Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Vegemite Vindaloo - my first novel


Vegemite Vindaloo, a work of fiction, was published by Penguin India in April 2006.


I grew up in a huge colonial-era home at 3 Dumayne Avenue, alongside the Calcutta docks, where my father was the traffic manager and my uncle the docks manager. Our home - to which I recently made a pilgrimage with my wife and our three Australia-born children and which is documented at - was filled with bookcases and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and what must have been several thousand books.

I was one of four siblings, but as my brothers were much older than me, they were already at boarding school by the time I learnt how to read at my mother's knee.

I read voraciously as a child. When I had finished every Enid Blyton book in the house, I progressed to the wonderful ``William'' series by Richmal Crompton. Then I became immersed in the many sporting biographies and autobiographies that belonged to my brothers and my father, little knowing that in my early twenties I would become a sportswriter and work in the media centres at the world-famous sporting venues - Lord's, the MCG, the Eden Gardens, Wimbledon - so evocatively described in those beautiful hardcover volumes.

Books consumed me. At Christmas I asked for books. For birthdays I asked for books. On outings to the New Market I asked for books. I reckon I always had a book close at hand. One year, when I must have been about twelve years old, we were packing for our annual winter trip to the awe-inspiring tiger sanctuaries of Hazaribagh, the mother of my closest friend threatened, entirely jocularly of course, to leave me as tiger bait if I took my books with me.


In many ways, I have my eldest daughter, Leanne, to thank for the fact that Vegemite Vindaloo is soon to be released. Some time ago, I had three chapters of an untitled novel sitting, half-forgotten, on my computer. She kept telling me to complete the novel and so, eventually, I went back to it and took her advice.


The novel is set in India and Australia, the two countries in which I have spent my life. It is about an Anglo-Indian family, Steve and Hilary Cooper, who cause a social shockwave when they adopt Azam, the infant son of Zarina, their replacement servant. They then migrate to Australia with Clive, their own son, and Azam, the servant's son. Several challenges and an ironic twist await them in Australia. Steve Cooper, a commercial pilot, struggles with the notion of taking on menial work, but a couple of knockabout blokes in Jindaroo Creek, a tiny outback settlement, teach him the significance of the hakea tree, a type of wattle that only releases its seed pods in the searing heat of a bushire. Frank Walker, a city slicker-turned-bush pilot, tells the new migrant: ``What looks to some people like destruction is actually the only way this great tree can survive and spread''. It is a salutary lesson in life and eventually Steve Cooper finds his place in a country that welcomes him with open arms.


The cover of Vegemite Vindaloo is the brainchild of Chandan Crasta, a graphic designer with Penguin India. He has his own blog, with several examples of his work and the cover of my novel can be viewed at where he explains the all-encompassing concept that governs his work.

I have no formal design background and am certainly not an art critic, but I think he's done a great job by producing a segmented cover, with two strong images that - like the plot itself - divide the whole concept into an Indian half and an Australian half.

I also like Chandan's subtle touch of splitting the novel's title as well, using the word Vegemite in capitals and the word Vindaloo in lower case, to emphasise the difference between two cultures.


The novel is a tale of many journeys, both physical and metaphorical. Ismail, the young Muslim caretaker of a roadside tea stall, finds himself with little choice but to leave Bhowalpur with his wife Zarina and their baby son, Azam. They board a train under cover of darkness and it is only as the train gathers speed in the all-enveloping Indian night that he realises he has no idea where it is taking them.

There is also the journey of Tariq, Ismail's father, who once ran away from home and found work as a child labourer, working from dawn to dusk in the harshest conditions imaginable.

The journeys of Tariq and Ismail have a significant bearing later in the novel, when an emotional Zarina wrestles with her earlier decision to let the Coopers take her son, Azam, with them as they leave India.

Then there is Captain Sailen Nath Banerji, a senior pilot with Indian Airlines, who has made a significant social journey that he must keep secret, for fear that it will ruin his career. He reveals his amazing tale to the Coopers, but asks that they in turn respect his privacy by not discussing his revelation with anyone.

There is also the side-play that is the journey of Hilary Cooper's sister, Edith. She is married to Robert Bushell, a simpleton who struggled through school, but who is a hard-working, devoted husband and father. The Bushells' acceptance of Australia is a hybrid of joy, naivete and - just occasionally - embarrassment as well.

Additionally, there are the stories told narrated by other migrants, at a barbecue at Jells Park to mark the Coopers' first day in Melbourne. They are tales of change, of acceptance and of adaption to a new, sometimes strange, way of life.

Even the two main Australian-born characters in the novel have made significant journeys of their own. Frank Walker, city-bred corporate climber, finds his way to Jindaroo Creek and in a moment of bravado, buys the little airborne sightseeing operation and immediately re-names it Dirty Fokker Flight Services. The local publican, Wally Bennett, is a former shearer who scorned the notion of professional therapy after losing a leg in a drunken road accident. Both men have left behind vastly different lives to come to Jindaroo Creek, where they strike up a memorable father-son relationship in the bush outpost where they have found life's peace.


Bhowalpur in eastern India, where Ismail and Zarina live, is a fictional town. But the way of life is an accurate parallel to experiences in thousands of real-geography towns and cities dotted through the subcontinent.

Likewise, Jindaroo Creek does not exist. According to the novel, its name reflects typical Australian humour - because there's no creek at Jindaroo Creek, a place as dry as a bushman's boot.


``I'll tell 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 it is?

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.


How would we manage without email and the Internet? I live and work in Melbourne, while Penguin India are based in New Delhi and my agent, Beverley Slopen, operates out of Toronto. Yet we manage to operate cohesively because of technology.


Even before I had finished the last page of Vegemite Vindaloo, there was another novel taking shape in my subconscious. As the ideas filtered through, I wrote a brief synopsis of what was to become my second novel. It is called The Jadu Master and is the story of what seems to be an inaccurate prediction made by a favoured magician in the court of a major Indian kingdom. The story spans several intersecting lives and is set across pre-Partition India, wartime Britain and Germany, present-day Australia, Canada and Alaska.

