The White Tiger
This book was the winner of the Man Booker prize for the year 2008 and that itself says something about the content and quality of the book.
About the author Aravind Adiga
Aravind Adiga was born in India in 1974 and was raised partly in Australia. He attended Columbia and Oxford universities. He worked as a correspondent for the Time magazine and Financial times for a few years .
He now lives in Mumbai. According to Adiga the influence on The White Tiger are 3 black American writers of the post - World war 2 era - namely Ralph Ellison , James Baldwin and Richard Wright. As a writer, according to his own words , he prefers not to feel tied to any identity at all, but draws influences from wherever they come !
This book The White Tiger is based on his experiences with various men he met while travelling through India. Adiga loves travel and especially travelling through the back streets and by lanes of mega cities where you get to find the most interesting situations, characters and human species .
According to Adiga, there is a kind of continuous murmur or growl beneath the middle class life in India, but this noise never gets recorded or even noticed !
Adiga’s hero in this story or rather his anti - hero is called Balram Halwai , who comes from a lowly background from the back streets of a big city always at the receiving end - brutalised, pushed over and never considered as anything other than being a nuisance .
Balram is a complicated man who is a great talker , likes to talk about himself and over the course of seven days and seven nights tells us the terrible, disturbing and terrifying story of how he became a success in life ! We come to know that he begins his life in a village, ends up in the big city as a servant, becomes a philosopher, driver, entrepreneur and finally a murderer !!! Almost sounding like one of our typical film stories where anti heroes and criminals are glorified. We can well believe that at least some of the times our great bollywood film makers draw inspiration from real life stories.
Balram’s tale is compelling ,makes us realise that he is not an ordinary man. Balram's is a complicated personality and he has has loads of charm when he feels like displaying it , is of course street smart like most people who come from similar background as his ,with a shrewd animal like cunning and with an unexpected and undeniable charisma as well and candor which he himself is unaware of . Balram teaches readers that religion and money do not solve problems but decency can still find its way in a corrupt world and system !
We tend to dismiss people who don’t matter to us as being either stupid or inconsequential , insignificant who don't count . However, in life every person you come across and interact with , leaves some impression behind him/her adding on to your experience of life and people.
The novel is compelling and rich in detail right from the corrupt/non corrupt workings of the police force to the political system and from the servant classes of Delhi to the businessmen of Bangalore. The idea is taken and built in a substratum of Indian realities. Most things in the novel co-relates to the Indian way of thinking and Indian way of life – “The Indian Reality” as Adiga calls it and India has a lot to offer with all its many strata of society, religion, caste factors, political structures and people themselves !
The way he describes the horns and the various sounds and noises that we have in our cities make you grit your teeth because we all have experienced it and most of the time felt exasperated and helpless at the same time. Adiga writes about the binary nature of Indian culture and how the caste system has been reduced , according to him to Men with big bellies and Men with small bellies .
India has seen tremendous changes in the past 50 years .It has no doubt been for the better , but a lot of poorer India has been left confused and perplexed by the new India that is being formed around them. A section of the society has probably been left out of this change to a great extent and remained where it was half a decade back almost as if they have got stuck in a time frame.
The story that unfolds is hard hitting ,portraying the conflicts specific to India through the eyes of Balram , who is a complicated man who though amoral and probably devoid of conscience for most of the time, has charisma and plenty of charm. It has its funny moments like when he talks about dreams – the dreams of the rich and the dreams of the poor ! This is possible only in India where the difference between the two is incomparable. This once again drives home the point that there is absolutely no meeting point between the super -rich and the super poor at any level in India.
But sometimes , may be rarely it so happens that a few from the lowest strata are able to take a few leaps and join the upper strata either through luck or fluke. Balram’s is one such case where it is more to do with circumstances aiding an amoral man who was smart enough to grab the opportunity that presented itself to him and turned it to his advantage.
A very interesting book that keeps you glued to the pages holding your attention and very realistic in the depiction of its characters . I could identify or rather empathise with most of what was being experienced by the different characters. The details might shock the international readers because it is hard hitting as I stated earlier , but that is India! India is a society of contradictions and outsiders find it hard to believe that such things do exist! Adiga does not want to compromise on reality which is evident when you read this novel and that is its strongest point. This is a book that makes you think and ponder - definitely worth reading.
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