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 of 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 !