Last month I finished reading the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008: The White Tiger by the Mumbai-based writer Aravind Adiga. This is Aravind’s debut novel and it is quite a literary feat, I can tell you.
The protagonist of the novel is the very poor Balram, son of a rickshaw puller, who is taken out of school in order to help support his family. He faces a life of darkness and hard labour crushing coals and wiping tables. However, he manages to get a job as a chauffeur in the big city of Delhi and then goes on to seize his chance to start a new life in Bangalore.
The twist in this tiger’s tail is that we know from the very start that Balram is a murderer – a chatty and very entertaining one too – and the whole novel is written as a series of letters to the Chinese Prime Minister, who is planning a visit to Bangalore, and who, Balram decides, must be told the truth about India.
Balram reveals the corruption underneath the democratic face of India, the bribery, and how the servants of the rich in Delhi are left to rot in dirty basements. The genius of this book is that we feel great sympathy for the murderer Balram, who kills his master and flees to Bangalore to become a successful, rich businessman himself.
“In the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India,” says Balram. “These days there are two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies.”
A white tiger comes along only once in a generation – a rare creature, like Balram. However, a white tiger that is caught in a cage is not a happy one once he realizes that he is caged. And this is what the novel portrays: a country where roles and castes imprison the people who live there.
I warmly recommend this novel: it is shocking and entertaining (often hilarious) in equal parts. And the voice of our narrator (murderer) is cynical, amoral and – dare I say it? – endearing.
Slabs of granite
Marking might and the passage of time
Centuries old, gazing blindly over the lake.
Will you still be standing in another thousand years?
The guardians of time.
For a look at other parts of the world, visit That’s My World!
This week, we visited a zoo and safari park here in Sweden – and gasped in wonder at the yaks, antelope, rhinos, dolphins and tigers. And although these animals are not strictly pets, I’m focusing more on the pride part in this post – pride and respect for other living creatures. So, please! Indulge me.
The rhinos looked like immobile rocks as they snoozed in the sun.
Yet – there amidst the amazement – I felt a terrible sadness. A sadness at seeing all these animals in enclosures – for our viewing benefit. I couldn’t help but feel that they would be better off in their natural habitat. If their habitat was still there – and if we weren’t driving them to the brink of extinction, that is.
The sad fact is that very few rhinos can survive outside protected areas these days.
My sadness intensified when we came to the tigers’ enclosure. The size of these magnificent creatures took my breath away. It’s only when you are up close (separated by thick glass, of course) that you can see the pure enormity and power of this animals. It seems so terrible to keep them in these enclosures.
Sadly, tigers are also on the brink of extinction and there are only about 4,000 left in the wild. During the past 100 years, they have decreased by 95% and we have already lost three of nine sub-species, and the fourth one is on its way out. The illegal tiger trade – including being used in Chinese medicine – is wiping out these creatures.
So, are zoos and parks like this one doing a good job in preserving endangered species? They are certainly helping in many ways. And yet – I can’t help wishing that we no longer had any need to keep animals in cages.
What do you think?
In the immortal lines of William Blake:
|Tiger, tiger, burning bright|
|In the forests of the night,|
|What immortal hand or eye|
|Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?|
For a glimpse at more domestic pets – please visit Pet Pride.
It seems I’m not like other mothers.
I don’t shop, cook or … iron!
I gave my niece her newly-washed clothes and she looked at me in shock.
“Don’t you have an iron?” she screamed.
“Yes… somewhere. We use it for the Hamas beads.”
“Don’t you ever use it, like, to iron clothes?” she pleaded
“No. I just use my hands to smooth out the wrinkles.”
Wish that worked on my wrinkles too…
However, it did give me an idea for a show:
EXTREME IRONING – soon on a TV mountain top nowhere near you!
Just because the shoe fits…
… That doesn’t mean you have to wear it!
Words on Wednesday – inspired by Muddy Boot Dreams
On the whole, I’d say that the Swedes are very good at adopting new technologies and mindsets early on. One aspect they seem to have embraced is the open and sharing attitude that the Internet facilitates.
