“All the world’s a stage” said William Shakespeare.
Here, Aravind Adiga, in his novice attempt at a novel, has illustrated the world as a jungle. Not much of a surprise; we meet animals on the streets everyday!
This story ‘The White Tiger’ is about Balram Halwai who is far more intelligent than his classmates and so earns the title ‘White Tiger.’ A white tiger is a rare thing that is born only once in a generation. Thus the name.
Unlike a typical intelligent schoolboy, Balram turns out a different person altogether. The reason is that he was from the Darkness. His was a poor family and he had to drop out of school early. Here’s the secret: India is the only country in which one can find two main partitions; Darkness and Light. The poor families in the ‘underdeveloped’ villages, (not ‘developing’ as the rest of the world calls it (or rather, villages that face barriers to development)) who have to struggle hard daily for half a meal and those who have to drop their children’s education to pay off debts, make up Darkness.
The rest of the world turns a blind eye towards Darkness.
This is the kind of story that helps readers realize the harsh realities of life and the author has made no effort whatsoever to diminish the harshness. It’s blunt and to the point; no beating around the bush.
Mr Ashok Sharma alias Balram Halwai, a driver; a thief; an entrepreneur; a murderer and the White Tiger, on hearing the news of the Chinese Premier’s visit to India, writes a letter to him explaining the realities of India, which he wouldn’t otherwise know. He narrates his entire life story; the story of how a simple boy from Laxmangarh became the driver of a wealthy man in Dhanbad, his journey to New Delhi; the story of how Delhi corrupted his America-return master and himself, and his transition from a faithful servant to murderer and then an entrepreneur.
The author discusses the concepts of caste, poverty, weakness, vulnerability, corruption, freedom and mainly, the difference between Darkness and Light.
This is not a fast paced story, and I really enjoy some pace in the story. This wasn’t a polished and colourful story, it’s just a narrative of facts. If truth be told, the story didn’t appeal to me; seems hard to accept, maybe because the truth is always bitter or maybe because the incidents are similar to those I’ve seen in movies.
The narrative contains spoilers for those who hold India in sky heights. Nevertheless, the tale gives an insight into another India altogether; another India that lives so close to us, yet remains unnoticed.
P.S: It’s interesting to note that Balram, after slitting his master — Mr Ashok’s — throat and running away to Bangalore, takes up his ex master’s first name as his; he becomes Mr Ashok Sharma the successful entrepreneur.