The novel begins with the present-day discovery of a crashed Spitfire in Kent. Inside the cockpit are the remains of the pilot, an Indian prince.

The events that follow provide a series of links between seemingly unrelated events, as if to prove that life's synchronicity is unavoidable.

How would you describe The Jadu Master in one sentence? I guess you would call it a love story.


None of this would have been possible without the love and support of my wife and children and my extended family.

Nor would it have been possible without the enthusiasm of my mother, Phyllis Mary McMahon, who read to me constantly before she taught me how to read. Well schooled in Latin and French, she passed on to me her love of the many subtle nuances of the English language and how the telling of a tale was one of life's many artforms.

I was lucky enough, too, to have many wonderful teachers through my educational journey. They are mentioned by name in the opening acknowledgement to Vegemite Vindaloo.

In particular, I must mention Mrs Sheila Geileskey, who taught me in primary school and now lives in Perth. She gave me what I guess was my first taste of elocutory publishing, by encouraging me to bring my short stories to school and to read them aloud to my classmates. The day Penguin India offered me a contract for Vegemite Vindaloo, I rang Mrs Geileskey in Western Australia. She congratulated me warmly, but said it came as no surprise to her, for she had seen some talent in an inky schoolboy all those years ago. She had always known, she told me on the phone, that I would one day be a published author.


(Or, how to make the most of two days in the former Olympic host city)

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A few minutes later, not far away from the flower stall, I was photographing the Notre Dame Basilica at West Metro Place-d'Armes when I saw the unusual sight above. The purple and white sign hanging on the side of the cathedral, on the right of the picture, announces the special sound and light show that is such a huge tourism drawcard. In large letters, it proclaims (fittingly) the biblical phrase from the Creation: ``And then there was light''. To my good luck, a maintenance worker was using a ladder to change a light globe in the cathedral forecourt. He stopped and quickly descended the ladder as I fired off this shot, catching the banner and the changing of the faulty light globe. He apologised profusely for ruining my shot. Instead, I assured him that quite the reverse had happened. He had just given me a wonderful picture. Timing, as they say, is 99 per cent about luck.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is what the good citizens of Montreal refer to as the Lipstick Forest. The manmade pink ``trees'' were the perfect foil for the recessed ceiling lights that reflected off the concourse.


(So, this must be the Paris end of Canada, right?)

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This picture could be taken anywhere in Europe, but I can assure you I was actually in the Lower Town area of Quebec City. Being on this street in particular is like stepping back in time. In the centre of the frame you can see the funicular - such an integral part of the city.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was down by the waterfront and had just photographed the marina when the light began to fade. When I was a kid, we were always taught only to use cameras in the right conditions, but part of the joy of photography lies in breaking the rules. As I walked away from the marina, I saw signs pointing to the Naval Museum and looked up to see this mock ship's figurehead with an old-time mariner, carved from wood, surveying the city through his telescope. It still turned out to be a decent picture, but you could say the subject was a little, shall we say, wooden.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken at the Montmorency Falls, which are actually higher than Niagara but obviously not as wide. I ignored the normal shots from below and beside the falls. Instead, I opted for the (perfectly safe) option of the walkway directly above the cascade. I leaned against the railings (praying that they were constructed of sturdy stuff) and extended my arms as far as they would go to take this frame, directly above the roiling water. I was there in late September, but I guess you could say it was definitely the fall season.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is the laneway in the city where you go if you're looking for an amazing array of art. It's like being in a scaled-down version of Montmarte. I wish I had a career as an artist, but my art teacher always said my future was a bit sketchy.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Want to experience the ghosts of Quebec City? Then join the twilight ghost tour, led by guides dressed in period costume and carrying lanterns. The important thing is to get into the spirit of the task.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Just in case you thought I'd forgotten all about the Chateau Frontenac - no, I haven't. Before I got to Quebec City, I often wondered how a single building could be a symbol of a city. But it slowly dawned on me, the more I saw of the city, that the Chateau, visible from just about everywhere, is the single dominant image in a city where you could take a thousand photographs each day. The shot above was taken pre-dawn on 17 September last year. It was raining heavily, there was low cloud of the St Lawrence River, the city lights were still on in the gloom, but there on the left is the Chateau, standing guard over Samuel Champlain's city like a faithful sentinel.


Ms Alisha said...

This sounds like an excellent novel. I cant wait to get my hands on a copy. When does it hit Australian shelves?

david mcmahon said...

``Hi Dave, I'm so pleased your career as a writer of novels is going so well. Congratulations. Don't know how you find the time, but I'm not in the slightest way surprised that you do. I had a quick skim of your website, and it confirmed again what a fine cut of a man you are. I haven't had a chance to read it in detail, but your bio was good value. Keep well, big fella.''
- Mark Fuller, sports editor, `The Age', Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
Thanks for the kind words, Markus. I guess I'll have to send you a cut of the royalties for that comment about being a fine cut of a man. You want to know where I find the time? I just pretend each day has 28 hours, so the ploy is obviously working.

``Here's a cover blurb (just because I haven't read the book shouldn't disqualify me from reviewing it): I moaned and groaned with agony as each brain-spittingly horrific pun tumbled from the page. It's not just that Mr McMahon is evil, it's that he so clearly takes such great pleasure from inflicting pain in others. Seriously, well done. I always knew there was some work to be got out of you ;-)''
- Jeff Glorfeld, senior journalist, `The Age', Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
After all those years working together at Spencer Street, I can just picture you shaking your head in despair as you posted that comment, Jeff. Despite your gruff exterior, you are a gentleman and a scholar. And, replying directly to your accusation that I love an occasional pun, all I can say is that you are now a groan man.

david mcmahon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
david mcmahon said...

Unlike Mark "I'll -just-have-a-quick-skim" Fuller, I've had an in-depth read of your blog and it's a corker. The novel sounds terrific - don't all Indian writers end up winning the Booker at some stage? Look forward to publishing a review in the mag...let me know when the author tour hits Sydney. Congrats, mate. So many journos talk about it. You’ve done it.
- Garry Linnell, editor-in-chief, `The Bulletin'
(Webmaster's note: Garry Linnell won a Walkley Award for feature writing in 1998 with the story `Hope Lives Here'. He is also the author of `Football Ltd:
The Inside Story of the AFL' and `Playing God: The Rise and Fall of Garry Ablett'.)

