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.
UPDATE: You can read more here! http://news.iskcon.com/node/1825/2009-03-14/mayapur_residents_recovering_after_car_crash
To my regular readers: some kind of normal service will be resumed soon! I’m preparing another edition of that whacky carnival you know as Strange Shores. I’ll be posting it up this evening (Sunday) or tomorrow morning.
To my irregular readers: the low-down as I know it about Braja.
– The very kind devotee Paul is going to print out all our comments on Braja’s last post and read them out to her today at the hospital. He then flies back to New Zealand. The link to the updates (that I posted yesterday) will lead you to another of Braja’s friends, who is constantly at her side. There is an e-mail address there, but as she is taking quite a long time to answer, I’m assuming that she has received a lot of e-mails. I’m sure she is very busy and distressed herself and doesn’t have time to answer them all.
– Henry the Dog’s Mum has asked her for a postal address to which we can send cards. In the meantime, I did receive a kind message from Paul, who has this to say:
“The address for the Apollo hospital, as well as phone numbers, email etc can all be found on the following website: http://www.apollohospitals.com/Kolkata.asp
I think it’s a very sweet idea for you all to send cards of support.
I have no doubt it’ll raise her spirits and touch her heart. :-)”
– Here is the address:
Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata
#58, Canal Circular Road
Sheesh – do I have to do all the work for you? ;-)
– Please do NOT send flowers to the hospital as they are not allowed. I believe post takes somewhere between 10-14 days to get to India, so you’d better get started!
Just in: Vodka Mom has posted up a reply she got from Ramadevi. Apparently, she is willing to pass on personal messages to Braja, who doesn’t have her mobile in ICU. (So don’t try to ring yet!)
It’s seven in the morning here on Sunday. Can I please go and get a second cup of coffee?