Wednesday, October 15, 2008

White Tiger


‘White Tiger’ wins the Booker prize and Aravind Adiga jumps into the elite list of Indian Booker prize winners like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. The book has received mixed reactions, most people believe that the book inflates the social disparity in India and hinges on violence, terror and y Naxalistic sentiments. The Booker prize, according to them, is a testimony to the fact that westerners give literary prizes to Indians who highlight the darker side of India.

My personal opinion is that the book is brilliant. First of all, it is crisp, not voluminous and moves at a breakneck pace. Secondly, it redefines Indian writing in English. Arundhati Roy wrote a brilliant book but somewhere down the line, Rahel & Esther’s observation of Central Kerala in ‘God of small things’ is parallel to Saleem Sinai’s musings on Bombay in Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s children’. Salman Rushdie made the greatest sin of his life by designing this ‘Indian writing in English’ template way back in 1981 which has been aped (efficiently & effectively thou) by hordes of Indian writers for over twenty five years.

Aravind Adiga, is a distinct voice. His narration style and language is refreshingly different. The story in a nutshell is about an illiterate (only technically) Bihari who comes to Gurgaon to be a chauffeur to his village landlord’s son and how he kills his master eventually. There a lot of underlying themes but I don’t want to give out any spoilers.

His observations are needle sharp when he talks about the scum that exists in the periphery of our big futuristic cities like Gurgaon which all of us conveniently ignore. The protagonist talks about two India: the bright and the dark, referring to India Shining and the Bimaru states. The most interesting aspect is that the author doesn’t waste words in detailing the poverty and the wretchedness, but delves into the psyche of the people surviving in that environment. The book is rich in plenty of ‘in your face’ kind of observations like ‘These days there are two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies." & “Do we loathe our masters behind a façade of love or love our masters behind a façade of loathing”?

As we turn the pages, we can feel the chill and terror, akin to what we experience while watching Naseruddin Shah’s Wednesday. When I read the part on how Baburam the protagonist slits his master’s throat, I was so disturbed that I had to take a half an hour break to reconcile with it. Trust me, I have felt like this in very few occasions, the strongest being while watching Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a dream’.

If you have ever thought about the squatting rickshaw puller and the chauffeurs who wait for their masters outside malls for infinite hours, do read this book. And, for most of us, the experience will be very sour.

I am extremely happy that Adiga got this year’s Booker and sincerely hope that it teaches aspiring Indian writers to be different and to follow one’s own style.


15 October 2008

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