David McMahon's reply:
Hope you go drnking with good lawyers in Sydney, Garry. You might need one - or three - after Markus Fuller arcs up over your comment about his propensity to ``skim''. He'd probably argue that beauty is just skim-deep.

david mcmahon said...

Warmest congratulations, David. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of `Vegemite Vindaloo'. Do you think it will be available here in Canada, or will I have to ask friends to mail me a copy from either India, Blighty or Oz? Too bad you weren't here in the best part of Canada - British Columbia - so it would have featured on your blog too! Next time, maybe?
- Margaret Deefholts, Vancouver, Canada (Author of `Haunting India')

David McMahon's reply:
Penguin India have the rights on the subcontinent, Margaret. But I'm hoping that other publishers will pick up the novel in different countries. Shall keep you posted.

david mcmahon said...

``David - just went on and had a look - SENSATIONAL stories!''
- Donna Brinkhaus, executive director, Asia-Pacific, Canadian Tourism Commission

David McMahon's reply:
Thanks, Donna. Have to admit I've had great fun constructing the blog.

david mcmahon said...

``Let me just sum up your Muskoka photographs by saying: WOW. You have a really great eye for taking simple things that residents such as myself would take for granted. You really have a way of making a subject 'pop' in the frame with your level of artistry. Muskoka is so well known in Canada that many photographic subjects here have almost become clichéd: your perspective as a visitor literally from the other side of the world will help us lift these icons back up and dust them off so that they can be seen and appreciated in
a new light. Our 2006 publications are going to be much richer for the opportunity to reprint some of your work.''
- Allan Cook, marketing manager, Muskoka Tourism, Ontario, Canada

David McMahon's reply:
In all honesty, Allan, it's hard to take a mediocre photograph of a spectacular vista - and there are so many memorable places in your part of the world.

Fletch said...


Whilst doing a bit of 'Admin' on my website I spotted a referral from your Blog. Since I hadn't any inkling that you'd started a Blog, I wandered over to find a very interesting bit of real-estate on the web. Congratulations.

I was enthralled with your easy style of writing and interested to see that "Vegemite Vindaloo" is about to be published. Good luck with the sales.

The photographs on the Blog are of a terrific quality - I guess it reflects the fact that perhaps you were/are a pro photographer. If not, you should seriously consider selling your work!

I've linked you to my site and I shall visit as often as I am on-line, which is daily.

Terry Fletcher
Anglo-Indian Portal

david mcmahon said...

``Put me down for a copy of the book, signed of course!''
- Robert Upe, senior journalist, `The Age', Melbourne (Author of `The Snow Guide to Australia and NZ')

David McMahon's reply:
I'd never put anyone down, least of all a top bloke like you, Rob. Jokes aside, I shall hand-deliver it to your front door - and I'll stand there, looking over your shoulder, while you read it.

david mcmahon said...

``Nice blog, David. Write a daily sports column.''
- Binoo K. John, New Delhi, author of `Under A Cloud - Life in Cherrapunji, the Wettest Place on Earth', published by Penguin India

David McMahon's reply:
Writing a blog is sport enough, Binoo.

``Enjoyed your blogsite and look forward to reading `Vegemite Vindaloo'. There are commonalities in our backgrounds: Calcutta was my home from home when I was growing up in India, and then there's the world of sports. I was at `Sports Illustrated' as a copy editor for decades.
- Sylvia Staub, author, from Arizona, USA

David McMahon's reply:
Thanks Sylvia, hope you have as much fun reading `Vegemite Vindaloo' as I had writing it.

``Just went to the blog and read up on the book, can't wait to read it!! When does it hit the bookstores? Congratulations. It really does sound wonderful. Just finished `Shantaram' also by an Australian who winds up in Mumbai. There's a switch!''
- Erick (Nari) Avari, Hollywood actor and proud North Pointer from Darjeeling (credits include `The Mummy', `Daredevil', `Home Alone 4' and `The LA Riot Spectacular' and the role of General Samir in `The Librarian 2' (TV-2006). Official website

David McMahon's reply:
Great to hear from you, Nari. The book is to be released in March by Penguin India. Of course, it's no surprise that our alma mater, St Joseph's College, North Point, in Darjeeling figures in the narrative.

``Congratulations David, I see from your blog that some of my colleagues have you up for a Booker prize already ... I'm putting money on you for the Pulitzer and the Nobel, apart from not being a girl (which you are kind of) you have the world covered: an Irish name (good for the US, Canada and Germany) an English-ish education (good for Sheffield and Norths), an Indian upbringing (good for India, Sri Lanka and Kathmandu) and an Australian adulthood (good for Australia, Christmas Island and the outer suburbs of Wagga Wagga) .... the bad news is that your sales will suck in Pakistan, New Zealand, Ireland (you would be a blow-in), the Antarctic and Tasmania. Congratulations again, make sure you invite Dominica and me to your launch.
- Seamus Bradley, senior journalist, `The Age', Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
You're not putting much pressure on me, are you, Seamus? D-uh, I'm miffed you forgot to nominate me for a) an Oscar, b) UN Secretary-General c) Pope. Dominica gets a front-row seat at the launch. Dunno about you, though! By the way, good luck on the comedy circuit, especially in Wagga Wagga.

``Quite surprised to learn of your attachment to old Calcutta!''
- Sanjit Kumar Sen, former newspaper executive, Bangalore, India

David McMahon's reply:
``You know what they say ... you can take the boy from Calcutta, but you can never take Calcutta from the boy. It is where life began for me, where I met the schoolgirl who became my wife, and the city where she and I were married. It is also the city where I learnt the basics of journalism.''

david mcmahon said...

