Monday, October 13, 2014

The White Tiger, Man Booker Prize Winner

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize in 2008.  Adiga attended Columbia and Oxford and has written for various newspapers. His story is about Balram Halwai, a young man from the sweet making caste whose father escaped sweet making to be a rickshaw puller -- a physically more difficult job.  He saw to it that his youngest son, learned to read and write.  Baltram does not intend to stay in the small village and be hungry all his life. He manages to become a driver for a member of the family that owns the property of the town, mean greedy men who live off the work of the town's few families.

Balram drives for the American-educated one in the family, a sort of softie married to an American woman who is not a Hindu. They move to Delhi, the better for his boss to deliver the bribes that are demanded by those who want to collect taxes from the family.  Balram understands what is going on and that he is meant to remain poor the rest of his life and to be totally subserviant to his master, live in a cockroach infested little room and come running when called, keep the car spotless and take the rap when the master's drunken wife kills a beggar child while driving wildly one night.

Balram's insight is stated:  “See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.”

Balram finally kills his master, and knows that he can escape with a suitcase of money meant to pay off bribes, because millions of  poor men like himself look exactly alike to the authorities.  He uses the money to become an "entrepreneur". While the story is unrelenting, the  prose is fluid and easy to read, never preaching, never whining. Fiction, of course, but with such a grasp of the truth of the underclasses one can only think of the billion people in India, what degradation still exists. And that we know bribery is pervasive almost everywhere.  (What else are the campaign donations by America's big corporations?)

2 comments:

barbara judge said...

June -- The White Tiger --good review and thoughtful subject.
Agree that bribery is everywhere around the world. Of course our corporations indulge in bribery to influence politicians -- they are quickly steering our culture away from democracy to oligarchy. -- barbara -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK

June Calender said...

I think they've accomplished the oligarchy.Politics makes me so discouraged. I don't feel much inclined to vote in local elections,that seems pointless although it may be the one segment of politics in which an individual has a little impact.