I had been wanting to read this book for long now. I had heard of it so much and I hadn’t read any of Aravind Adiga‘s books until then. So, I grabbed this when I saw a copy at the library.
The white tiger is an engaging tale of Balram Halwai who hails from rural India and how he goes on to become the No. 2 driver for a rich family and what ensues from then on.
The book is actually a collection of letters in 7 parts to the Chinese Premier who is on a visit to India. Set to be realistic and harsh, the tone of the letters is just that. And satirical? Very. Balram talks of how the India portrayed to the foriegners is not the real India. He traces his life from a “wanted” poster of his all the while connecting the dots to the events that led him to become a murderer. Descriptions of both ends of the spectrum ( the rich and the poor) and the wide disparities are highlighted throughout the book.
Balram comes across as someone unrepentant for his actions. The author probably intended to show this character off as being the pragmatic, “call a spade, a spade” protagonist. The narrative is engaging in quite a few parts, the harsh realities of India are depicted well in certain sections and overall, there are a few sentiments I shared with the author. The life of a driver is something I didn’t know much about. This book has attempted to provide an insight into their lives to some extent.
Yet, somehow this book did not work its magic on me. The character failed to induce much empathy. I did not understand certain actions and felt angry at some instances of insensitivity. I felt as though the protagonist was himself a puppet in some parts. It may not be just another rags to riches story but I felt it could have been crafted better. I cannot put my finger on it but this book did not see me getting into the shoes of the main character. Not because I haven’t been in those circumstances but because the character did not strike a chord. At times I felt angry and Balram’s unrepentant tone throughout did not help much. There is quite a bit of India bashing happening. So, if you don’t like that, then you may not enjoy several parts of the book.
Having said that, I did finish the book pretty fast hoping for something better to happen in the succeeding pages. There are a few issues I concurred with Balram towards the end. While it did make me think in some parts, I did not emerge enlightened whatsoever. I guess I expected something more all along. Not a good attitude, frankly speaking.