``Great stuff, David. Visited and enjoyed your site. I look forward to picking up a copy of `Vegemite Vindaloo' soon - I have friends who can send me one. There's also an American site that deals in books from India, and maybe they'll have it.''
- Lionel Lumb, associate professor, Carleton University School of Journalism & Communication, Ottawa, Canada

David McMahon's reply:
``Glad you liked it, Lionel. But if I keep up with my commitment of trying to reply to every person who posts a comment here, I might never have the time to write another novel! Hope we meet up on my next trip to the beautiful country you live in.''

david mcmahon said...

David my good ole man!
I'd either forgotten what a good writer you are or you've become an
incredibly good one in your old age! I certainly will be getting hold of your book when we are in Mumbai in June, assuming that you are not publishing in the US of A prior to that! Really enjoyed browsing thru your blog! Proud of you my boy!
- Nowshir Bilimoria, Bayer executive, United States
(Proud alumnus of St Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling)

David McMahon's reply:
Old age? You and me, the former classmates, getting on in years? Naaah. Let's just say we're `life-experienced', which is probably a handy euphemism for getting a bit long in the tooth!

nirmal said...

Hey David, wow congratulations on your novel!! Can't wait to get hold of it!! :) - nirmal

nirmal said...

Hey David, Wow congratulations on the novel! Can't wait to read it! Good to hear from you loud and clear my friend!! :)

david mcmahon said...

David McMahon's reply to Nirmal Ghosh, senior journalist and foreign correspondent from Bangkok, Thailand:
``Hi Nirmal. Great to hear from someone who has been a close friend for 30 years. Did I say 30 years? Crikey, we're almost as old as the Victoria Memorial in our hometown, Calcutta - but infinitely better preserved! Well, it's time you finished that half-finished novel that you told me about in 2003.''

``We have been reading your blog. We both reckon the title and the cover are winners. We have a friend visiting us from Dubai, and he agreed too - the title and cover just invite you to buy it. They are both so evocative.''
- Mike and Syl, Prague

David McMahon's reply:
``I guess it's the only way I could claim to be `titled gentry' - even though neither word really applies to me. Glad you liked the choice of `Vegemite Vindaloo' for the title. I think the segmented cover design evokes the two separate cultures really well. The cover design is by Chandan Crasta, a graphic designer at Penguin India, who has featured it on his own blog at

david mcmahon said...

``A very interesting site. Enjoyed reading it. I especially enjoyed reading the link about your trip to Calcutta when you visited your home.''
- Annette Tanner, schoolteacher, Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
``Thank you, Annette. I really value your opinion (okay, I'll stop twisting your arm now!). The former family home in Calcutta will always be a precious place in my heart and I guess the depth of feeling is apparent in the description of the day I took my own wife and our Australian-born children to share in the understanding of the place where my brothers and I enjoyed am unforgettable upbringing.''

david mcmahon said...

``Mate, fantastic, you have many great attributes apart from not imbibing in spirituous and fermented alcohol. The pics certainly bring back great memories. Good luck with your new chosen direction.''
- John Savage, media and marketing expert, Sydney, Australia

David McMahon's reply:
Thanks, John, for your kind words.
But let me jog your memory to the Alaskan cruise in May 1999. Remember the American couple, Rick and Molly Fezell, who were part of a huge contingent on the ship? You might recall that on the second day of the cruise, they wanted to buy me a drink and I responded with a flippant but factually correct ``I only drink cold water, I'm a cheap date'' - and they were aghast. They could not understand how someone could keep company with you and sing lustily - but not always tunefully - around the grand piano, to the utter horror of other well-heeled cruise passengers and appear completely tipsy (to the casual onlooker) while on a water-only intake.

And a swift rejoinder from John Savage yet again:

``You only remember 'cause you were on cold water. I suppose it's another wonderful wonder of the world. PS: Did we also go to Alaska!!!!''

David McMahon's definitive reply:
In a word - YES. They still have your face on the local currency in Juneau, Ketchikan and Haines. And my face? I reckon it's still on all those Wanted posters after accompanying you to every pub in the state.

david mcmahon said...

``Big fella, I had a look at the most excellent site. It's very impressive. And congrats on the books deal. I cannot think of anyone more deserving. I'm looking forward to having a read.''
- Michael Vaughan, rock aficionado, passionate Cold Chisel fan, Collingwood supporter, corridor cricket legend, stylemeister whose hand-made cowboy boots come with matching corporate briefcase and who, just incidentally, is a senior journalist at `The Age', Melbourne

Webmaster's note: The aforesaid Mister Vaughan once had to write a headline for a major `Sunday Age' doublespread feature on AFL footballers and the growing number of serious knee injuries - and came up with the memorable head: WHEN THE JOINT IS ROCKIN'

David McMahon's reply:
``Kind words from a person for whom I have nothing but the greatest personal and professional respect. That said, let me remind you that you were the only bloke in the crowd of 96,000, at the 1995 Collingwood-Essendon Anzac Day blockbuster that ended in a draw, who did not know that the scores were level at 111-111. In that light, when you get to the end of `Vegemite Vindaloo', maybe young Markus Fuller or Rohit Brijnath - or even me, perish the thought - should guide you through the final words, just to be sure.''

david mcmahon said...

Hi David, from the outline, `Vegemite Vindaloo' seems a lot of fun and I am keen to read it. You seem to be enjoying a nice life since you left `The Age', and you have revitalised my conviction that there is indeed a life after deadlines.
- Andrew Dyson, columnist and dual Walkley Award winner in 2004 and 2005 for, respectively, best artwork (``Media Software'') and best cartoon (``John's Green Day).

David McMahon's reply:
``Speaking of deadlines reminds me of your classic cartoon that I used in a Powerpoint presentation during my time as managing edior (production) of The Age. The cartoon showed four disciples with completed gospels and a little bloke running along behind them, still scribbling hastily on his unfurled scroll. Your caption was ``Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - and Cyril, who missed the deadline.'' Great to hear from you, my erudite friend, but you and I shall always have a surfeit of printers' ink in our veins. Nothing wrong with that, either.''

