The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
Balram “White Tiger” Halwai is destined to work in a small Indian teashop after he leaves school, in order to earn money to support his grandmother, brother and extended family, and keep the corrupt landlords of his village happy. But he has higher aspirations and longs to move to the city and become more than just a rickshaw-puller’s son.
The story of Balram’s journey to success is told over seven nights in letters to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who will be visiting the city of Bangalore the following week. The Premier, who is interested in meeting Indian entrepreneurs so he can bring some of their ideas back to his country, will be touring India, and Balram is incensed that he will only be shown the happy and successful parts of the country, rather than the real India he was raised in, which is full of poverty and corruption.
In his letters, Balram recounts his life journey from the village of Laxmangarh, where he grew up with his family, to his position as a driver and servant in Mumbai, to his current entrepreneurial role in Bangalore.
His honest views about religion, poverty, wealth, corruption and social injustice are mingled with dark humour as he attempts to enlighten the Chinese Premier about the parts of India that are often hidden from foreign government officials
What I gained from reading this book:
This book gives readers an insight into an India that is rarely seen in Bollywood films and tourism brochures. The poor, the needy, the homeless, and the persecuted are all highlighted within the dark humour of the novel, and are contrasted strongly with the wealthy, often corrupt, citizens of India. While India isn’t the only country in the world that has a defining gap between those that are wealthy and those that are poor, it is the author’s ability to distinguish the reasons for this wealth, or lack of, that make this book such an interesting and entertaining read. Despite the serious overtones of the social situation in India, the author is able to use humour to help readers relate to Balram and his plight.
This is a true underdog tale, and what makes it even more special is the dark humour that Balram often reverts to in his efforts to highlight his struggles to get out of his tiny village and into the city. The author’s attempts to lighten the story with comedy are often very successful and even help to emphasise Balram’s sometimes amoral attempts to reach a higher place in the world.
Although this is a fictional story, readers also can’t help but believe the events that occur in the novel. This is especially the case since the release of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, which also showed a darker side to India, and drew attention to the poverty and corruption that so many people live in.
Although the novel is brilliantly written and highly entertaining, it still paints a very bleak picture of India and its people, and some people may not appreciate the references made to the darker, more sinister side, of the country.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Genre: Black Comedy
Recommended for: Anyone interested in reading about India’s darker side.
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