Monday, December 29, 2008

The White Tiger...

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, starts off in an unusual format as a series of letters addressed to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of China by a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, Ashok Sharma spread over a span of seven nights. The Chinese Premier is excited to learn how India is able to churn out so many entrepreneurs in spite of so many stumbling blocks in various domains of life.

Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don’t have entrepreneurs. And our nation though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs.

In short this is the story of the transformation of a man born as a servant to the rich and elite, from Munna to Balram Halwai to Ashok Sharma, the successful entrepreneur. The story is narrated in a one-to-one conversation format with few relevant touches of wit, sarcasm and dark humor. The first person narration is simple and straight-forward.

The main protagonist of the story is born and brought up in a remote North Indian village. To meet the needs of his family, he drops out of school at the age of eight to work in a tea shop. Well a different godsend script is composed for him, to leave the village and become the chauffeur for a rich family. In his chequered career as a chauffeur, Balram Halwai sees life from different perspectives, the good, the bad, the ugly, the honest, the dishonest, the corrupt, the moral, the immoral, the jugaad flocks, the maain baap generation and lots more. Finally he decides to make a 'U' turn in his life and that's when he commits the murder of his master, for nothing else but money. The money he acquires by killing his master is siphoned for his entrepreneurial venture, running a cab company in India's technology and outsourcing hot seat, Bangalore. In short this is the story.

So now you can make out why the title of the book is 'The White Tiger'. Just as the white tiger is a very rare species among animals found in the jungle, so is Balram Halwai a very uncommon individual found in the sea of darkness, who crafts and designs his own blueprint for the road ahead.

On the outside it seems that the author has an excellent understanding of the economic changes and its effect of lifestyle, the oft-discussed topic of outsourcing, the class and caste differences in the society and many such related topics. But deep dive a bit and it has a storyline replete with the clichéd images and reflections, written to live up to the expectations of the western audience. The image of once-upon-a-time, the country of darkness, still retaining its share of darkness.

I don't deny the fact that the country is home to cases of brutal injustice, dirty corruption, victimization of the underprivileged by the rich. But but creating a painting on canvas in which each and every stroke of the paint brush portrays an image of extremity gives a very bland taste and a superficial touch to the entire framework. It smells of an outsider's view from a desi's quill.

Set aside these, the author is remarkably skilled in characterization of the people who dictate the plot. The language is very simple, non highbrow and straight-forward. But at certain segments of the plot, I found that the author was struggling with his script and has used repetition of events as fillers.

'I drove the Mongoose to the railway station and got him his favorite snack, the dosa once again, from which I removed the potatoes, flinging them on the tracks, before handing it over to him.'

The above few sentences with mild variations have been mentioned five to six times in the plot, each time the protagonist, Balram Halwai goes to drop another character, the Mongoose at the railway station.

Overall it was an ok-ok-sort of book to read. Rather it was my fault that I had lot of uber expectations from the book, considering that it won the Booker Prize for the year 2008. But one thing, I am very sure about, if Chetan Bhagat's books storyline could form the plot for Bollywood movies, then Adiga's, 'The White Tiger' can definitely book for an eligible Bollywood movie script.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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