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October 23, 2012 / subramanyam

The White Tiger has let me down

          Read another award-winning book of an Indian author, this time it is Arvind Adiga’s Man booker prize-winning novel “The White Tiger”.  While Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer prize-winning “Interpreter of Maladies” enchanted me and made me feel proud of an Indian Author, Arvind Adiga disappointed me and made me feel bad.

          The White Tiger is about Balram Halwai, who is born and brought up in Gaya district of Bihar (the author doesn’t give the name of the state but from Gaya district, I assume it is Bihar.). His father happens to be a rickshaw puller and he in turn ends up as a car driver.  How Balram turns into an entrepreneur (turns into a murderer in the process) and runs a seemingly good business in Bangalore forms the crux of the story.  

                    What I liked in the book gets dwarfed in front of what I loath in the book, probably the narrative style in some sections and section that  deals with the troubles and travails of the car drivers in New Delhi were some of the good aspects of the an otherwise awful book. 

           The reasons why I hate this book are probably heavily influenced by me being an Indian and my perspective of the land I live in.

The White Tiger

  The India portrayed by Arvind Adiga is not the one I live in, his India (at least in the book ) is a land that’s filled darkness, class struggle and poverty. It’s ironical that the protagonist, who tells his tale in first person, does not find even one good aspect in this country.  To me the protagonist looked like a maniacal psychopath whose biggest agenda was himself and nothing else. This seemingly didactic book, replete with India baiting barbs of the protagonist, was making me feel that I was reading an inherently fake and shallow narrative.

           Moreover, I did not and was not able to find the reasons for the actions of the protagonist. I would eat my words, if lust for money and power are shown as reasons but how can someone justify killing his own boss, who, according to the protagonist himself was benevolent and treated him very well when compared to the other people around. Now, if killing a boss and running away with his cash, or say crime/arson/theft/ bribe and other fraudulent means are the only road for the poor to improve their living standards in this country, or if the author wishes to say that crime pays, then man!!!!  you are mistaken beyond doubt.  Looking at Aravind Adiga’s career profile, I doubt if he was really in touch with the realities of the India he portrayed, from my knowledge, I have never known people letting 17 members of their family killed in the hands of goons just to have their dreams fulfilled.

          The way he speaks about some people in the lower strata of the society as half-baked people, the way he calls people working in the tea shops as human spiders as making me say enough boss. The book drove me crazy for the attitude displayed by the author.  There is a difference between anger, anguish, satire and criticism. I somehow feel that the author has used the wrong emotions while handling the characters. All in all I still wonder how such books win Manbooker prizes.  One thing, winning a prize is different and writing a book that reflects the character of a nation is different.  The White Tiger has an impressive start but is a half-baked account of India.

         I hate “India baiting” . I am open to criticism as it helps but there is a difference between criticism and cynicism. Some self-styled, so-called intellectuals tend to get cynical in their books.  I may be half-baked in their language but my love for “India” and my trust in hope are a little high that I cannot swallow and accept the rumblings of these people.


One Comment

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  1. Manjiri / Aug 5 2013 10:39 pm

    I absolutely agree with you, Mr. Subramanyam. Great review. Thanks for this.


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