The White Tiger – A Review
“Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English.” - Aravind Adiga Aravind Adiga was born in Chennai during the mid-1970s to parents who hailed from a small city in Karnataka. He was welcomed into a very well educated and well-connected family. He kept the name of his family flying high when he ranked 1st in the State of Karnataka in the SSLC exams in 1990. He also went on to add Columbia University and University of Oxford to his Alma Mater . He began his career as a financial journalist in New York City but he soon moved into the world of literary fiction. On today’s date Adiga has 4 short stories along with three novels to his name. Most of his short stories got published around the same time as his first novel. “Between the Assassinations” and “Last Man in Tower” are his two lesser known but still widely read novels. The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga’s first novel, made him the fourth Indian born winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2008, and the following account justifies just why he did. The novel tells the riveting tale of Balram Halwai, “servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer”, (Harper Collins, Back Cover) (the mere synopsis glaring out of the dark paperback covers of the book are enough to draw the attention of every avid book lover), illustrating his rise from tea boy to the toast of modern India’s entrepreneurship world. The title refers to a rare breed of white tigers occasionally spotted in the North - Eastern parts of India. The white tiger is a vivid example of the potent animal imagery used extensively by Adiga. The title is significant, owing to the inherent distinctions that the two breeds, humans, and animals share. The tiger's rarity hints at its exclusive nature, whilst Balram's unabated intelligence, causes even his school teacher to draw parallels between the two, who remarks, "The white tiger, that's what you are, in this jungle. Balram is the White Tiger". (Adiga, Page 30). Balram emerges a success, by no conventional means of academic or ethical achievements, but he does manage to crawl out of the rooster coop at last, becoming the "man" his father had dreamt he would become. However, upon further introspection, a strange revelation crops up in the cynical corners of my amateur mind about Balram's glittering rags-to-riches tale detailing his escape from the rooster coop. Even the white tiger rests in his own cage, seething, sad, and solitary. Balram Halwai is, for all intensive purposes, a strange man with a simple vision, mind numbing courage, and the kind of idiocy that shrouds the discreetly intelligent. Essentially a labourer residing in Laxmangarh, or as he refers to it, “the Darkness” (Adiga, Page 15), a particularly backward region of India ruled by the kind of ruthless landlords the villains of Bollywood in the 70’s is made of Adiga’s thrilling grasp of literal imagery leaves one impressed, and to be honest, a little taken aback, Halwai is eventually transported to the bustling city of Delhi, as a driver to one of the more westernized sons of his landlord. Here, his surprisingly creative mind begins to segregate people into two distinct categories – the big bellied predators who “prey” on their seemingly weaker victims or for the sake of simplicity, the ones who “eat” and the ones being “eaten”. He craves to shift his fate from the latter towards the former category, thus establishing his uninhibited ambition as the central premise of the novel, so much so, that he says, “I’ll say it was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hour, just for a minute, what it means not to be a servant.” (Adiga, Page 276).
He classifies those being eaten, as roosters snuggled into dingy “rooster coops”, rubbing their dusty feathers together in unanimous mediocrity. He strives to break free of the coop, shed the musty feathers, and turn into the...
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