The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
The White Tiger is a contemporary fictional account of ambition and the life options available to a person in the rigid and harsh class-based society of India, which is administered through unbridled corruption.
Aravind Adiga came along with the wave of fantastic Indian authors providing insights into their country and the restraints that shackle them to their caste system. As India transitions from a third world country to a world leader in science and technology output, it is struggling to modernise with regards equal opportunity, and equal quality of life for many of its citizens. An interesting statistic is that by 2025 India will surpass China as the largest populated country in the world. India’s transformation in technology, population and equality are on a major societal collision. A collision where dispassionate and amoral exploitation festers and grows.
Balram Halwai, The White Tiger, writes a series of letters to the Chinese President on the eve of his visit to India. In the letters he explains the differences between the two countries in terms of democracy and economic vision, then his letters unfold into a confessional statement of how he has tried to advance his career.
Balram is a chauffeur to a rich businessman in Delhi where he is exposed to wealth and a lifestyle that he believes he can only obtain if he commits certain crimes. The extremes of wealth and opportunities are so clearly presented and the book does not hide from these disparities. The story is cleverly written with great dialogue that treats us to dark humour with striking rawness. The characters and backdrop are vividly written and you feel sympathy and encouragement for the entrepreneurial Balram in a narrative that pulls no punches.
The White Tiger is the 2008 Booker Prize Winner and while many may feel it doesn’t deserve that accolade, including me, it is still a book well worth reading. It portrays an India in its rudimentary form, and its polarised societal structure illustrates how ambition, corruption and value, attributed to life, are so unique. It is a powerful contemporary story that I would recommend.