The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

A brilliant, bold and yet sensitive depiction about life in the ‘darkness’. I found this book very thought provoking but strangely disturbing.The ever present rift between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ manifests in the pressing need of the central character Balram Halwai to ‘break out of the coop’.

The story of Balram Halwai is portrayed in his own words very interestingly, as a letter to the Chinese Premier. Born in a small village on the banks ofย  the Ganga, Balram describes feudal, hinterland India at its best.Determined to change his lot, he awaits opportunities as they present themselves and finally secures a foothold.As he struggles not to drown in the same rut which ate up his ancestors, all sense of right or wrong withers before his strong instinct to survive. Strangely innocent yet corrupt, the character of Balram Halwai is a study in gray.The author’s stark portrayal, bereft of any pretensions, of the complexities of the character is impressive.

As the story of his life unfolds, the reader who fully empathizes with the character within the context of feudal India with its unforgiving ways suddenly gets sucked into a disturbing whirlpool of Balram’s thoughts. It is an almost maniacal urge to ‘break out of the coop’ as he likens millions living in the same conditions as chickens for slaughter. The lengths to which a man can go, to avoid getting sucked into the rut. Its existentialism at its best as Balram murders for gain, sacrifices his own family all of which he defends in his bid to move to the ‘light’.The character is not depicted as an individual with an inherently criminal bent of mind albeit when the time comes, he displays no compunction or remorse. A chore to be dispensed with. A hurdle to be traversed.Call it Jungle law or Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest ; shocked or disgusted you can be, but you definitely cant ignore.

Do you dismiss him as an opportunist & a criminal or do you admire his tenaciousness to survive ?
Do we take the high moral ground and cast him as a villain or do we castigate the system which made him ?
Does a ‘white tiger’ lurk in each one of us ?

Recommended reading !

12 thoughts on “The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

  1. PhillyGuy

    I would say that a white tiger definitely lurks within all of us. How that tiger is unleashed however, how that energy is channelized, does differ though. The character has legitimate grievances against the “system” but how many inspiring stories have we heard of folks rising above their circumstances and making it without having to rely on violence and criminal enterprises? Poverty, exploitation, and bad systems exist in a number of places, not everywhere do you see criminals or maoists rise. This character has issues, and its not just the violence. How about his obsession for blondes ๐Ÿ™‚ He is nuts!

    Loved the book btw. Can recall entire passages even though it was two years ago that I read it. Am glad you liked it.

  2. PhillyGuy

    BTW if you liked this book, please try to read “Sea of Poppies” by Amitav Ghosh. I am loving the way Indian authors are now writing uniquely Indian stories in English. Admired Munshi Prem Chand for doing it in Hindi, but am enjoying this stuff.

  3. I think instead of keeping one post per page u should keep 5. People scroll down but don’t click on “older entries” for what all widgets u can keep on sidebar u can check out my blog.

  4. couldn’t agree to all of it. did not like the book because of its presentation and re-presentation about a lot of things but apart from that as someone already suggested read Amitav Ghosh’s “Sea of Poppies”

  5. A good review.
    When I started the book I was in a happy mood (it was a birthday gift and I was still a teen then) and as it drew towards a close i couldn’t help feel disgusted and disturbed. But whenever I think of the protagonist, then and now, I can’t help but be disturbed not because he is a prototype of many exist in the society around me but because there is constant production(yes, in the capitalist sense of the term) of such individual which is inescapable.

    There is a white tiger in most(if not all) of us and I think,looking at how things are going, it is only a matter of time when the urge to become one manifest itself – the result might not be as ugly as in Balram’s case but just an blatant show of ‘tenaciousness to survive’ in different shades.

  6. Hi,

    A very thought-provoking article on an equally thought-provoking book. I think one of the highlights of this book is that is forces us to see the dirty underbelly of our own cities, our own homes, and our own minds. This might also be why so many people hate it. But in the end Balram is the spirit of change that must purge all of this, and to peg him as simply an opportunistic criminal is most unfair.

  7. Hey,
    Let me start with an thank you note, for visiting my blog. Now we both know that our take on the book I’ll just say, I love the way you review. it’s crisp and it’s more literary. You have a fan here ๐Ÿ˜€

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