David McMahon



In India:
#1 Oxford Book Store Bestseller
#3 Statesman bestseller
#5 Telegraph bestseller

David McMahon is a well known journalist in Australia. The novel was published by Penguin India under the title Vegemite Vindaloo.

In this affecting novel the lives of two families in India become intricately entwined. At the upper end of the social spectrum are Steve and Hilary Cooper and their 11-year-old son Clive.

At the opposite end is Ismail Aziz, a poor man who steals money to buy medicine for his infant son Azam. He then flees with his wife, Zarina, and the baby.

Arriving in Calcutta, a city of 17 million, with no resources and no family, they reside on the station platform. Desperate to provide for his wife and son, Ismail cleans cars near a local market. When he spots Steve Cooper and begs him for work, Ismail’s luck changes.

The Coopers beloved maid Fatty Ayah must leave them and their life is thrown into chaos. They hire Zarina who asks to bring her baby Azam with her into their home while she works. The Coopers reluctantly agree, breaching the unwritten rule in class-conscious Calcutta that servants’ children never enter an employer’s household.

Baby Azam gradually captures Steve’s heart. Hilary is cooler but soon follows her husband’s lead. As Azam becomes a fixture in the Cooper household, receiving the same privileges as a natural son, old friends cut them out of their lives. The Coopers have betrayed them by “fraternizing’’ with the servant class.

In a situation worthy of Solomon, Ismail and Zarina must decide if they will allow Azam to leave them so that he can be adopted by the Coopers when they emigrate to Australia.

In Melbourne, Hilary finds work immediately, but Steve, like Ismail, washes cars for a living before he finally gains his footing and joins Qantas.

And the boys? They adjust to Australian life. One even becomes a football hero, but you must to wait until the last sentence to find out if it is Azam or Clive.


David McMahon was born and educated in India, where he was shortlisted for a Rhodes Scholarship before entering journalism instead. He has lived in Melbourne for 17 years and in 2002 was a finalist in the Walkley Awards, the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzers. The Servant’s Son is his first novel.

Penguin India 2006
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