Thursday 19 June 2014

Book Review: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Source: Google Images

Cover: Rather mundane, not that attractive 
Pages: about 328 
Language: English, easy to understand 
Price: Rs 205 
Publisher: Harper Collins Publications 
Quality of the book: Very Good 
Fonts: Medium sized, Readable 
Characters: One main character, Rest supporting. 
Narration: First person 
Flow: Mostly Smooth, but has turning points 

The book jacket reads: Meet Balram Halwai, the ‘White Tiger’: servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, and murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells his story. Born in a village in the dark heart of India, the son of a rickshaw puller, Balram is taken out of school by his family and put to work in a teashop. As he crushes coal and wipes tables, he nurses a dream of escape- of breaking away from the banks of Mother Ganga, into whose murky depths have seeped the remains of a hundred generations. 

His big chance comes when a rich village landlord hires him as a chauffeur for his son, daughter-in-law, and their two Pomeranian dogs. From behind the wheel of a Honda, Balram first sees Delhi. The city is a revelation. Amid the cockroaches and call-centres, the 36,000,004 gods, the slums, the shopping malls and the crippling traffic jams, Balram’s re-education begins. Caught between his instinct to be a loyal son and servant, and his desire to better himself, he learns of a new morality at the heart of a new India. As the other servants flick through the pages of Murder Weekly, Balram begins to see how the Tiger might escape his cage. For surely any successful man must spill a little blood on his way to the top? The White Tiger is a tale of two Indias. Balram’s journey from the darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable. 

Review: Balram Halwai, the main character in the novel, tells the story of his life- Autobiography of a half-baked Indian- through letters to the Chinese Premier, Mr.Jabao. These emails are interesting. They form a different image of the so called progressing and developing India. The way he addresses the Premier is very quirky and the narration, unconventional and sarcastic. His journey from the small village to Dhanbad to Delhi to Bangalore; that is from poverty to employment to success to prosperity, is full of ups and downs. It is the road that most of the uneducated village-folk take to make it big in life, and along the way they lose their honesty and loyalty to corruption. 

Balram is a likable character even though he goes from being the protagonist to the antagonist, or rather, an entrepreneur, as he likes to call himself. He is very natural. He is afraid of the black fort, but goes to the edge of the pond every time, to test whether he can overcome the fear. He is jealous of Ram Prasad, the servant no.1, who played badminton with Pinky Madam, and drove the Honda while he had to be satisfied with Maruti Sujuki. He rebels against his granny, yet loves her. He understands integrity and goodness isn’t all that’s needed to make it big in life. He honors, adores and obeys Mr.Ashok, yet murders him in the end, to gain back his freedom and escape from the ‘rooster coup’. This novel, winner of the Man Booker Prize-2008, is a literary fiction. 

So it includes a lot of symbolism and the subplots cover many themes. It deals with themes like corruption, migration or social mobility, globalization, morality, caste system or identity or religion, and attachment to family. The title itself is symbolic- ‘The White Tiger’. “You young man, are an intelligent, honest, vivacious fellow in this crowd of thugs and idiots. In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals- the creature that comes along only once in a generation? The White tiger. That’s what you are in this jungle.” Inspite of being a literary fiction, the language is easy to read and understand. There are no overwhelming complex sentences to hamper the pleasure of reading. All in all, it’s a good book, but not for them who prefer a quick metro read. My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

 -Pratikshya Mishra


  1. It's a brilliant book that emerged as a revelation of sort for me. A social critique on 2 India, education and corruption.

    1. yes, true.. and the sarcastic tone of the narration was an extra brownie point...

  2. It is a good book with easy flow of narration with the protagonist slowing turning into an antagonist due to the circumstances of poverty , inequality etc.

  3. You made me anxious to read this Book Pratikshya Mishra...


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