One example of this comes from Tomas Seo, whom I met at a recent TEDxStockholm event. After connecting up via Facebook and Twitter, I was excited to read all about his latest venture… his creative project during the holidays. Yes – he seriously needs his head looking into is keeping himself on creative toes while on holiday! (Can toes be creative? / Ed.)
And not only is he admirable – he is also generous. He is offering to create free logotypes (one to be finished every day for a month) if you tweet him a brief. For example:
Read the rules here and then tweet him a brief if your company needs a logotype! Each logotype must be inspired by a movie or TV series character.
Now, to make this even more interesting, he is putting up screencasts on his site so that you can see his two or three hours’ work designing a logotype compressed into a two-minute video. It’s amazing how much work and thought goes into a logotype.
Naturally, I tweeted him a brief!
My blog is http://www.ladyfi.wordpress.com. Need something quirky and funny. Inspiration character: Dame Edna Everage.
And although he doesn’t really want to design blog headers, he kindly designed me some cyber bling!
If you watch the video showing his thought and work process, you’ll see that he really has captured the essence of that crazy Dame Edna! (Oh – and the music is good too!)
As to why I chose Dame Edna… well, I think you can all draw your own conclusions!
For a look at other parts of the world, visit That’s My World!
No – really! I’m not scared of the dark.
Oh – before you go, can you leave the light on?
And don’t forget my cuddly toy!
For more cuddly animals, please visit Pet Pride.
Have you heard of the term moblogging? That’s short for mobile blogging.
I’m nothing if not cutting edge! Hard to believe I’m in the middle of nowhere.
Doing a lot of nothing.
Last week I was talking about nudity and wondering why it is so very taboo in some countries and considered natural in others.
Surely it is an example of walking a thin line between porn and nature? Between accepting our bodies and denying them? Between embarrassment and confidence?
Yesterday, I was with my 11-year-old niece who has come over for a two-week stay from England and the anklebiters, up at the little red summer cottages that we are renting.
After a sudden thunderstorm, the evening sun shone gloriously and we decided to take a dip in the evening warmth down at the nearby lake. After a while, a tanned, silver-haired and extremely tall Swede turned up with his young son. He looked surprised to see us, as if hoping to have the tiny beach to themselves.
“Oh, we’re going to go swimming,” he said. “We didn’t bring our swimming clothes, though. I’m going to swim anyway, so I hope no one will be offended,” he said firmly – but with a smile.
“It’s OK. We’ve got friends who often swim nude at their summer place. And I promise I won’t look!” I said… although in reality I was thinking, “Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!” (And no – I didn’t take a picture!)
The kids didn’t bat an eyelid and just carried on swimming and playing.
Although it did give my niece pause for thought…
“You could never do that in England. Sweden is so much better!”
It’s wonderful that people can be so natural and not at all self-conscious. It was, all in all, a lovely swim.
So – would something similar be able to take place in your country with so much grace and charm?
Summer in Sweden means a lot of things: mosquito bites, ticks, wild raspberries, garlands of flowers and, of course, those long heavenly evenings when it never really gets dark.
In fact, in the north of Sweden, the sun never goes down below the horizon at all. It is called the Midnight Sun. It is quite an experience to be able to read without lights on at three o’clock in the morning! (Of course, the opposite is also true in the winter when the sun doesn’t peek above the horizon and they live their days in perpetual twilight.)
Here in the Stockholm region, the sun dips below the horizon for two or three hours, and the eerie white light of night turns a little duskier for a few hours. Then, the sun climbs up into the sky again and the birds start twittering (that’s the birdsong variety not the online one!) at about four o’clock.
How do you get to sleep? The answer is: with difficulty.
When I first came to Sweden 12 years, it was summer and light. All the time. My body wasn’t used to all this glorious around-the-clock light and I couldn’t sleep for more than three hours every night. This went on for what felt like months, but was probably only a couple of weeks.
I steadily got more and more tired.
Then, one evening, I collapsed on the bed at 6 pm and slept the whole night long.
After that experience, I was cured.
For more insights into the different parts of the world, check out: That’s My World!