Had a good look at your blog site last night. Excellent work and looks very professional. Some of the photographs were exceptionally good. As a matter of fact I have one of the pictures as my desktop background right now.
- Jack Timmins, schoolteacher, Melbourne, Australia

David McMahon's reply:
``Very flattered that you've chosen a picture for your desktop, Jack. Thank you for your kind words.''

Lino D'Costa said...

Hi Dave,

It’s great to see to you seize this opportunity of the heart and take a major step towards a life long dream. I’m expecting that Vegemite Vindaloo will be only the first of many novels that will enable you to share your views, perspectives and observations with the world at large.

I can only imagine that there is much that you will offer from all that I see as you faithfully fulfill your roles as a husband, father, colleague, friend to many. I can only imagine the sense of excitement and adventure you will experience as each novel evolves from the initial idea to a best selling piece of work. I can only imagine the stories and pictures and cherished memories that will speak truth to minds, influence actions for good and bring joy to the hearts of thousands. I can only imagine your family celebrating the launch and success of each new offering. I’m sure you can imagine all this too.

As you know, the journey of success is not without its challenges. I have full confidence though that you possess the fortitude and strength to give it your best and to see it all the way through. I’ll leave you with a thought a school friend penned to me many years ago. It conjures up a picture that helps me to focus and always press on. Don’t be afraid of opposition. Remember, a kite rises against, not with the wind.

David, I pray that God will bless you and your family abundantly in this exciting venture and also in all things you put your hand and heart to.

Regards & love

Lino D’Costa
Melbourne, Australia

david mcmahon said...

David McMahon's reply:
``What can I say, Lino, when you have said it so generously and so eloquently? If you would permit me a (rare) moment of flippancy, I'd also like to quote from a school friend who wrote in my farewell autograph book (deliberately misquoting The Beatitudes: ``Blessed is he who sits on a pin, for he shall rise''.

david mcmahon said...

``Have read some of the pages of your blog with interest and fasination. Well done. You have done a great job. You have even concocted a new word on page 10 ``figital''. We would love to read your first novel.''
June and Don Collins, Sydney, Australia

David McMahon's reply:
Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa - which as we all know is Latin for `I stuffed it up'. Figital? Ah, that would be a reference to my figital camera. It's the same sort of technology as a pay-TV figital set-top box.

david mcmahon said...

``It does give a much-needed dekho at your life and times and, secondly, shows that you are clearly a class photographer who promises to be a class novelist once the book sees the light of day.''
- Ajay and Gouri, Mumbai, India

David McMahon's reply:
Hi Ajay and Gouri, my humble thanks for your generous comments. It's interesting that you use the adjective ``class'' not once but twice. I hope you didn't mean ``crass''. Also, I hope your crystal ball is in sharp focus.

``You have put in an amazing amount in your life!''
- Jayaditya Gupta, sports editor, `Indian Express' newspaper, New Delhi, India

David McMahon's reply:
``Just lucky, I reckon. Fortunate, too, to have had great role models, good friends and terrific family.''

``Congrats on your book. Can’t wait to read it. I expect an autographed copy that I can pass on to my descendants as a family heirloom.''
- Vincent Rosario, Tairawhiti, New Zealand (classmate, lifelong friend and proud alumnus of St Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling)

David McMahon's reply:
``Let's just say I was fortunate to have good classmates, Vincent!''

``Must get a copy of your book.''
- Devika and Joy, Singapore

David McMahon's reply
``Hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.''

``Congrats! Looks like the novel would make some good reading
material. Guess I will get a copy autographed by you.''
- Bryce D'Silva, Mumbai, India

David McMahon's reply:
``As my former colleague, I think you might be a bit biased in my favour. But I certainly hope you're right.''

``You're a funny man. Do we all get copies of the book?''
- Nicole Cleary, mX photographer, Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
``Anyone who says I'm funny, can you please tell my kids that? They just roll their eyes as if they're having teeth pulled.''

david mcmahon said...

``Hi Dave, old chap. First of all let me congratulate you on your first novel. From one author to another, let me tell you it is a great feeling to write your first book. I should know! But the thrill continues and I felt as excited as writing my eighth book last year.''
- Partab Ramchand, Chennai, India
(Author, cricket commentator and former colleague on `Sportsworld' weekly magazine)

David McMahon's reply:
``Great to know you're making headlines instead of writing them. As for your fledgling film career, you might be the next in a long line of film stars to go into politics and become chief minister.''

david mcmahon said...

Very exciting news about your novel. Some great comments on the blogsite. Loved the pictures you posted.
- Jackie Giteau, Canberra, ACT

David McMahon's reply:
``As my niece and god-daughter, those are just the sort of things you are expected to say!''

david mcmahon said...

Wow. So impressive.
- Harbant Gill, arts editor, Herald Sun, Melbourne

``Such an elegant blog, and when you get around to it, might you add some words and pics about your time in Darjeeling? - a place I have been curious about ever since I was eight and won a tin of Twining's Darjeeling in a hoopla, though at that time I didn't know Darjeeling was a place, or a type of tea; I thought it was the gerund of a verb. "What is it?" I said, handing the tin to my mother. "It's tea," she said. "Didn't you realise that when you were aiming hoops at it?" "No," I said. "I thought tea only came in sad little bags that, when dunked in mugs, look like drowned animals. So, can you make it for me?" She boiled the water and filled the kettle, and I watched and waited for something miraculous to happen. Finally I said "Has it darjeeled yet?" She eyed me suspiciously. "Has it WHAT?"
Anyway, many years and megalitres and some proper teacups later, Darjeeling is still my favourite tea ... and as my whole family now says "to darjeel", it is the herb that became a verb!!!
Alison Barclay, Herald Sun, Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
``Thanks, Harb and Alison, for your kind words. The good news is that there is indeed mention of Darjeeling in `Vegemite Vindaloo' - and more so in my second novel, `The Jadu Master'. The Himalayan town with the backdrop of Mount Kanchenjunga is obviously a big part of my life.''

