‘Provocation is one of the legitimate goals of literature’

Booker-winning author Aravind Adiga talks to Vijay Rana about dislocation, understanding India and the so-called 'dark side'

When you began to write this book could you dream that it would take you to such heights?

No, when I was writing this book it was a very difficult time in my life. I had quit a full time job in Delhi with Time magazine at the end of 2005. So for the first time in my life I was, by choice, unemployed. But after eleven months, I still hadn't done much. But yes, even to make the long list to the Man Booker prize is a great dream for a first time writer and then winning the prize; it's quite extraordinary and I don't think it has fully sunk in yet.

So quitting the job must have been a leap of faith, but then getting stuck and not making the desired progress must be frustrating. Were there any moments when you thought you'd made a mistake?

Oh absolutely! But the thing is that I am not married and don't have a family to support. But I was getting older, and in 2006 I thought it was now or never. But you know being a good middle-class South Indian, I was very frightened of leaving my job but it got to the point where if I didn't do it then, I never would. So I took the plunge.

Tell us something about your early life.

I was born in Chennai in October 1974. In 1980, my family went back to Mangalore, a much smaller town in those days. We lived there until 1990, when my mother suddenly died and my father decided to leave India for Australia. For my Bachelors I went to Columbia University. After that I got a scholarship to do my M. Phil in English literature at Magdalene College, Oxford. Then I wanted to see the world, and thought the way to do it was through journalism. I was very lucky because back in 2000, the economy was booming. I just made the switch from academics to journalism overnight. I interned with Financial Times and then got a job with Time magazine and got to Delhi in 2003, and in 2006 I moved to Mumbai.

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