Book Review: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga, a native of Chennai, is an Indian author holding dual citizenship of India and Australia. He has studied in Columbia University, New York, and Oxford University in London, and started his writing career as a journalist. Adiga is the fourth Indian author to win the Booker Prize for The White Tiger. 

Inherently, book deals with the serious issue of the vicious cycle of poverty on one hand, but makes a mockery of middle class in India on the other .The middle class who is fighting its own battle but is an oppressor of servants, like a tyrant ruler. It might make people introspect (especially those with domestic help in their house), “Am I that bad and selfish. What is my fault if I am little more fortunate than a poor loitering on the road?” But certainly, like a true Indian, people can think and feel better by giving the onus to their previous birth’s karma.

He is a good writer. The witty humour and explanation of plots takes you on a journey of life in a metro and an Indian village. The art of criticising the loop holes in Indian society in a clever manner is what keeps you engaged throughout the book, and raises problems in the Indian system.

It is a good read, no doubt, but it doesn’t bring out a good image of India on the international front, when India is one of the fastest growing economies. It brings out a picture of India which is corrupt, hollow, and dishonest, and its people who are the victims of age old practices, which is true undoubtedly in certain cases. But it questions the behind the scene activities of the making of a successful individual in India, which is not true for everyone.

 Balram, the protagonist of story, belongs to the darkness where there are misfortunes at the bottom of the pyramid. A frustrated follower and victim of the Indian family system, bound in the shackles of conservative Indian culture, where there is no money to feed oneself, but to splurge on weddings, keeping family mortgaged as bonded labour . With fire, frustration and passion, he moves to the city where he gets rid of that system and finds little respite serving his master; but then again, the more one has, the more one desires. And in this lure of having more, his desires to be one among the elite classes and move upwards on Abraham Maslow’s Need Hierarchy pyramid. He banks upon the opportunity and then this young aspiring Indian entrepreneur reaches in the middle of the pyramid, learning from the system and his masters. After all, it has been said that entrepreneurs are born, not made.

It would have been better if the author would have thrown light on another Indian, another white tiger who has become successful following the right means and hard work. Otherwise, with the present situation of India, and this latest Satyam fiasco, it can really question the credibility of Indians and the Indian system. In other words, to put an analogy if the author has talked about Satyam, then he should also have mentioned Infosys (I sincerely pray no such revelations come out as of Satyam).

Perhaps the author will come out with Part 2 of The White Tiger; after all, we Indians are not that bad. Because at present, it presents a half baked, bird eye view of India, which can be renamed “Movements along the Pyramid” Or “The Dark Side”. This, “The White Tiger” portrays India as a land of The Black Sheep. 

3 Responses to “Book Review: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga”
  1. sumitsony says:

    I am not sure I got everything you wanted to say but Adiga’s getting Man Booker prize for 2008 manifests his easily-readable well-writings which has dark humour.

    When I was reading it, Josheph Heller’s Catct-22 was flashing before me.

    But I am missing a point. I bought the hardback only because I saw it every where. And I think he does not get his book popular because it was well written even without having a story but by virtue of tale which depicts screwedness of Indian entrepreurs, who are front leaders of “yellow and Brown wave” bothering ethenic whites too much these days.

  2. I feel the book is really well written and talks about the basic issues like Education, Healthcare, Corruption and Political Malpractices in a crude and naked manner.
    I feel it was too courageous of Adiga to pick up these topics, has it not been the case, people like you and me, “the part of India Shining Brigade” could never even think of these people whom we boss around on all 365 days a year.
    I always wondered why we people try hide and avoid looking at our shortcomings and negatives so much so that we start believing that everything is good and bright and completely forget about the negatives.
    I agree it gives a bad taste of India to any reader of the book, but at the same time it gives us the food of thought. It puts us face to face with the Bharat which is not at all shining and is poorer and uglier than the poorest of African countries. Now it’s our duty to figure out the solutions to these problems, to make our growth more complete and meaningful.

  3. palakmathur says:

    @Shashank Not everyone in India thinks India is Shining neither do they think of a Flat World. There are issues and they will remain. What would be courageous is to face them and try to abate them.

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