Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Adiga's White Tiger and India

''There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.'' - Sherlock Holmes agrees with this and so do I.

him - Aravind Adiga, the author of the booker prize winner, The White Tiger
Delusion - my picture-perfect India

Thankfully, I have an outlet, my blog, to stop the danger from manifesting itself in my temper or elsewhere :)

To be fair to the A man, the book is kept simple, is well-written and would make a good read for many. I only wish I agreed with him more often or he had chosen a subject that was less dear to my heart.....if you have not read the book and want to, here is where you should stop.

The book is about an Indian from a small town in North India who turns an entrepreneur and his journey to get there; filled with different experiences, many of them disturbing but not totally untrue and hence all the more disturbing !

1.Balram's (the protagonist) life starts in a huge poor uneducated family who work all their life for blood-sucking landlords - not so bad, I know the population, illiteracy and working class problems prevalent in India

2.He moves to the city and becomes a car driver - oh..well, the story is getting better

3.He contemplates murdering his boss - now that's a twist.....

4.He actually does so and gets away with it - oh...dear God....

5.He uses the money he stole from his boss to become a entrepreneur - this is definitely going to become a movie and win an Oscar as well, following the footsteps of slumdog !

Let me look at each of these steps in detail and then I can probably explain (also to myself) why my filters were working at full speed !

1. Balram's father is a rickshaw driver and dies from TB. All his life he has supported his huge family and finally dies due to lack of money and medical attention. This snippet actually encompasses lack of proper labour/regulated wages rules, exploding population and lack of affordable medical facilities. To spice this up, there is the added dowry problem that is prevalent and the vicious circle - even a poor family expects dowry for a son since they need to give it for a daughter !

Why is his family illiterate ? Why are they unable to equip themselves for any trade ? Why is the rickshaw driver or for that matter, his father, insistent on having a huge family when they can hardly feed themselves, leave alone the other family members ? What is happening to the birth-control campaigns ?

Why is there still dowry when the Govt. has umpteen rules against getting and giving it ? Why do people insist on doing it ? Yes, there are many unanswered questions, many issues and many changes that are long-due but it drives me mad when someone just points it out in a flurry of words and more so, point only those out that hurt me and my delusion of my India....

2. Balram describes the life of a driver in Gurgaon - waiting outside shopping malls, expensive restaurants....waiting and waiting never knowing when the boss is going to return and only dreaming about the expensive places which are probably 10 feet from where he is standing but still unreachable....

Isn't it part of a driver's job to wait and drive around a person ? What would happen if security personnel get sick of watching over places and baby-sitters get tired of taking care of kids ?

It is true that the economic disparity drives a lot of crime -what would someone do when he doesn't even have money to buy food and his neighbour is spending the money for his month's worth of groceries on a perfume ?! I remember seeing a video on how much 500 rupees was worth to people from different walks of life - for someone it was branded underwear while for someone else it was a month's school fees.


Also, throughout the book, the way servants are treated in India is ridiculed. I fail to understand how this is different or any better, in any other part of the world, be it a developed country or otherwise.

In India, it is true that there is a distinct separation of the so-called working class. But I remember how the maid who worked in my house had her meals with us, how she got new clothes and a bonus for every celebration.....we had a personal relationship with her....! It is sure different in developed countries where the relationship is based on wages but how many people actually socialize with their drivers ?! Are'nt there exclusive clubs and golf courses where such people are not even allowed to be members even if there is a chance ?!

3. Balram is fed up with his corrupt boss and his ways. He cant help thinking that there is no harm in taking the money his boss makes through illegal means. He figures the only way he can get away with what he steals is by killing his boss - the time the news takes to reach the authorities would give him a headstart.

I could have thought of Balram as Robin hood. But all he wanted to do was to start a business and make money so that he would stop being a servant, so that he can go to 5-star hotels and other places where he was never allowed to set foot in. He simply wanted a ''free lunch''. I agree that years of suppression, and of seeing his family struggle made him probably justify his end - the author calls it freeing himself from the rooster coop.

4. He murders his boss, takes the cash and takes a train to South India.

I know one sees this often in movies but is it really that easy to get away with murder ? I believe the author himself is not sure of this and hence the disclaimer inserted in a sly way at the end of book that Balram, inspite of his success as an entrepreneur, can still get arrested any day....

5. Like many others, he makes Bangalore his haven

He starts his own call-taxi business, which will obviously prosper in Bangalore given that all MNCs have to transport their woman employees home at god forsaken hours only because their American colleagues always choose to schedule meetings at their time.

I wouldn't have been surprised if the story had taken a turn and said that Balram murdered one of the women he was transporting just because she refused to marry someone like a taxi-business owner....am sure glad that dint happen.....

The only place where I agreed with the author is his description of how drinking coffee and tea are totally different.

Its a ''raw'' book and makes a good read if you have a long flight but I wouldn't read it again even if someone put a gun to my head.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a book review, just my views and exclusively mine only !

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