Friday, October 10, 2008

The White Tiger

Once in while comes along a fiction that is so plausible that it would make some hard core news stories read like “Snow White And Seven Dwarfs’
For most of you out there, India is incredible, mystical, spiritual, beautiful, culturally rich, amicable, hospitable, and magical. Right?
You bet it is! The tourism industry thrives on it. The ‘Incredible India’ is on the world map for its tourist pulling capacity. Every year millions of tourists flock here, charmed by this promising land.
Lets talk about the India every Indian knows about but never bothers to understand or has ceased to care. An indifferent shrug of shoulders and eyes turned the other way marks a wary Indian, as he steps carefully through the reeking slums, pinches his nose with a much crumpled handkerchief and side steps the pile of garbage and the corrupt systems.
His senses have become numb while his hands are tied down behind his back.
This is the India the author Arvind Adiga talks about in his debut novel,
‘The White Tiger’.
This novel is short listed for this year’s Man Booker prize and it is Adiga’s debut novel. He writes a gripping, sinister and very, very angry tale about India, without losing the grasp on humor.
He brings the ‘Wrongs’ of India (much to the chagrin of tourism industry perhaps) up in your face, dangles it around your head and throws it in front of you, until you squirm with unease, curl up your legs and remain so throughout the reading of this book, but you would never ever throw down this book in disgust. You would sit through it. Night after night until the last page. I can vouch for it!
Adiga doesn’t mince a single word of the rudimentary English that he uses for his first person narration, when he sings about the ‘not so incredible India’ in his (amazing) book.
The fragrance of sandalwood, the aroma of rich food, the lovely bright colours, the humble ‘Namaste’, the hospitability, the flaunted warmth, the perceived morality and the much publicized spirituality of India wanes into the stink of corruption, poverty, hunger, exploitation, unspeakable violence, lack of integrity, absence of conscience, absence of ethical policing, absence of manners, absence of hygiene, unequal distribution of wealth, victimizing of the innocent and the ignored crimes (Ok, I throw my hands up)
Adiga mixes all these ‘adornments’ of India, with a naked picture of the moral bankruptcy of police where a simple procedure such as lodging a FIR for a death by road accident, turns into an inhuman mental torture for a poor man.
Balram, the protagonist who is on run, after murdering his employer, smoothly justifies his crime by taking the reader into the realms of his past where they witness the suppressed feelings of injustice slowly shaping into the deadly and jagged edge of a broken bottle, which he uses to kill his indolent and manipulative employer.
This is not one of those ‘contrived India Bashing’ novels that always attract the international prizes, but a true and unadorned reportage of the real India, without hashing up words.
This is India for you; by an Indian.