The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Synopsis from Blackwell: Balram Halwai is the White Tiger – the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he will never be able to gain access to that world. As Balram broods over his situation, he realizes that there is only one way he can become part of this glamorous new India – by murdering his master.”The White Tiger” presents a raw and unromanticised India, both thrilling and shocking – from the desperate, almost lawless villages along the Ganges, to the booming Wild South of Bangalore and its technology and outsourcing centres. The first-person confession of a murderer, “The White Tiger” is as compelling for its subject matter as for the voice of its narrator – amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.

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1 Comment

  1. moirabbc

     /  September 29, 2010

    White Tiger was thought-provoking, informative and angry, with some sardonic humour. The novel is in the form of a rather long email from the main character, Balram (the eponymous white tiger) to the Chinese Premier and it is his life story and confession. The Chinese Premier is about to visit India, the world’s largest ‘democracy’ to discover how it manages to produce so many entrepreneurs. However, in the seething mass of desperately poor humanity in India, an entrepreneur is as rare as a white tiger.
    The juxtaposition of India and China is interesting as the former has a free market, much of it servicing the developed world and China is nominally not a capitalist country but it also services the developed world. Chinese people cannot choose their Government, whereas Indian people can vote but corruption and cheating is rife. China has basic sanitation, most Indian people do not.
    Balram escapes from his poor village by using his cunning to get a job as a driver for a US educated entrepreneur, son of one of the ruthless landowners from his home area. He moves to the city, a world where servants of the wealthy crouch in corners waiting to do their master’s bidding, where glittering shopping malls pose among the slums, where the inebriated rich can drive their fast cars into a slum child and bribe the police not to make a fuss.
    Seizing an opportunity to escape servitude and join the entrepreneurs, Balram kills his master and steals his money. This becomes his ‘start-up’ for a business in another city chauffeuring the call centre workers to and from work; they have to work unsocial hours to answer the daytime calls from the West. His only regret is that he knows his master’s father will wreak terrible revenge on his family in the village. To judge such an act of murder as immoral and wicked is meaningless in such a pitiless place.
    Near the end of the novel, Balram imagines that when he is tired of making money, he might become a philanthropist and establish a school for the poor but will he? This is unclear.

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