The White Tiger

whiteThe White Tiger

by Aravind Adiga | 318 Pages | Genre: Fiction| Publisher: HarperCollins India| Year: 2008 | My Rating: 9/10

“You Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don’t have entrepreneurs. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. Thousands and thousands of them. Especially in the field of technology. And these entrepreneurs – we entrepreneurs – have set up all these outsourcing companies that virtually run America now.”

– Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

In his debut novel, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2008, Aravind Adiga has brilliantly portrayed the modern India with its newfound economic prowess through its narrator, Balram Halwai aka Munna with an obsession for China, Chandeliers, and Corruption, rising from being a ‘country mouse’ from a nondescript village of Bihar to a business entrepreneur in technology driven Bangalore. Balram’s narrative is framed as a letter to the visiting Chinese Premier, written over seven nights while sitting at his office in Bangalore. In his letter he talks about the initial years of his life spent in Laxmangarh attending school for few years before moving to work with a tea stall, and later moving to Dhanbad with his brother Kishan, where he learnt how to drive and became a driver for a weak-willed son of a feudal landlord from his village. For him ‘the darkness’ represents the areas around river Ganges deep in the heartland marked by medieval hardship, where brutal landlords hold sway, children are pulled out of school into indentured servitude and elections are routinely bought and sold. Later he moved to Delhi with his employers, which he has described as moving from ‘darkness’ to ‘light’, and one rainy day he slit the throat of his employer with a broken bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, which he justifies as an act of class warfare, took seven hundred thousand rupees in cash and fled to Bangalore. His life in Delhi has taught him the corruption of government and politics, inequality between rich and poor, which he uses to set up his business of transportation for call centers with a motto of ‘driving technology forward’.

This novel as a penetrating piece of social commentary, attuned to the inequalities that persist despite India’s new prosperity is my Read of the Week.

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