Reading Adiga

Not being much of a reader of late at least of printed fiction; I took up Adiga because I always had a soft corner for him ever since I read his seeming contrarian article in a special issue of Time magazine on India’s new dawn. He was a correspondent there then and moved on I believe to write the book which won the Booker and man what  a book. The furore has been of some account I am told. Well furor and books to me seem a passe combination especially when Salman Rushie took the booker of bookers and mother of all furores on books! I was in an european capital that week when that issue of the magazine with India on the cover came up and it seemed like such an advertisement and there he was with an article about how his town had gone to hell in the economic upturn. I knew then he was gonna go and do something like call a spade a spade or worse write a whole book on the topic and win the Booker’s also.

 

The Booker really blew it because now everyone has to go and read this book or at least feel compelled too as I was and so I did. I bought the copy that I read from a pavement dweller type who had his book shop open on a foldable camp cot and the price was a whole 50 Indian rupees. I had just bought a 500 rupee hard cover for my mum the other day as she went out travelling and since I am one into symbolism and there was no way on earth I would spend my money supporting the same capitalist money grubbing systems that the book was pillorying and felt it was a good tribute to the protagonist of the story who was one who had risen so to speak from the pavement to buy the book from  there. It is a nicely writ one and Mr. Adiga writes a Munshi Premchand meets Salman Rushdie cynical look into the oppression of society with a tinge of Maoist sympathies thrown in and a pointer towards the hidden underbelly that is India – shining or not. There is a lot of melodramatic stuff in  there as must be in anything to do with India  but there is also a very real understanding of the subject and there is grimy realism here.

 

It did not sit well with the Indian literary circles and that is not in the least surprising; it does paint an unflattering picture. There is a reason that Munshi Premchand is not read widely today; no one wants to know of that feudalist past of ours, but the fact is that it is still quite strong in a lot of us. There are parts of our nation yet today that are not a lot further from the portrait of darkness that Adiga paints. The filmy sequences of oppressive behaviour on the part of the landlords; the death by TB; the police’s tendency to be absolutely and all comprehensively corrupt are not imagination but just pure real life. It may sound corny but there is an urban rural divide that is yawning and the governments still have not been able to plug this gap. If I have a grouse against Adiga it is the choice of China to compare with; address the letter from Balram to. China is a lot many things but when it comes to downtreading the downtrodden, I am certain they can beat us besides the several other Olympic disciplines that they already do.

 

Perhaps that is darker deeper sarcasm and a nod to the maoist theme line of the tale to address it at China? I don’t think we need to really compare with China, the issues are vastly different; the oppression of the poor and the have nots and the marginalised – however is probably of a greater degree there than it is here at India. All good books or great books or both of this century will probably have to begin at Bangalore; Friedman’s did and so does Adiga’s. He draws a compelling picture of the travel from Dhanbad to my town Bengaluru (perhaps before it became officially called that?). He begins the story here and ends it here around call centres and does not spare the corruption of the town. I feel sad though that he puts Gurgaon only on the map as a place to get corrupted and killed – they too have some great call centres there and yeah a few more people do get killed there than the national average I think, but still Gurgaon deserved a break.

 

Reading the book however did impact me and I started looking at the downtrodden of our country – they that drive the cabs; do the ‘servant’ work (maybe some day like the N word to describe people who are not white at America is now taboo; it will be too?) with a little more concern, a little more real concern than perhaps some of the people in the book, but then I am not really going to make a change in any one’s life. It is however very interesting to read the author’s take on the inspiration for his book..

What inspired you to write The White Tiger?

The novel began as an experiment of a kind. Visitors to India from South Africa or Latin America often asked me why there seemed to be so little crime in India, given the vast (and growing) disparity in wealth between the classes – a condition that had led to much higher levels of crime in their countries. Why was it, I began to wonder, that even though rich people in India keep so many servants, and the servants have such regular and intimate access to their master’s households, that the servants in India, by and large, stay so honest? What keeps the class system in place – and what are the conditions under which it might start to crumble? I began to think of a servant in Delhi who would, cold-bloodedly, steal from his master – and do something even worse to him. And imagining what that servant would think, and feel, and do, I began making notes that turned into this novel.

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About Soumya
A technology enthusiast, forever enamored by all that it hath wrought and of course here is an attempt at making sense of it all and perhaps simplifying it!

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