Wednesday, 10 December 2008
The White Tiger by Arivand Adiga
DATE PUBLISHED: 2008 DATE READ: December 2008 NOTES: Balram Halwai is a poor low-caste Indian, the son of a rickshaw-puller who somehow manages to crawl his way up to be an entrepreneur in Bangalore. He tells his story via a series of letters written to Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier who is about to visit Bangalore. The poor parts of India are referred to as the Darkness which is a world filled with hunger, servitude and life-long debt. Modern Delhi is referred to as the Light. This is a world where men and women grow fat, have air-conditioned cars, mobile phones and guarded apartments with large TVs and computer games. But the Light has some very murky aspects to it – bribery, corruption and murder. The story is told at a blazing pace. Balram is ambitious and astute. He does well to become a driver for a local landlord’s family – but he wants more….. The dilemma for him is whether he can shake off his chains by honest means or whether some blood will have to flow. (I was reminded of A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam in which a widow’s only way of keeping her children safe is to commit a crime.) This is not a comfortable read – it is an angry and subversive book about the new India where any notion of the “trickle-down” theory of wealth creation is well and truly quashed. I am not surprised it won the Booker Prize. As a work of literature it is not as good a piece of work as, say, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (also about poverty in India) but it is funny, satirical and a blistering exposé of globalisation.