So, how many of you have read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga? Mr. Adiga’s novel is a headspinner for those who have always thought of India as a sacred, spiritual mecca, blessedly innocent of the worst of human kind. For the White Tiger (aka Balram, the main character), there are two Indias: one of light, and one of darkness, and the Mother Ganga flows through the India of darkness. The novel is the story of Balram’s journey from the poor abused son of a rickshaw puller to a wealthy man of tomorrow, an entrepreneur in Bangalore. The political corruption and mafia-style business dealings that Balram observes along the way are nothing new to any American who stays abreast of US news, except that this is all taking place in India, the land of Ghandi. And the corruption is so blatant, so “business as usual,” that one cannot be too surprised at the lengths to which Balram goes to secure his freedom.
Balram tells his story through letters to a Chinese dignitary, who he heard is planning to visit Bangalore. A novel of letters is not a new technique, but it takes considerable skill to pull off well. And Adiga does pull it off. He has created a story so riveting that I could barely stop reading long enough to sleep or to drive myself to work. And he created a character in Balram that I couldn’t help but want only the best for, even while he was commiting the worst of crimes. He is undereducated but astute enough to take the insult of being called “half-baked” and turn into a lofty title, thus his “autobiography of a half-baked Indian,” thus his story.
I hope Adiga wins the Booker Prize. The White Tiger is one of the most exciting stories I’ve read in a long, long time.
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