
4. Is this a typical love scene as it might also take place in western countries?
5. What problems might occur for young couples in India if they want to marry?

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Vikas Swarup

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