you something interesting. There's an Australian native tree,
a type of wattle called the hakea. There is just one way for
it to spread its seeds and propagate: only bushfires open its
seed pods. No other way. So what looks to some people like destruction
is actually the only way this great tree can survive and spread.’
Ismail flees his village in Bihar one night with his wife, Zarina, and
infant son, Azam, and, overnight, moves from being a respected tea-stall owner
to a pavement-dweller in a massive, forbidding city. With no roof over his
head, unsure of where his next meal would come from, Ismail struggles with
the challenges of this strange new world.
Across town, Steve Cooper, a dashing young pilot, is looking for domestic
help. A chance encounter leads to Zarina being hired as an ayah, and Ismail
and his family come to live with the Coopers. As the months go by, little Azam
slowly finds a place in the hearts of the Coopers, and although Steve faces
strong opposition from society, he refuses to treat the son of his maid any
different from his own son.
When the Coopers find out that their application to migrate to Australia
has been approved, Steve hopes that the new country will give Azam the
equal opportunity that will continue to be denied to him in India because
of his parentage. But will Azam’s biological parents give him up that
easily? And will Steve really find Australia to be the promised land he thinks
As hilarious as it is heartbreaking, Vegemite Vindaloo is a tale about
the unexpected twists that life can take, and the courage it takes to leave
behind all that you knew and start over.
Where can you buy the book?
4. Penguin Books India
Shop around . . . the prices vary considerably.
Vegemite Vindaloo ( )
Author : David McMahon
Publisher : Penguin
Cost : Indian Rupees 295
The opportunities we have define
who we are, and how we use them
affect who we become. That’s
the theme of Vegemite Vindaloo, a
novel that spans the life-changing
experiences of two very different
families, one of upper-middle-class
Anglo Indians and the other of
Bihari Muslims. Everyone’s
caught up in the business of change,
whether of heart, circumstance
or homeland – and that includes
the friends, relatives and acquaintances
of these two families.
Ismail and Zarina flee
Bihar with their infant
Azam and find themselves
in the home of Steve and
Hilary Cooper in Kolkata.
This is the start of a
new life for Azam, who
grows up like a foster
brother to Clive, the Coopers’ son.
Things are rosy until the
Coopers are granted permission
to emigrate to Australia.
Zarina and Ismail must
decide if they can part
with their son to give
him a better chance in
Much like his Anglo-Indian
author David McMahon was
born in Kolkata and emigrated
to Australia, so he’s
able to detail with some
authenticity his community’s
unique blend of belief
systems and values. The
prejudices, colourful speech
patterns and idiosyncrasies
of the Coopers make for
some ironic comedy. But
lost when it comes to the
Bihari Muslim family. Ismail
and Zarina are a kind of
timeless stereotype of
their class and community,
and devoid of the rich
humour and characterisation
of the Coopers.
This is an optimistic,
feel-good novel. Immigration
applications work out;
corruption and malice are
contained; the needy show
extraordinary talent when
given a chance. And nothing
really bad happens to anyone.
It’s a prime example
of how a novel can proceed
from a clear, well-defined
theme,and remain so stuck
to its plot line that it
lacks all space to grow.
The march of events is
predetermined, and a higher
standard of living the
ultimate goal. What room
can there be for debate?
Source : Time
Out Mumbai ISSUE
July 14, 2006
ABOUT DAVID MCMAHON
David is a Melbourne-based journalist
and internationally-published photographer.
`Born and educated in India, he finished
high school at St Joseph's College, North Point,
Darjeeling and university at St Xavier's College,
Calcutta, and has lived in Australia
for 18 years.
"Vegemite Vindaloo" is his first
novel and was published in April 2006
by Penguin Books India.
Read more by and about him at http://david-mcmahon.blogspot.com/
on an interesting review by Terry Fletcher titled
" Wizard from Oz" on The
Anglo Indian Portal