Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Secret Vindaloo- A Novel by Keith Butler

The Secret Vindaloo is an Anglo-Indian novel by Keith St. Clair Butler.
Suffering from a bout of food rage at the local food court, Anglo-Indian food critic Puttla Marks creates a hullabaloo over vindaloo, and is hauled off to the Melbourne Detention Centre.

There, the intrepid government interrogator Claude Anttick awaits. Convinced the culinary stoush is more than just an isolated incident, Anttick grills Puttla. The stakes are high. The authorities want Puttla to prove his patriotism or face deportation. Is Puttla up to the challenge? Can he dish up a story? Will Anttick swallow the repast?

Probably not. But Puttla’s going to give it one hell of a college try. After all, Memsahib Marks did not raise her boy to be a fool, she raised him to be British!

The Secret Vindaloo takes the reader on a wild and wickedly funny ride at street-level in a bygone Calcutta. With laser-like accuracy, the author cuts to the bone in a tale of identity: that which we seek, that which is thrust upon us, and maybe, in the midst of it all, discovering who we really are.

About the Author

India‐born Keith Butler is an Anglo-Indian writer living in New Zealand. Designated "stateless" by Indian legislature, he was literally thrown out of his homeland in 1972 although he says he "emigrated."

Disconsolate abroad, Butler became a stalker of Indians. Leaving aside the deadly head wobble, he compiled a longer list of signs on how to recognize sub-continentals in the diaspora. National agencies have approached him to purchase the list. Butler, also, became a coy Indian cuisine critic and started another batch of scribbling. Language-wise, he has ambitions to equal the cadences and eloquence of Hindi speaking Air India stewardesses, but it also has to be said that his lack of a proper knowledge of the language never stops him from carrying on the deepest philosophical conversations with Indians everywhere. Showing aplomb, (and borrowings from English), with his creative expression of Hindi, listeners suspect he was educated in some exclusive school in India where the true variant of the language was taught. Truth be told, Butler loves India and is a constant visitor! He singles out the Irish Christian Brothers for giving him a sound education with English grammar. Sometimes, this was imparted with a cane. Later, St Thomas' Boys school in Calcutta was his alma mater and he fondly remembers Raj connections with his old school. His first teaching job was in 1972 at St Xavier's Calcutta, and he then emigrated to Australia on the basis of being a qualified teacher. There, he obtained first-hand knowledge of Australian interrogation techniques, this time about Indian qualifications.

Forced into doing a Bachelor of Arts, he discovered the satirists Petronius to Parkes, lodging in the first floor of the Baillieu library of Melbourne University. Butler graduated and continued teaching English in Melbourne, albeit with a funny accent or so he was informed. Winning the prestigious Melbourne Age Short Story prize in 1998 for his entry "Sodasi", kicked started his writing career and he went on to be variously published by Penguin Short Story Collections (Australia), The Metro (Calcutta), The Age (Melbourne), Meanjin (Melbourne University), and Good Weekend (Melbourne - Sydney). His first novel, The Secret Vindaloo, was funded by The Literature Board of Australia and the Victorian Premier's Department. It is only a rumour that Butler spent a lot of that money sampling haute cuisine.

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