Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'The White Tiger'- Aravind Adiga

Rating: 9/10

I've been waiting to read this book for about 5 months. Not at all kidding. Every time I went to the library, the book would have been already taken. This happened week after week and my Mum told me she'd buy the book for me if I wanted it that badly. But I still insisted on waiting.

Ironically enough, after India's general elections, when I'm actually feeling hopefully and optimistic about how the country will progress from here, I end up with this book. The librarian had called my phone and told me he had the book waiting for me. I got it and woah, does it send optimism and hope for a Gilchristesque six!

My first feeling after I finished the book was one of confusion. Reading through Adiga's Booker winning novel is a journey of emotions- predominantly anger, some times helplessness and at points, humiliation. The White Tiger is a story of two Indias as seen through the eyes of Balram Halwai, a slum dweller turned servant/driver turned murderer. Halwai's story is just a foil for Adiga to delve into what he actually wants to talk about: his opinions about India and all of India's successes.

It's an angry book. I can see that the writer is burning with anger, humiliation perhaps and helplessness- the same emotions that haunted me when I read this book. But with a generous dose of sarcasm, cold humour, Adiga tells you everything about the two Indias- the India for the rich and the India for the poor. And the mighty gap that lies in between. And the desperate attempts made by those in the Darkness to reach the Light. The book moves fast( I finished it in two days) and is much better than the last Indian book which won the Booker, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss

Every line of the book hits you right in the gut. It raps your conscience and tells you just exactly what you never admitted or let yourself acknowledge.Slumdog Millionaire was just a teaser. The White Tiger is the real deal. The book is most painful to read because you know the stuff in this book actually happens, at one point or the other! All of the things that while being read infuriate you, actually happen.

It's a scary thought- that acceptance. But what put me off, is the entire negativism of the book. Oh well, that was intended. But India's had some successes too. "At what cost?" , I can hear Adiga asking. This book is a brutal, raw, cold read and intended to be so. It'll probably make you think for ages and ages and ages......Oh yes, there is a lot that needs to be done. And The White Tiger is the wake-up call.

Adiga sure is a writer to watch out for!


J said...

Phew. That's deep ain't it? I'm going to be reaching for this book the next time I'm in one of my depressive moods.

Kals said...

To drown in depression?? Yeah, that will happen for sure. I've been thinking of this book everyday since I finished reading it. Such an impact, which explains the Booker.

Tracy said...

I agree with you that it's certainly a very thought-provoking, conscience-pricking book, but the discussion in our bookclub centred on how much of a sociopath the 'white tiger' was.

Were his actions totally provoked by his environment, or would he have acted the way he did, anyway? And it's certainly a better book than Q&A (which we also read for bookclub)

Kals said...

I disliked Q&A to be honest. The White Tiger is a million times superior to it :)

That's a great theme to discuss. I had thought that Adiga wanted to convey that his environment, which he blames heavily on corruption et al, is a huge reason to provoke his actions to that magnitude.

Tracy said...

I agree that the environment of endemic corruption and greed is extremely provocative, and it was his employers expecting him to take the rap for the drunk driving incident that was the final straw, but this man is not normal, his thought processes are skewed, and because the book is written only from his POV, you get carried along with it, up to a point. He is 'a white tiger', a real rarity, and extremely dangerous when cornered. He not only carried out a pre-meditated murder on the easiest victim (the 'lamb'), rather than on the worst of the brothers, but even worse, he knowingly sacrificed the lives of his entire family!

The message I thought the author was conveying to those privileged haves? Watch out, you are driving the have-nots literally mad - and they will turn on you sooner rather than later. Be very, very afraid!

Kals said...

'But this man is not normal, his thought processes are skewed,'
Definitely. But I think it was Adiga's way of showing the worst that a system of corruption can bring about. Balram Halwai is the worst byproduct of his environment.

Absolutely agree with your analysis of the author's message to those who're more fortunate and have money. It's terrifying. The idea that your dear 'servant' can turn to be nothing less than a murderer. A poor man who spends his everyday life watching the extravagance and luxury of his master and tending to their every need. Adiga is a great writer and this is a chilling book :)


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