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The White Tiger

Having only the information about the greatness and progress made by India in the fields of science and technology is not enough. There is something more which all of us are not aware of. The rot engulfing this country that lies deep into its social, political and economic set-up merits to have an inquisitive look. This decay has consumed badly the socially and economically deprived class of this society. It has also encroached into the tenets on which the foundation of this nation was laid by its architects.

Much hasn’t been put in writing on this subject, though it deserves attention like any of the issues of ‘national interest’. The expectations are high as far the social fabric of this country is concerned but not something out of bounds for its intellectuals. The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga, a novel in receipt of man Booker Prize, 2008 is really an exercise which demands appreciation in this direction. It is not only the content of the book which captivates a person but the style of writing and use of language absorbs a reader so much that he feels attached with the characters somewhere where mechanical relations cease to exist. Adiga has beautifully but sarcastically brought forth the shoddy state of affairs engrossed in the system of this country that the inhabitants of this land has now accepted as a fiat accompli.

Adiga has dwelt on the plethora of subjects concerning everyone and everyday affairs constructing the physical and psychological make-up of the society. Although the author has taken a different route while substantiating his arguments yet there is no moment where one can clearly counterfeit or contradict him in clear terms. Adiga has creatively made every major institution of the country the subject matter of his novel. It compels one to do nothing but to praise him for such a skill and capacity which potentially promises of his auguring into a writer the nation could bank upon.

The author describes humorously the grave cases of corruption and highhandedness common to all the institutions whether politics, judiciary, police or much talked about corporate sector. Parallels drawn in between the poor rural and rich urban life has been done in a pure and pragmatic manner.  Amazing details of exploitation of poor at the hands of their wealthy masters and how their misery is made to metamorphose into the luxury of those who owe them are impressive. These lucid details craftily converged into an ever-inspiring account needs much analysis supplemented by good experience, devotion and articulation infact all traits beautifully expressed by the author to lend the book a predilecting touch. The book thus demands less exhibition of concentration, thoroughly mixed with entertaining bouts hence evades any possibility of mental fatigue.

Adiga illustrates how blood and sweat of the impoverished human lot is the strength of every edifice signifying power and prosperity. The book also reveals how the village life- its customs, traditions and values- becomes impediments in the path of the development of this class. How rural population is stacked under the heavy burden of various implacable impositions which ultimately renders this populace unproductive and halts the growth and advancement of these areas. Migration of these countryside labourers towards cities giving birth to slums there is the direct result of the inhuman approach of village landlords towards this class of society. Major causes of hunger and diseases can be traced to the mode of life these ‘human beasts’ are coerced to live there. In these neo-modern cities dignity and honour of this human lot becomes subservient to their survival. Every deed, irrespective of its legal position, which guarantees them to fetch something in terms of cash or kind, is inevitable to desist from under the harsh circumstances of its ‘fast life’.

 The environment in metropolitan cities of this nation has also been dissected comprehensively. Adiga has used a driver (named Balram) of a private car of a businessman, as a main character in this novel. How the city life erodes his innocence gradually and toughens him so much that he commits a cold blooded murder of his master. Although he was once respecting him so much and was of the belief that masters are equivalent to parents for a servant. When his self became indulged in various acts of debauchery remains mystery to this fellow. When once strange appearing Delhi life drives him to embark on a path which desecrates his soul and corrupts his mind never gets revealed. Balram runs away to Bangalore with the bag, full of cash and establishes his own Travel Company there without having an iota of embarrassment. Adiga has successfully tried to display the proportion of insensitivity a person acquires undesirably under deceitful city life settings. He exemplifies it by presenting the meanness of Balram as he was sure his action would cost him the lives of all of his family members including his elder brother.

Adiga has also mentioned the social set-up of this state for which he has used the metaphor of ‘Rooster Coop’. He believes the social bondages and long established, deep ingrained values of the rural areas of this nation as powers responsible for the under-performance of its populace.

How democracy works in this country is not any boon but a bane for its people. Vote bank politics and its dishonest politicians has made this institution a least trusted one from which all other shades of evil are radiated out. All this has reduced it into a money minting machine operated only by few men with long hands. Voters are sold like stocks before elections and election manifestoes often repeated special songs sung in election season to lure the gullible people.

Lack of development in this nation is ascribed by author to the corruption and red-tapism which has spread its tentacles at every level. Every person rich or poor has his muscles stretched to pounce on anything he is able to snatch from other beings. Adiga has summed-up this phenomenon in the oft-quoted lines-

            In olden days there were thousand castes and thousand destinies in India.
Now there are just two castes- Men with big bellies and Men with small
Bellies and only two destinies- eat or get eaten up.

Regarding the life of those who live on the mercy and bounty of elites, author has come up with the bold conclusion. Adiga has compelled these people to have determination and will to break these shackles to free themselves forever. He makes it amply clear that the only way out is everyone should overtly or covertly came out of this predicament employing whatever means he is able to take. The author gives the feel that on earth the relations are only based on material calculations. The relevance of any person among his inmates is until the person is worth earning. Once he exhausts or becomes impaired during this course his fate becomes like that of an old horse, which is neither suitable for stable nor for slaughter house.

Put it simple the book is straightforward and truthful in its account. It is a package in itself. You can’t help yourself without applauding the efficiency of author to smoothly interconnect such diverse subjects into one compact and complete novel. Distributing the content creatively into chapters with headings as if a period of storytelling is a unique way (First Night, Third Night, etc). This makes it easy to read and understand.

 No doubt one can have divergent opinions with respect to the real essence behind the compilation of this novel. It can only serve as fodder for a good debate which in my opinion is a sign of its being a nice piece recently added to English literature.