“A White Tiger keeps no friends. It’s too dangerous.”
― Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
The Man Booker Prize winning White Tiger is a monster of a book. Not because of the number of pages in the book, but by the topics Aravind Adigas has addressed. Right off the bat, let me tell you, this book was not an easy read. It uncovers stereotypes, busts a few others and makes a mess of the remaining. Yet, the story has quite a powerful voice.
While this book is intended to be a satire, one that speaks on the behalf of the less privileged in India, very early on in the story it stops being that. I did not have to try very hard to look at this story in isolation, of sorts, as only the experiences of the protagonist, and not more. I think that for those unfamiliar with the Indian society and its beliefs, quirks and ways, it is easy to get carried away by the social commentaries and analysis of satire. Then, the reader will stop enjoying the story and focus more on its purpose. It is a fine line to walk.
By the time I was halfway through the book, it kind of became easier to tread that line. That’s because Balram Halwai, the protagonist, is an undoubtedly strong character that draws attention to himself. It’s his story, of his evolution from a young boy to a driver to an entrepreneur, a journey that is wrought with transformative milestones. Honestly, the first few pages (much like in any other book) are a milestone even for the reader.
I had quite a hot and cold response to Balram’s thoughts and attitudes – there were points where I hated him, and while I never could get around to liking him, I did empathize with his plight at a few points. And I think that is the point – that’s the way this story shapes up.
It starts with quite shocking revelations that Balram makes. They make you wonder how he’s even in a position to narrate the story. And a few pages down, he slowly starts unveiling each event that led to his narration. It’s a smart tactic, and one that worked for me. Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. But I would recommend you take it with a pinch of salt.
Want to know about how I got around to buying this book and others in my April Reading List? Read about it here.