Library Corner

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

with 14 comments

This is an interesting insight into the class differences of India, for those who remain oblivious to these.  We see India though the eyes of Balram Halwai, a sweet maker by caste, yet a White Tiger looking for his freedom.  As the driver of a rich, corrupt family which constantly bribes officials from politicians to policemen, Balram sees and hears all, which ultimately he uses to escape the shackles of his imprisonment from his master.  Amidst the prostitution, corruption, filth, and deprivation, Balram bides his time until he comes out of the darkness, and crosses over into the light.  I found this novel to be worthy of the Man Booker prize it won; as a first novel it kept me interested and also amused.  I was disappointed by the ending and felt my enthusiasm deflate by the last chapter or so.  It is similar to other books that I have read on India and its class system, especially in terms of the pollution, corruption, prostitution etc.  The consensus in our group was that this was infact a really good read.  We were interested to ask whether it accurately portrayed India and in the end were in agreement that it did reflect the sad realities of many of India’s poor and deprived.  It was particularly significant for us living in Kuwait where many of us have housemaids and hired home help.  I also thought it would be interesting to hear from those who have been brought up with different values and experienced these caste differences first hand,  who might therefore have an appreciation for the differences, more than perhaps we could.  A really interesting book, that is written in a very simplistic style, and manages to balance harsh realities with humour.

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Written by Um Yousef

3 March 2009 at 3:58 pm

14 Responses

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  1. that sounds interesting! :) the much talked about book i guess. from what i gather the book mustve concentrated more on the rural sections, and life there. there are actually so many sections and slices that there are still things that are novel to the other sections! :) hope you get what im trying to say! but still, would be glad to be of help in anyway, in clearing doubts!! :)

    onlooker

    29 March 2009 at 6:09 pm

  2. I just read it too, for our book group. Just afterwards, someone handed me The Age of Kali, William Dalrymple, which I am struggling through, and which complements White Tiger, saying many of the same things about politicians and corruption.

    I found White Tiger an easy read. I disliked the main character, and his utter lack of character, from the very beginning. He had not one single lasting value; they all shifted with the opportunity. And yes, it makes me wonder what those who take care of us are really thinking . . . including in the restaurants . . . :-(

    I used to want to go to India. Now, I never want to go.

    intlxpatr

    2 April 2009 at 12:26 pm

  3. oh! thats sad, the last sentence from intlxpatr. makes me wonder at the power of the writing, and its impact, and more so when it comes from someone as dear as intlxpatr! Makes me but wonder and ponder…

    onlooker

    4 April 2009 at 9:16 am

  4. the pondering led me on to some browsing of reviews, and chanced upon this one, by one Mr. Akash Kapur of New York Times, ” The problem with such scenes isn’t simply that they’re overdone. In their surfeit of emblematic detail, they reduce the characters to symbols. There is an absence of human complexity in “The White Tiger,” not just in its characters but, more problematically, in its depiction of a nation that is in reality caught somewhere between Adiga’s vision and the shinier version he so clearly — and fittingly — derides. Lacking this more balanced perspective, the novel feels simplistic: an effective polemic, perhaps, but an incomplete portrait of a nation and a people grappling with the ambiguities of modernity.”
    I do hope the readers don’t take the ‘derision’ part too seriously. :)
    and i hope Noreen doesnt mind me taking too much of her blog space (comment space!) :)

    onlooker

    4 April 2009 at 10:25 am

  5. Hi Onlooker, thank you for your comments. The one thing this book certainly did was generate discussion.

    Intlxpatr-I also found it easy to read. I myself have always wanted to go to India. The book is a stark reminder I guess that we should be ‘careful’ when asserting ourselves in restaurants, or with housemaids and other help…the newspapers regularly illustrate the tragedies that can arise…

    Um Yousef

    4 April 2009 at 5:22 pm

  6. I bought this book but didn’t read it yet. It looks like an interesting read, I’ll only find out when I actually read it.
    What are you guys reading next? I’d love to join your book club! Book clubs are fun! Can you e-mail me what you guys are reading next?

    Best,
    H.

    Hussain

    1 May 2009 at 2:44 am

  7. Hi Hussain,

    Our book club is indeed fun-unfortunately it’s ladies only. We are presently reading (trawling though in my case) the Book Thief. Have you read it yet? I noticed on your website you have it on the shelf. I shall post my thoughts once I’m done reading it. Good luck with your studies-A fellow bookworm.

    Um Yousef

    5 May 2009 at 6:31 pm

  8. argh, you sexist people! :-p

    I’m actually reading The Book Thief (and two other books.. ah, the sweet torture of school!) I’ll be virtually attending the book club, then!

    Hussain

    6 May 2009 at 3:02 am

  9. Aaarrgh! I really need to be more careful, don’t I, leaving my comments? Honestly, Onlooker, I was double whammied by the reading of Age of Kali at the same time. Together, the picture was just bleak.

    Our book group read Half of a Yellow Sun after we read White Tiger, and it was a totally different take on serving, different and reassuring. Not only did the manservant not kill his employer, he risked his own life to look after “his” family. While it is about a desperate war, it has its uplifting moments – I loved the book, set in Biafra/Nigeria.

    Intlxpatr

    14 June 2009 at 4:07 pm

  10. Um Yousef, no more posts? You can’t have stopped reading????

    intlxpatr

    19 September 2009 at 4:05 pm

  11. my sister is currently reading the book.
    im waiting for her to finish so i can read it next

    eshda3wa

    15 October 2009 at 1:12 am

  12. i heard so much about this book but for some reason it didn’t get my attention to read!

    q8travelbud

    2 August 2010 at 6:27 pm

  13. “The White Tiger” is third world porn. It is one man’s take on India and the caste system, which is only practiced in the most remote rural areas. Like every developing country, India is straddled with problems but it is an emerging superpower (which means there is hope for upward mobility every single Indian).
    Do “My Feudal Lord” and “The Pakistani Bride” accurately depict the life of women in Pakistan? If that is the case, the world will run out of tears for the women, the minorities and the moderates in Pakistan. So before you decide to overwhelm the Indians with your condescending pity, save it for your own people.

    proudtobedesi

    17 March 2011 at 12:14 am

  14. Desigirl-All countries have their problems, such a shame to be in denial-that’s what stops progress. Your last line sounds bitter, sad.

    Um Yousef

    17 March 2011 at 6:18 pm


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