Book number 35: The White Tiger by A. Adiga, picked up from MIBF 2012.
What it is: An account of India far from its popular image of Gandhi, yoga, and enlightenment, The White Tiger reveals the dark side of the social and political climate gripping the country today. Notes of oppression, corruption, and ignorance sing on every page, highlighting the roles of family, government, and general servant-attitude of the people as causes of the great gap between the rich and the poor. All this is told through the story of one man who rose from being a servant to rich entrepreneur through murdering his master.
What I liked about it: The White Tiger talks about crime and the inhumane state of many in India and the main character, Balram chose to open his eyes and rise above all the injustices around him. It did take a murder – and the murder of his entire clan too – to accomplish his escape from his class and go from a humble, innocent, and honest man into a wordly, corrupt, and successful entrepreneur but you got to hand it to him – he did realize his goals and he is looking ahead and moving forward.
The narration is one, long monologue that is interesting at times and boring at others but still I guess it is okay. There are times when The White Tiger is transporting, where I feel I’m on the same road that Balram drives and gets his education from. The setting is easy to visualize and while I’ve never been to India, I feel like I’ve seen a good bit of its chaos, thanks to the book.
What I did not like about it: The story is supposed to be dark but since I’m in a third world country myself, the revelations are nothing new. I guess all the great divide, the poverty, the animal-like living state of many individuals in The White Tiger may be shocking and unacceptable to those in the first world but these and more are everyday here so maybe I’m just not the exact target audience of the book. But I can say that it is enlightening in a way, since it paints a portrait of India that outsiders don’t normally see so there’s something to gain from it still.
Recommended for: Readers who like reading socio-political stuff will enjoy The White Tiger; if you are keen on India and you want to see it beyond oranges, Bollywood, and nan, there is a lot to obtain from this read.