The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – a Review

To begin, I have completely decided that I am not going to hire a driver as long as my reflexes and my eyes work.  No, I dont want a Balram to drive me around and some day slit my throat with a broken bottle of Black Dog.  I’d rather live and enjoy the alcohol.  That said and done, I did not like the book.  It was superficial.  

Balram Halwai comes from Bihar (‘the darkness’), goes on to chase his goals of better livelihood,  better opportunities etc,.  And, that takes him to Dhanbad, Gurgaon and finally Bangalore.  He grows up from a child scared of lizards studying in a village school to a coalbreaker in a tea stall to a driver ( Dhanbad and Maruti 800)  to a much accomplished chauffeur (since he moves to Gurgaon and Honda City) and finally an accomplished entrepreneur in the business of running the cabs for the usual suspects – the call centre companies in Bangalore.  Along the way, he slits the throat of his boss, bribes the officials for his progress,  helps his landlady to run away from her own home (unwittingly, may be).   But does the character grow?  There is no childlike innocence, there is no sense of bonding with his brother.  Its a detached resentful sarcastic adult narrating the story.  Another thing I did not understand : Do people (real people) discuss everything in a car with drivers driving it?  I think not ….., that did not work for me.

Some insights are priceless : the rampant corruption depicted beautifully, the sarcastic Balram Halwai’s observations on India Shining and his quibble about the number of Gods and Goddesses arses he has to kiss, and of course his brilliant analysis of “The Rooster Coup syndrome” which keeps servants faithful to their masters.  In the markets in New Delhi, hens and roosters are stuffed into wire cages where they spend their days pecking and shitting on each other fighting just to breathe. According to Balram, it’s the same for the poor of India. They are so busy fighting among each other for the chance to breathe that they will never be able to escape their cages.  The threat of violence against their families if they misbehave is a factor as well. 

So it took him extraordinary courage to become the White Tiger and slit Mr. Ashok’s throat for a red bag full of money – his start up to become a succesful entrepreuner.

My verdict : The book is raw, stark and excellent to read.  It goes straight for the kill.  In the very first chapter he says “Eight months later I killed Ashok Sir” – just like that.

It is not a book I would read again – better borrowed than bought.


17 thoughts on “The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – a Review

  1. I was given the book. I think it tries to be “too clever”. I left it wondering what the author was trying to convey really? The “darkness”/light idea, social inequality , change, coming of age…if so why make it a series of letters? Or maybe I am too old fashioned. I like my stories to be stories not clever literary devices.

    My Naani Ma could tell better tales than this one

  2. I haven’t read the book yet, and will be NOT be buying it now. I also dislike the fact that his success came with murder.
    And no we don’t discuss everything, unless it is in a language he does not understand, in front of the driver, you are right.

    His character is something I can not understand – the murder – ah well, that did not disturb me

  3. I was going to read the book, but after reading your review – won’t buy it! will try to borrow it though… 😉

    Read it Pixie – but its not worth keeping

  4. and did Adiga deserve the Booker?

    i read another review and critic said he doesn’t and that it lacked something.

    In my humble (heh who am I kidding!) opinion, successful writing is what creates an emotional link in the mind of the reader – you wanna be there, or be that person or hate that person – whatever. This book simply did not. I did not like or hate any one of them – Halwai, Mr. Ashok, Pinky anyone ….. so it left me unmoved. Not Booker material definitely

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  6. i just finished reading the book… though the book has it negatives… i actually liked it… the freshness, straightness (its almost blunt at times) is appreciable but still it leaves u wanting for something more

    It left me empty

  7. I don’t buy such books. My college library has a copy, and nobody has got it issued as yet 🙂
    Almost all the books I’ve read (baring the Dan Browns) have come from one library or another. This one will come too!

    Yeah, good for you

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