``Happy to see you as a proud father of three. Your write-up on your Calcutta tour was very good. Why don't you send us a article like this for the `Times of
India' Kolkata edition! Your writing on the city has given me a new eye to look at it. Eagerly waiting for your book to come
- Satyapriya (``Noddy'') Sarkar, newspaper designer extraordinaire, `Times of India'.

David McMahon's reply:
``My writing - as you know so well - is straight from the heart, Noddy, my old friend. I'm so glad you like the Calcutta article posted on Terry Fletcher's website. As one loyal Calcuttan to another, there are facets about that amazing city that can never be found anywhere else. We were lucky to grow up there.''

david mcmahon said...

``Will definitely read the book when it's out -- will reserve comment till I've read the first ten pages! Shall try and remember that you're an "author" and not one of the guys we grew up with! Hard to take childhood friends seriously!''
Dr Sharon Ishika Ghosh, Kolkata

David McMahon's reply:
Doctors don't have time to read novels - especially doctors who had the misfortune of growing up with me.

``Bravo for your novel. You must be so proud.''
- Anick Cesaria, VIA Rail travel specialist, Montreal, Canada

David McMahon's reply:
``Thank you, Anick. Hope you had a good time at the Super Bowl.''

david mcmahon said...

``David of the Smiling Face,
Delighted to see my belief vindicated that there has always been more to your genes than just sheep-thieving!
Don’t know how creative writers react to intrusive mails, so I shall be brief.
Lots of affectionate memories.''
Tirthankar Mukherjee, Kolkata

David McMahon's reply:
What a great start to the day to see your email, especially the reference to my ancestors' practice of `liberating' the gentry's livestock. As my earliest mentor in the brave new world of journalism, you did so much to infuse me with all the traits that would one day take me places I would never have dared to dream about as a wide-eyed cadet. I thank you for sharing your great erudition and for being a veritable beacon of inspiration.

david mcmahon said...

Hey Dave! You've really extended the boundaries of the old ``parish'' haven't you? Keep on truckin' bro! Will get your book when it's out.
- Patrick ``Lalu'' Ghose
Self-described ex-parish boy/ ex-North Pointer/ ex-colleague/ ex-fellow traveller and childhood friend

David McMahon's reply:
That reminds me of the classic old song: ``I Love Parish in the Springtime''. You forgot to add, in your self-decription, that just about the only ting we've never seen eye-to-eye on is my taste in rock music and your taste (well, I wouldn't really call it taste!) in ... what's that stuff called ... jazz. Someone revive me, quick.

david mcmahon said...

Your blog: great idea. Showcases your work very well and provides just the kind of introduction to the Wondrous Emerging World of David very, very well. The blog itself is a testimony to your
communication skills, to your growing profile as an author and as a photographer of some quality - and then some.
- Ajay Kumar, Tata executive, former television presenter and former journalist, Mumbai, India

David McMahon's reply:
``Aw, shucks, what can I say after that endorsement? That you're biased in my favour, perhaps. After all, you were my first chief sub-editor on the ground-breaking `Sunday' magazine and we've been friends ever since. But, in all humility, thank you for those sentiments. I hope I manage to match up to your lofty expectations.''

david mcmahon said...

``Had a quick glance at your blog - fantastic. When do you find the time to write novels and set up such an impressive web page?''
- Carina Bruce, Perth, WA

David McMahon's reply:
``You and Wayne, as seasoned journalists and parents of three children, would be ready to earn a joint Ph.D in time management techniques. Seriously, though, my goal is to write just 300 words a day, which might not sound a lot, but it adds up to almost 10,000 words a month. Glad you liked the blog. It does not aim to be a serious dissertation on life.''

david mcmahon said...

Wow, David, I can't wait to see `Vegemite Vindaloo' land on my desk for review in mX. Can you please fast forward the process - only 10 weeks for me at mX features and counting. Your blog site of comments sounds like my wish-list of referees!
I shall bow to you every day when I walk in now.
- Laeta Antonysen, features editor, mX newspaper

David McMahon's reply:
``I shall personally deliver to your desk the first copy of the book, hot off the printing press, before you head off towards motherhood. No need to bow, but it'd be nice if you brought me breakfast every morning.''

The Durrell sketch is known in the trade as "a good get", David. The autograph book of my youth contains, in no particular order, Nicholas Monsarrat, Malcolm Muggeridge, Don Bradman, all the Aussie Davis Cup players of the '50s (Sedgman, McGregor, Hoad, Rosewall, Emerson, Cooper, Harry Hopman etc), Albert Namatjira, Margot Fonteyn, Lord Casey (before he was lorded), Arthur Calwell, Bob Cummings, Art Linkletter, John Landy (before he broke 4min) etc etc. Good fun. Cheers. PS: Put an apostrophe in Lord's.
- Kim Lockwood, arbiter of newspaper style guides across News Ltd's many mastheads

David McMahon's reply
``Thank you for the gentle reminder that the spiritual home of cricket takes its name from Thomas Lord and therefore takes the mandatory apostrophe. Maybe I should have referred to it as the House of Lauds.''

david mcmahon said...

``Finally got the chance to check out the blog. Beautiful! I love the title of the novel, too. The cover is excellent (epecially the plane on the back) ... as is the hakea metaphor. Clever
man! My favourite chuckle was `Dirty Fokker Flight Services'. Laughed and laughed. Actually, still laughing. Oh, and the images are lovely ... particularly the office blocks/reflections
near the university campus in Canada."
- Sharon Dean, Alstonvale, NSW

David McMahon's reply:
``People might get the wrong impression, Sharon, thinking this is a classic example of the ``cash for comment'' scandal. I would like to place on record that no financial inducements (or jars of Vegemite) were offered - or accepted - for these gracious comments. No further correspondence will be entered into, unless it is to offer your buddy Merrilyn a job at Dirty Fokker Flight Services - as a fright attendant.''

david mcmahon said...

Wow! Impressive. Hope `Vegemite Vindaloo' and `The Jadu Master' do some jadu (magic) for your bank account. Cheers.
- Gerry Carman, internationally-renowned aviation expert and committed cricket buff, The Age, Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
``Not as impressive as your wily bowling, Gerry. It was my pleasure to have worked with a perfect gentleman such as you.''

david mcmahon said...

