Harper Collins

Mathew Vincent

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published by Harper Collins


"A brilliant debut novel that paints the dazzling city of Mumbai in many hues."

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I was born in Kerala, India, and am deeply attached to the place, which is why it’s such an integral part of my first novel.

Home for me is Mumbai though, and has been for pretty much my entire life (quite a long one now, 38 years).

I’d describe myself as an average Mumbaikar, which means that I don’t speak Marathi very well, and have a working knowledge of Bambaiyya Hindi. This presupposes of course that I have some inside dope on gangster-speak and the Hindi Film Industry. The truth, I confess, is that I’m absolutely smitten by the movies and would love to work on a film someday.
Books though are my real addiction. My choice is eclectic (nice word, I know) and I read pretty much anything I can lay my hands on, chick lit included.

For the record it took me over 8 years to finish writing Arrack in the Afternoon and before you start conjuring up eco-unfriendly visions of multiple redrafts and mountains of crumpled paper I would like to spell out the real reasons, which were three-fold (and no, it was not because I was under the influence):



My day job as a salesman in a chemical company (fragrance chemicals, if that’s easier to digest).

Hopefully my next book, which I’m working on currently, should take less time to complete. As things stand my hourly rate is far, far less than the statutory minimum, my publishers please note.


Arrack in the Afternoon is a satire set in modern-day Mumbai, which deals with one man’s search for meaning and fulfilment, and how this is subverted by the mores and rigors of the metropolis, the metaphoric “Big City” in which he lives.

The protagonist, Verghese Konnikara, is the quintessential loser, a chronically depressed alcoholic, who decides one day to end it all by throwing himself under a truck on the highway.

Fate however and his own lack of resolve conspire to save him, and then, following a convoluted series of events, he finds himself cast in the role of a godman, a new-age spiritualist who is avidly sought after by some of the most powerful people in the country.

Other characters in the novel include Patricia Murphy, Verghese’s Indo-Irish girlfriend who owns the liquor adda that he frequents, Pillaichan, an ex-commie turned petite bourgeois and Verghese’s closest friend, and Karan Sarin, former pimp turned porn film producer who sees Verghese as an easy means to wealth and power.

The book traces a lurid path through the underbelly of the metropolis and delves into the phenomenon of instant fame, which is now such an integral part of our celebrity culture.


The book had bombed, and that was all he could think of. Not a single copy sold.

Oddly enough he was brooding over the state of his finances, although money (or the lack of it) had never troubled him overly in the past. Tête-à-têtes on national television. A feature in India Today. Perhaps even breakfast with the President, who was reputedly a poet himself. This was what he had dreamed about, and aspired for, and it all lay buried now, beneath an enormous pile of unsold books, a mound of debt and a mountain of humiliation.

So much for vanity publishing.

It was a morbid, muggy evening, as many such evenings are in October. The humidity nestled in the nineties and there were sure to be thundershowers after sunset. An occasional breeze stirred up dust on both sides of the highway and cars and trucks rumbled past, leaving fleeting trails of noxious fumes to the mercy of the wind. There was a certain lull in the air, morose and ominous. It was that kind of an evening - oppressive, and stained with a sense of even more unpleasantness to come.