Book Review: “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga, an emerging player of contemporary writing in India, has debuted with the Man Booker Prize winner – “The White Tiger”. A journalist by profession and an author by passion, Aravind has exposed the Grey outlook of the human “Gray Matter” and simultaneously depicted the “Rags to Riches” rise of an underdog from the dark with ease. Though the author called him the white tiger, the protagonist Balram Halwai called his story “The Autobiography of a Half-Baked Indian”. The serene yet enterprising nature of Balram represents that of the entrepreneur of modern India, and he called himself – I am the “tomorrow”.

Balram narrates his story in a rather unusual style by writing a letter to one Mr Jiabao, A Chinese Premiere. He narrates it over seven days and nights while in Bangalore. He is born in a remote and almost unknown village to a rickshaw puller, after the death of his parents along with his cousin he flip-flops jobs. Being the smarter one, he ends up as a driver for a rich coal miner family. The rest of the story depicts on how he kills his master and ends up being an entrepreneur. Though the story in a broader sense oozes a typical bollywood feel, the narration adopted by Balram and the subtle intricacies that go into his makeover is the gripping part of this book.

For instance, the inspiration he draws from a person from his village, though corrupt to core, flashes his ignorance. His exploitation of the Nepali guard and the Muslim Driver who pretends to be a Hindu reflects his curiosity. Though his boss Mr Ashok was not as arrogant as other bosses who typically are with their drivers, Balram ends up smashing his head; this displays the tyranny. Balram’s rationale to come up with a convincing explanation in his narrative that he is not a murderer, shows his outrageous behavior. His retrospection as a boss sets an example for a brilliant and smart leader. Characters like Mr Ashok and his wife, Mukesh, The Stork, His Granny and et al make it interesting with specific narrations about them. The makeover from a naïve villager to an enterprising entrepreneur of Balram Halwai among a myriad of events in his life gives the entire summary of this book.

This book has emerged a winner when India metamorphosis from a developing third world nation to a developed super power. It does not project the greener side but the prevailing treachery, corruption and injustice of the society. This book is about an underdog who has emerged from the dark by treading a darker path unlike a diligent hardworking person, the likes of the technology entrepreneurs who represent the India Inc. This book has drawn world attention for good and bad as well, many pro-nationalists in India have called it pro-western and have criticized for portraying the darker side of the society through the protagonist’s character and his story.

Though the Grey side of the society still prevails the fair side of it co-exists as well. The book could have included that facet in small sojourns to give a feel good factor, But the author’s imagination has no bounds and has the freedom to express. How an individual receives this book, depends on the wisdom of those who read and gauge the gravity of the situation. Overall, I would recommend to read the book not to learn a lesson or two from the life story of Balram Halwai but to come in terms with life and the society that co-exists with you.

Ikshwak Kandi Reddy

[Image courtesy:
Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger