Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga was born in Madras (now Chennai) in 1974. He completed his schooling partly from Karnataka and rest from Sydney (Australia). He went to Columbia University, New York, to pursue higher education in English Literature. He began his career as a financial journalist with The Financial Times. Later he was hired by TIME where he remained a South Asia correspondent for 3 years before going into freelance. This is the time when he wrote The White Tiger-the book which won him the Man’s Booker prize 2008. He is also the fourth Indian to receive this honor. Currently he lives in Mumbai.

The novel studies a strong contrast between India’s rise as a modern global economy and the lead character, Balram who comes from crushing rural poverties, and the opening lines of the novel establish this fact. Being an Indian, Adiga has based his novel on the country as it actually is under the covers of “India Shining”. Infact the book makes us question the very phrase. The novel is in the form of a series of letters written by its protagonist, who calls himself the white tiger, to the Chinese premiere, Wen Jiabao. His letters, apart from describing his rise from a lowly origin to his current position as an entrepreneur also contain an unflattering portrait of India as a society raked by corruption and servitude, as well as his views on caste system and political corruption. The artistic technique lies in the way Adiga has managed to blend in the narrator’s story and the sharp criticism into one, there by maintaining a subtlety and bringing out the dark humor. The language is full of satiric overtones and high sarcasm. The novel manages to put forth some of the serious issues in apparently lighter mode. One can also trace irony and mockery in the tone of language. Terms like “Darkness”, describing the rural villages, and “Light” for the city life are significant in putting forth the nature and condition of the two places.

Certain events in the novel, like the one where the politicians “purchase” the votes of the villagers irrespective of their consent or even their age, or the one where Balram realizes that the second servant in his master’s household is actually a muslim where as the masters are devout ‘high class hindus’, are very poignant and full of pathos. The story primarily has two main characters – the protagonist who writes the letter and the Chinese Premiere to whom its addressed and who does not appear anywhere apart from his name. Other characters keep surfacing as the story progresses. The characters in the story, especially the protagonist are extremely real and believable characters. There is nothing grand or heroic about them but pure reality.

The book not only makes you laugh at its dark humor but also think on the issues it raises. All in all it makes for a good read, and for all its content and technique, well deserving for the award it was given.

Ekta Rai

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