Saturday, January 31, 2009
The White Tiger
White tiger is a story that is presented to the audience through a series of seven letters that the protagonist of the story, Balram Halwai writes to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to tell him about his life. This is of course a creative approach that the writer has adopted to present his story to the readers.
White Tiger as a book can be read at multiple levels. Some of the questions that the book provokes you to think about are:
• Is violence the only way to break a cycle of poverty?
• Does success eventually redeems all sins?
• And is it the all bearing poor person, who has to bear the brunt of society's conflicts?
Through the character of Balram who calls himself; "half-baked", the writer has painted the other side of the picture of India.
Balram who comes from Darkness (as a metaphor for Bihar) is a character that is portrayed in the most realistic and consistent manner. He is not allowed to finish school. Balram was a smart lad, and that was even recognized by a school inspector, who praised him as a 'white tiger', "the rarest of animals -- the creature that only comes along once in a generation". The school inspector promises to arrange a scholarship and proper schooling for the young boy, but, of course, instead his family takes him out of school and puts him to work at a teashop (to pay for marrying off one of the daughters in the family).
Balram’s story thus begins from the rural India, but entered the light that is Delhi via a job as driver to Mr. Ashok, the son of a rich landlord. Wanting to break the shackles of servitude, Balram kills his boss and later absconds with a good amount of money only to become a big entrepreneur in Bangalore.
The story touches upon various elements: how the riches bribe the govt. officials, how the poor are entangled and blamed for murder/accident committed by their bosses, how the haves exploit the haves-not, how religion has been a dominant factor in the lives of Indians and what all is carried out in the name of God, how caste system has corroded India, is democracy working for our country or only widening the gap between the rich and the poor? Etc. The book bombards the reader with all these questions through the story of Balram’s life.
The philosophy that success eventually redeems all sins is what Balram seemed to believe. Balram also started thinking that even though he committed one murder, in the end, he proved himself; he proved his intelligence and became a successful entrepreneur. It has just proviked me to think and think both ways...Whatever the criticisms that Adiga may have got, it still is a great book...