I noted the Gerald Durrell sketch and was green with envy. What more can I say other than it is "priceless"?
I read all the new entries with interest and fascination. Interest, because the subject matter and accompanying photographs appeal to me; fascination, because it has been quite a while that somebody has put together words and sentences that jump out of the page and convince me that ``That's how I'd like to say it, when I have something to say!"
Keep it up, buddy. Perhaps a full-blown website should be something you ought to aim for, although the blog does very nicely at the moment.
Terry Fletcher, Portugal
Webmaster, the Anglo-Indian Portal

David McMahon's reply:
I guess you could say it was a bit reminiscent of The Owl And The Pushy Cat. Seriously, I'm flattered that you enjoy the writing that appears on the blog. After your comments, though, I shall have to order a larger size in trilby.

david mcmahon said...

Very impressive - where do you get the time to devote to this?
I can see everyone having one of these at some stage in their life. It is I suppose the eletronic way of capturing all the things we do in our lives - so are kids and gradkids can remember us - and some of the AMAZING things we achieved in our lives. I like yours, David.
- Grant Titmus, former chief sub-editor, `The Age', Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
Thank you for the generous words, Grant. The scope of the internet allows us to create e-diaries and blogs, that can be read by anyone, anywhere.

david mcmahon said...

''To you and the elephant you rode in on .... well done! Nice blog and looks like a terrific book. My review copy is eagerly awaited.
I wondered how you got all the time to do that extra-curricular
stuff and then I remembered you with your feet up at the late and
long-lamented `Sunday Age' Mark One. (Of course pristine and inspirational copy like mine meant you didn't have to do any work). Nice to see posts from Sunday Age
refugees like Fuller and Linnell, though I can't recall them being
as complimentary about you way back then. Let's collaborate on your next book, based on the old ``Quotable'' file - though the
legal bills will be astronomical.
Give 'em curry, old son.
- Gary Tippet, senior writer `The Age' Melbourne
Walkey winner, 1997, for the `Sunday Age' feature ``Slaying the Monster

David McMahon's reply:
Mate, it's a sad reversal when a bloke off the boat has to teach a peasant like you you the difference between prose and cons! So glad you asked about my elephant - it got crook and was diagnosed with a really bad case of pachydermatitis. Seriously, though, it was a pleasure working with you, Gary. You are a thorough professional and a wonderful writer (and a master of backhanded compliments). Yes, we should revive the Quotable project, if Andrew Dyson is happy to do the cartoons. On reflection, now that you and I work on opposite ends of the Yarra, you obviously have no one to turn to with the perennial exhortation: ``Mate, take a look at these opening paragraphs and tell me what you think''. Well, I'll tell you what I think - I think you should have won a second Walkley in 2002 for your memorable feature about the road-crash victim.

david mcmahon said...

''To you and the elephant you rode in on .... well done!
Nice blog and looks like a terrific book. My review copy is eagerly awaited. I wondered how you got all the time to do that extra-curricular stuff and then I remembered you with your feet up at the late and long-lamented Sunday Age Mark One. (Of course pristine and inspirational copy like mine meant you didn't have to do any work). Nice to see posts from Sage refugees like Fuller and Linnell, though I can't recall them being complimentary about you way back then! Let's collaborate on your next book, based on the old ``Quotable'' file - though the legal bills will be astronomical.
Give 'em curry, old son.
Gary Tippet, senior writer, `The Age', Melbourne
(Winner, 1997 Walkley Award for best feature, ``Slaying The Monster'' in `The Sunday Age'.)

Funny how a bloke off the boat (me) had to teach the hard man of Spencer Street (you) how to speak the Queen's English. Seriously, though, I have to say you are a wonderful writer and your occasionally gruff exterior hides the fact that although you would never admit it, you actually have a deeply poetic soul (Confession: Your wife and sons made me write that.) Now that you and I work on opposite sides of the Yarra, who do you go to with the constant exhortation, ``Mate, have a look at these opening paragraphs and tell me what you think,''? Glad you asked about my elephant - it got really crook and was diagnosed with a bad case of pachydermatitis. But just to prove that you are really just a peasant in disguise, it was a Jumbo jet that brought me here, not a jumbo. Yes, let's sell the world rights to the ``Quotable'' file before retiring as kazillionaires - on opposite ends of the street, of course. In all seriousness, my good friend, you should have won another Walkley, in 2002, for your feature on road crash surgery and rehabilatation.

david mcmahon said...

``Dear David. Yes, congratulations, well done. I will certainly find the book when it is on the racks, and will feel good and proud that I know this author. There is something about writing a book that makes me some envious.
I appreciate the dedication. But I didn't teach you to write. Maybe it is because I always wanted you fellows to be special and carry out the special, for that is where the fun is.
It is amazing that you are also creating travel literature for tourism in Canada. Great.''
- Fr Hank Nunn, SJ, Bangalore, India
(Former Father Prefect and Headmaster of St Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling)

David McMahon's reply:
``To tell the truth, Father Hank, it was the people who taught us at North Point who were special. We inky schoolboys have never forgotten the example set by those early mentors. You were a valuable part of the inspirational process.''

david mcmahon said...

Hello Sunshine,
Congratulations on your `Vegemite Vindaloo' book. Just think, David, back to the Saturday of the first Sunday Age edition, we didn't know we had a budding author in our midst. Anyway, all the best from all the staff (what's left of it -- more of that later).
Ron McDonald

David McMahon's reply:
``Thanks for the encouragement, Ron. I guess Mick Vaughan would find it fitting that both words in the title of my novel are food-related!''

david mcmahon said...

