''Meet Balram Halwai; servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer...'' reads the blurb on the Man Booker prize winner- The White Tiger.Since it's 2008 win I had been aching to read it but never got around to buying it. Sometimes, because I thought it was too expensive and other times because there were better picks in competition. Finally, when I saw it at a Book fair back in Decemeber for Rs.75! There was no reason to let it go. (I can be a bit of a cheap sucker when it comes to buying books but hey! Who says reading needs to be an expensive hobby?)
So, Balram Halwai, is the witty narrator of this journey who goes from being a servant to an entrepreneur. It may seems like a rags to riches story at first but a few pages in, and you know there is a bigger, dirtier game being played out before you. Here is a protagonist who starts out in the poverty-stricken, unjust society of India and learns the hard way that the only way to make it to the top, quick is to imitate the rich, i.e: betray, steal and kill.
The story unveils a side of India that is conveniently hidden under its 'fastest growing economy' label.Adiga manages to strip the sheen off the 'new' India that we have come to know and exposes the hypocrisy and misery that exists in the working class of this country. As Balram philosophically disdains over the treatment of the poor in his country, he says, humans should be treated like humans.
The book has been written in the form of letters addressed to the President of China who is to visit India soon. The most poignant parts in the book come whenever Balram tries to advice the President. Here's an extract:
''BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR IN SEVEN EASY DAYS!
Don't waste your money on those American books Mr. Jiabo. They're so yesterday.
I am tomorrow!''
This book paints a vivid picture of the misery and helplessness of India's lower class and what it takes to break away from the shackles of poverty- a will of breaking free of the 'rooster coup' so great, that it triumphs all other emotions.
Adiga's writing style is simple, flowy and witty. Balram starts out by telling Mr. Jiabo (the President):
''It is an ancient and venerated custom of people in my country to start a story by praying to a Higher Power. I guess, Your Excellency, that I too should start off by kissing some god's arse.Which god's arse, though? There are so many choices.See the Muslims have one god. The Christians have three gods. And we Hindus have 36,000,000 gods.Making a grand total of 36,000,004 divine arses for me to choose from.''
Don't let the humor fool you because the tale gets dark from here! This is not a big eye-opener but an interesting book nonetheless.