The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga is the book that I’ve been reading during my commuting time last week. That is until yesterday, as for me the weeks end on Fridays. My story with this book has to do a lot with the train, as the first time I noticed its existence was waiting on the platform at Blackrock. There was that huge billboard advertising it. It does not happen so often that books take the place that belongs to the essential commodities (such as beer or phones) which define our consumerist lives…
I loved the picture, but that was it. Later I saw the book a few times at the bookshops in the airport, and finally when I saw it on offer I had to buy it. For sure it is another instance of confirmation bias, but it looked as if the book was chasing me. I think the cover is a big success. It is so appealing, colourful and funky. It invites to the world you are looking forward to discovering. I’ve never been to India myself but I’ve always been intrigued by the subcontinent. Reading books about it may well be a good way to increase my understanding.
And that’s what I got there. The story of that Balram Halwai who is a driver and writes letters to the Premier of China. Since the start you want to read more and more and find out who the guy is and why he writes to Wen Jiaobao and why he killed his master if apparently they get along so well. Rather than the story, the little bits of the Indian mindset is what caught my attention. The Wikipedia article on the book mentions a few of the sociopolitical issues which appear on it, namely: corruption, globalization, religion and competition and similarities between India and China. To me, the coexistence of traditional and modern life; the structure of the families, castes, gender roles and sex life; and also the differences between the North and the South of India are important issues that show up as well.
I have to recommend it to my friends who have travelled to Bangalore, the city of the outsourcing industry, symbol of the new India to where Balram comes to succeed.
The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor—they never overlap, do they?
See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. Andwhat do the rich dream of?
Losing weight and looking like the poor.
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger, p. 225
And that was how, Your Excellency, my employer’s marriage came to an end.
Other drivers have techniques to prolong the marriages of their masters. One of them told me that whenever the fighting got worse he drove fast, so they would get home quickly; whenever they got romantic he let the car slow down. If they were shouting at each other he asked them for directions; if they were kissing he turned the music up. I feel some part of the responsibility falls on me, that their marriage broke up while I was the driver.
Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger, p. 181)