01 Nov / The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga [in Bloomsbury Review]
As horrible as some of the images are in this 2008 Booker Prize-winning debut novel, you can’t help but chuckle just a little bit at some of the impossible shenanigans of its self-made unapologetic narrator. Balram Halwai, now a wealthy entrepreneur, writes a series of middle-of-the-night-missives to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who is scheduled to visit Bangalore in a week. In spite of his rags-to-riches story, Balram is a wanted murderer.
Over seven nights, Balram reveals his transformation from a remote village boy who watched his father die of neglect on a filthy hospital floor to a trusted driver for the younger son of a corrupt but wealthy family in Delhi. He sees all that is shimmering and shining in the modern city, but is relegated to the dark and seedy underbelly of the serving classes. He is witness to the lawless behavior of the super-rich and ever-powerful, and learns he has to navigate his own destiny.
Murdering his spineless master doesn’t stop him from stealing a large sum of money, begrudgingly grabbing his young nephew sent from the village to make a living with his successful uncle, before disappearing from his servant life. In Bangalore, Balram is reborn as taxi-company owner Ashok Sharma – “We Drive Technology Forward” with 26 shiny new cars contracted to the best high-tech corporations – actively claiming the rewards of the modernization of a new India.
Review: “TBR’s Editors’ Favorites of 2008,” The Bloomsbury Review, November/December 2008