The author of the novel that inspired Slumdog Millionaire is surprised that some movie­goers don’t see the Oscar favorite as a celebration of India, said Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in The Wall Street Journal. Vikas Swarup, a 48-year-old Indian diplomat, wrote the book, Q&A, in eight weeks back in 2003 when he was about to leave London for a new post. Even before he decided to make the novel’s teenage hero a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, he was determined to dramatize the idea that an uneducated kid from India’s notorious slums could lift himself up. Hardship upon hardship couldn’t defeat the boy. “That’s the spirit of India,” Swarup says. “People move on with their lives. Nobody sits and moans and groans.”

Swarup, whose parents were both lawyers, is no expert on slum life, said Stuart Jeffries in the London Guardian. “I don’t know if it’s true that there are beggar masters who blind children to make them more effective when they beg on the streets,” he says about one of Slumdog’s most chilling scenes. “It may be an urban myth, but it’s useful to my story.” Regarding his own fairy-tale transformation from unknown bureaucrat to celebrated author, Swarup speaks more cautiously—insisting that he will never give up his day job. Why not? “There’s no better time to be an Indian diplomat,” he says. “India is the flavor of the season!”