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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The Shadow Lines

shadow-linesThe Shadow Lines

by Amitav Ghosh | 288 Pages | Genre: Fiction| Publisher: Penguin Books India| Year: 1988 | My Rating: 8.5/10

“He said to me once that one could never know anything except through desire, real desire, which was not the same thing as greed or lust; a pure, painful and primitive desire, a longing for everything that was not in oneself, a torment of the flesh, that carried once beyond the limits of one’s mind to other times and other places, and even, if one was lucky, to a place where there was no border between oneself and one’s imagine in the mirror.”

— Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines

Amitav Ghosh captures the lines connecting time and events, and people with each other bound by ties of blood and history. This work of fiction is narrated by and follows the life of a young boy growing up in Calcutta with his grand mother and parents, and later in Delhi and London for his higher education. His Grandmother and Mayadebi are sisters, who grew up in Dhaka pre-partition. After the death of her husband, grandmother works at a school to raise her son without depending upon any charity, while Mayadebi marries a Diplomat and lives a life of luxury. Two characters plays pivotal role in the narrator’s life are Ila, a distant cousin of his from Mayadebi’s side to whom he is attracted yet his yearnings go unrequited, and Tridib, who’s Maya’s son. The story unfolds through flashbacks, then progresses occasionally in the present.

This book with numerous characters and intricate web of memories moving back and forth, is my Read of the Week.

Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud

extremely_loud_and_incredibly_close_bookExtremely Close and Incredibly Loud

by Jonathan Safran Foer| 368 Pages | Genre: Fiction| Publisher: Penguin Books| Year: 2005 | My Rating: 9.5/10

This brilliant fiction is a story of a  very intelligent  and sensitive, alternately exasperating and hilarious nine-years old boy, Oscar Schell, who goes across five boroughs of New York looking for the right lock, which can be opened by a ‘black’ key his father left, who died in 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Centre. This incredible novel explores shattering emotions and human connections through the prism of a disaster.

Oscar being an internet whizkid is an information sponge and a walking encylopedia chatting. His calling card, which he uses while meeting people, reads: “Inventor, Jewelry Designer, Jewelry Fabricator, Amateur Entomologist, Francophile, Vegan, Origamist, Pacifist, Percussionist, Amateur Astronomer, Computer Consultant, Amateur Archeologist, Collector of: rare coins, butterflies that died natural deaths, miniature cacti, Beatles memorabilia, semiprecious stones, and other things” .He even goes to the extent of flattering women his mother’s age by complimenting them on their beauty and sometimes telling them that he’d like to kiss them! His search brought him into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

I have first read this book in 2009 and fell in love with Foer’s style of writing. The use of pictures, visuals and the mesmerising style of writing is so refreshingly inventive. This book which made me laugh and yet mourn the grief of Oscar Schell is my ‘Read of the Week’.

The Tiger’s Wife

8366403When your fight has purpose—to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent—it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling—when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event—there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.”
― Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife

This novel full of historic and human complexities of Balkans through its principal narrator, Natalia Stefanovic, a young doctor who lives with her mother, grandmother and grandfather in an unnamed Balkan city early in the 21st century, is my “Read of the Week”.

The Sense of an Ending

b3“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.”
― Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

This 2011 Booker Prize winning, witty, cynical and ironic novel is my “Read of theWeek”

The Cat’s Table

Cat's TableWe all have an old knot in the heart we wish to untie.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table

 

This bittersweet story of memory & place, of three boys who take a journey by sea from one world to another, which florishes in the gaps between fact and fiction is my “Read of the Week”

River of Smoke

150px-River_of_smoke“Opium is like the wind or the tides: it is outside my power to affect its course. A man is neither good nor evil because he sails his ship upon the wind. It is his conduct towards those around him – his friends, his family, his servants – by which he must be judged”

– Amitav Ghosh, River of Smoke

‘River of Smoke’, a brilliant historical fiction set in late 19th century China is my “Read of the week”.

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