Hi there, Dave:
Sorry for the delay in getting my thoughts to you - telepathy is so costly, and telephony's not much better. With all your technical skills, please transfer the following to your blog.
Those who say you can't judge a book by its cover should visit your most excellent blog, but then again people who would say that probably don't read so I can say what I like or dislike about them right here without fear of the consequences. So there, I've said it.
Vegemite Vindaloo is such a right-in-our-face brilliant title that any sub-editor worth his or her sodium chloride ration would be entitled to scream: Why didn't I think of that? But then this standout combination could only have graced a book by, and come from the febrile mind of, yon David McMahon, that Caledonian-Hindustani polymath and all-round gentleman whose wisdom, obvious enough at first sight, are exceeded only by the depths of understanding, and quicksilver wit known to those who have had the pleasure of working with him.
While I fully expect McMahon's exploration of national duality to include, at the very least, an hilariously adumbrated recipe for Hindustani haggis, I am looking forward to an intellectually stimulating time when I finally get down to absorbing VV's contents. If you can judge a book by its cover - and surely you can - this one's bound to be a winner.
- Ken Haley, world traveller, author and senior journalist, `Herald Sun', Melbourne
(Webmaster's note: Ken Haley won a Walkley Award with `The Sunday Age' in 1995. His book, `Emails From The Edge', published by Transit Lounge, will be released in August 2006.)

David McMahon's reply:
Ken, I should send you my doctor's bill for that well-known ailment, Dictionary Elbow - I had to consult the Macquarie to glean the meaning of ``polymath'' (I thought it was Euclid's parrot) and ``adumbrate'' (I thought it was an intellectually-challenged bloke like me). I might be a Caledonian-Indian, but I am a simpleton at heart. I'm delighted that you are keen to try Hindustani Haggis. I shall have to try out a recipe to see what this entails - or, given that we're taking haggis, should the word be entrails?

david mcmahon said...

Thank you so much for telling me about your blog!! I have just had the most wonderful time reading it - and am so inspired by what you have done.
- Duska Sulicich, `The Age', Melbourne

David McMahon's reply:
Thank you for the kind words, Duska. I guess blogs, by their very nature, make easy reading.

david mcmahon said...

David, have just seen your pix and like them very much. Especially Montreal and Quebec City, which I did not realise were so European in their aesthetic. Also did a quick read on Vegemite Vindaloo. Airplanes and pilots obviously fascinate you!
- Dickoo Nowroji, ITC executive, Kolkata, India

David McMahon's reply:
I have to say, it would be pretty hard to take a bad photograph in Montreal or in Quebec City. And yes, I guess you could say I've always had a fascination for planes. I can remember clearly that one of my primary school teachers, Mrs Sheila Geileskey (who is mentioned in this blog and in the `acknowledgements' section of the novel) once scoured bookshops to find a suitable English prize for the end-of-year achievement ceremony. I cannot remember the names of any of the other books I won through primary school, but this one was called `The Flying Horseman', by Primrose Cummings.

david mcmahon said...

Hey Macster,
I like the sound of your book a lot. But before I try and swipe a copy off you let me say CONGRATULATIONS on the launch of the book in India. I can now finally say I know a celebrity. When you come to Sydney for the writers' festival and I attend the lunch with all my friends, please make sure you point out to me in the crowd and let everyone know we are friends. And don’t laugh when you read this.
- Audrey D'Souza, Sydney, Australia

David McMahon's reply:
Er, celebrity? I don't think so. The only red carpet I walk on is the one at the pub. Writers' Festival? Dunno anything about that. I just checked my appointments and the only thing I'm booked in for is a Raita Festival to be held at the nearby Indian takeaway.

Askinstoo said...
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Devdutta Sen said...

Hi David,I read about you and your family in The Statesman.We moved into 3 Dumayne Avenue after your Dad retired from "Calcutta Port Commissioners".My mother was a great friend of your Mums and they would attend Service at St Nicholas Church near the Docks.I was a reluctant shepherd (Obed) in the Nativity plays which aunty Phyllis used to direct.
Best wishes for all your future endeavours.
Devdutta Sen

david mcmahon said...

David McMahon's reply:
My dear Shanto, what a wonderful surprise to hear from you. Isn't the Internet a wonderful way to track down old friends.
Of course I remember you and your family.
I still have crystal-clear memories of my Mum always referring to you as Obed, after your character in the Nativity play.
I also remember the Christmas visits that your family made, spending great evenings with us as we all enjoyed my Mum's amazing Christmas cake.
Where are you and your sister?
You might be interested in the article about 3 Dumayne Avenue that is referred to at the top of my blog - it also has a link to a cached version of it on Terry Fletcher's excellent Anglo-Indian Portal.
Do give me your email address so we can keep in touch.
Thank you so much for making the effort to contact me.

Devdutta Sen said...

Hi David ,My email is
Do send me yours.I read your article about Calcutta revisited.
on the Anglo Indian Portal.3 Dumayne Avenue has always been precious to us and from today it is more so. I will shortly visit to pay my respects to Aunty Phyllis.
I will write in detail thru email

Allan said...

Hey David, It's Allan (tabloo) from Santacruz!! I googled your name and found your blog. My email is - drop me a line so we can catch up.

I said...

I am definately going to read the book, I think it sounds great! I wish lots of luck inw riting your next novel because I know that it is going to be great! I hope to talk to you in August until then good luck adn have a great summer!

Andii de Maverick said...

Hi David
Congrats on your first novel. I have grown up on Sportsworld and I kind of remember you. So i picked up ur book, its quite a descent effort.

The reason I write to you is that I'm looking for a writer partner for certain film scripts. I'm an ad professional and filmmaker hailing from Calcutta.

I have been developed a couple of film scripts which i've pitched to producers and production companies in LA and received a positive feedback. I have to develop them further.

Would you be interested? Please revert on

- Andii Paul, Filmmaker, Calcutta

Anonymous said...

Dear David
What a delight to see your writing has progressed to such stunning heights! Glad to hear Leanne was such an inspiration for your writing, and hopefully some of your ideas were developed waiting for her teeth to be straightened in our waiting room!
Kindest regards
Joe Papa and Julie Oates

WalksFarWoman said...

I wish to make a complaint.
It's grossly unfair of you David, to tease us with characters and intriguing plots, publication details and imminent deadlines - when and where can your UK devotees buy your books!!! ;)

sex said...
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Anonymous said...
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