Monday, March 09, 2009

The White Tiger

The White Tiger: A Novel
By Aravind Adiga
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Published in 2008
ISBN-13: 9781439137697
304 pages

Page 128: Brush. Brush. Spit. Brush. Brush. Spit. If only a man could spit his past out so easily.

The White Tiger is Aravind Adiga's debut novel and a very good one too. It is not a surprise that the book clinched the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

We somehow have an idea about life in India, but after reading Adiga's depiction of the social injustice and corrupt culture through the voice of Balram Halwai, the protagonist of the story, we get an even clearer picture.

The story takes us on the life journey of the friendly Balram — of his evolution from a poor but clever village boy to a cold-blooded murderer of his employer, and still gets away from it. The readers would root for him. I rooted for him for his action is completely understandable. He tells his story, from the beginning to the end, in the form of letters to a Chinese premier who is set to visit Bangalore, India.

Readers will understand how the phrase "the white tiger" came to be and how Balram is termed as one. The novel also gives a metaphor of the rooster coop. Those unfortunate chickens are trapped inside a small and closed cage (imagine the rooster coop). Humans can be trapped in such a way too and that's how he sees himself and many of his people. Over time, the victims begin to internalize the problem leaving them not being able to imagine that they deserve anything else. Balram's goal, then, is to break free.

(I confess, Mr. Premier: I am not an original thinker — but I am an original listener.)

I absorbed everything — that's the amazing thing about entrepreneurs. We are like sponges — we absorb and grow.

Have you ever seen this trick, Your Excellency? A man steering the car with one hand, and picking up a whiskey bottle with the other hand, hauling it over his shoulder, then pouring it into a glass, even when the car is moving, without spilling a drop! The skills required of an Indian driver! Not only does he have to have perfect reflexes, night vision, and infinite patience, he also has to be the consummate barman!

Strange thoughts brew in your heart when you spend too much time with old books.
This book is a page-turner and comical in a dark way. I read with horror the corruption, the injustice, the class system, and depravity in the merciless India. It totally gripped me. I highly recommend it.