The White Tiger is an amazingly written book by Aravind Adiga. No doubt that’s why the winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2008. I seldom like the dark novels but The White Tiger book was captivating just like the real white tiger mostly found in Bengal, Bihar and Assam.
Well this story also starts from a small basic amenities deprived village Laxmangarh in Bihar where our protagonist Balram was born and brought up. It is his story of transformation from a abiding trustworthy servant to a murderer of his employer.
He was a bright student but couldn’t continue his studies because of the debt taken by his family for the dowry of his cousin sister. But instead of working all his life at a tea shop he learns car driving and become a driver. His job takes him to Dhanbad in Jharkhand and then to Delhi.
The author has shown a big difference between master and servant and how employer look down upon his servant and even doesn’t inhibit to abuse them both physically and verbally and exploit them.
There he murders his employer for money and starts a car pick-up start-up in Bangalore. Balram writes his entire story in a letter to a visiting President of China Mr. Jiabao in a most non-apologetic style. And in lieu of it the author tear-apart India’s socio-eco-politico structure. I was taken apart with the bluntness of the tone and the ease with which the writer wrote.
He portrayed the darker side of India which we can deny, ignore, overlook, hide but truth remains truth. He starts with the condition of villages which are without any basic amenities coupled with the inhuman persecution of poor by the rich fat landlords.
There is no proper school education and the corrupt teachers digest all the money sanction by the government towards the education of poor village kids. In fact school uniforms send by the government for children are sold by teachers in order to make money.
Ditto poor condition is of government hospitals where doctors never visits to attend the patients but their presence is marked in the register by bribing the peons.
The author also takes on the polluted Ganga and other rivers which people blindly consider to be sacred .
In his letter to Mr. Jiabao, protagonist writes the way in which political parties rigs the election and crushes those who raises their voices. Businessmen bribes bureaucrats and ministers to evade taxes. All this written without mincing words.
The author has also vividly describe the scenarios of Delhi’s slum, pollution and traffic jams and incorrect road mapping that a newcomer will never find its way without loosing its way several times.
Money can buy law and order and manipulate people to hide crime. This has been openly shown in the book. Hit and run cases are fairly common in the country and rich people with the help of money traps the poor driver in the murder. This is what happened with the protagonist.
When the protagonist becomes a rich man he also manipulates the situation with the power of money when one of his driver kills a boy while rash driving. ” A man on a bicycle getting killed- the police don’t even have to register the case. A man on a motorbike getting killed- they would have to register that. A man in a car getting killed- they would have thrown in jail. “
The author’s sarcastic tone is apparent throughout the novel. In the facade of the story, Aravind has openly criticized the pathetic condition of medical and education system in villages, corrupted law and order system, unscrupulous political parties and ministers and deteriorating condition of living in the big cities.
Through the protagonist, the author has expressed his anger, frustration, protest and revolt against the corrupted system of the country and against the hypocrite rich who harass and exploit the poor which forces poor to adopt illegal means to make money in order to live a better life.
Aravind has drawn an interesting analogy with Rooster and white tiger. According to him, poor are trapped like roosters in the coop and once in the generation one breaks off free. That one becomes a white tiger. Here Balram is that White Tiger.
The author has successfully portrayed the plight of the poor, the plight of protagonist but at the end of the novel I have no feelings for the protagonist neither love nor hatred. In fact there is nothing for any character of the story. All the characters were grey shaded or negative driven by their self-interest. Even the protagonist after becoming rich was emulating the people he hated most. It left the readers with no real message from the book.
It is the magic of the writing style of Aravind with which I fell in love with. He has written a very complex story in the most simple way, hitting the right nerve at the right time, vivid description of the situations and scenarios has brought alive the plot.
However there is something I didn’t understand. In the starting of the novel, protagonist cleared it that he doesn’t know English so how he wrote this letter in English language. Was he writing in his own language but we as readers get to read the translated version just as it happens when our Prime Minister goes to China, he has to wear a headset were he could hear the translated version of Premier’s speech.
It needs a lot of courage to write realistic fiction without mincing words. The way author narrated the darker side of India left he shocked novel but then the author’s unique writing style makes the book engaging to read.