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the white tiger by aravind adiga

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The white tiger by aravind adiga

This book won the mann booker prize of u.k. which is 50,000 british pounds. But more than that, winning the prize, is a boost to book sales. All in all, makes the author rich.

I would like to comment on this book from four perspectives – the presentation, the story, the message and the author

The presentation – the book is very well written. In simple grade 8 english. The language, though not elegant, is simple. There are few Indian words. So I suspect that the author, either thinks in English (aravind was brought up in Australia, and had further education in in u.k. and u.s.) or has written this for a ‘out of india’ English speaking audience. Whatever may be the reason, the pace of the book is fast moving, and even though the format is one of imagined letters to a visiting Chinese prime minister wen jiabao to india. Adiga is Chennai born, but there is nothing in this book to indicate any Chennai influence. In one instance he calls tamils as negroes, in a disparaging manner, but I will let us that pass.

The story – it is a life story of a man, set in india. It talks about him growing up in a feudal bihar society of today. This is just another story set in india, but not a story of india. After all we have 1 billion of us here and each of us has a story. The author himself says that this is a sum up of several incidents, lives and circumstances, all put together into a single entity. This is a work of fiction. Could it happen in reality? After all, barring pure science fiction, most stories have some smoke behind the fire that kindled it into a novel. Atleast I think so. It is the story of a life history of a goonda. How he makes it in modern india, his acts inititiated as much by circumstances as ruthlessness. I think it is a good story with a logical flow from start to beginning.

The message – this is where there has been angst among Indian reviews and readers. Does adiga intentionally portrays an unflattering view of india? To agree on this, would be giving adiga a credit, that I think he does not deserve. Adiga is basically a nobody author, among the myriads that we have, and I do not think, whatever he says, would have any impact on ‘putting down’ india. Nobody can do that, because it is a personal thing, as to whether we are proud of our country or not. In these days, I also think, the readers outside of india, are well informed enough, that they will not be swayed by adiga’s presentation. they may be influenced, but that influence will only be tempered one way or the other, by what they read in other media or the internet. I remember that the kerala Syrian Christian community felt slighted by arundhathi roy when her book the ‘goddess of small things’ won the same booker prize. To me, this is but a tempest in a teapot.

The author – the author is still in his 30s and this is his first book. More are coming. Befitting the modern Indian English writing author, a la vikram seth et al, he is cocky in his public performances. These guys have an ego which is bigger than what most of their books can vouch. When giving interviews they come across as pompous and all knowing. I had a chance to view adiga’s interview with the bbc. Sure enough, he was pulling no punches, about his take on presenting india in a bad light. He took credit for it, saying ‘that india now claims to be part of the world, it should take punches as they come… everything is game now’. Ie no sacred cows will be spared. I detected a lot of arrogance here. Whatever happened to the softspoken manner a la r.k. narayan? And the human decency that went along with it?

Personally I liked this book – for its story telling and the story. I do not believe that this is a representation of india, but it is a modern day Indian story. India is a vast canvas, filled with various hues and shades – all of it put together to form a piece of art, which to me is fascinating and which I love. This book fits well into the tapestry that is modern india, even though the author might have some wanting values. But that is no reason to pan the book. Read it.
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