Book: The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

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The smudge and poor condition of the cover scan were proofs of my passion in reading the book. d:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

  • Original Language: English
  • Version: Bahasa Indonesia
  • Translator: Rosemary Kesauly
  • Year Published: 2010 (originally 2008)
  • Publisher: Sheila-an imprint from CV ANDI Offset

  • A glimpse on Aravind Adiga
    Born on 1974 in Madras and grew up in Australia, Aravind Adiga is an Indian writer and journalist. The White Tiger is his debut novel which won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. He previously studied in Columbia University and Oxford University. He worked as South East Asian correspondent for Time magazine for three years before going freelance. During this freelance period, he wrote The White Tiger. Now he lives in Mumbai, India.

    How I found this book?
    My friend Agizta had introduced me this book when she knew about my passion to have an adventure in India. I remembered she talked about it in my dorm room, then when we were out at a bookstore, she actually found the book, and by luck (or fate?), I had enough money to buy the discounted-by-70% novel. That was on March 11, 2013. To prevent myself from getting bored, I decided to read the novel only when I was on my way to somewhere. Words by words, pages after pages were consumed in many trips to many places, ta-da, I finished the book on May 16, 2013, 10.58 AM.

    Who knew then that this novel by Aravind Adiga would get me hook, line, and sinker? Instead of getting repulsive and traumatic after reading the horrendous and satirical description of poor and corrupt India, I got even more excited to go there.

    From here onward, proceed only if you are unmindful of the risk of getting spoiler along the way.

    What appeal to me is that The White Tiger…
    tells a story about a man traps in a life he is forced to live into by the situation, the family, the religion, the culture, the politic—every thing.

    It’s the kind of things that you would notice when you feel suffocated of your current life and routines, that you are helpless to change due to the fact that it—this thing that chains you—has been ingrained into your blood, bone and brain; a thing that you need to accept because it’s your destiny to live it like that, but something in you just don’t want to settle into somewhat pre-destined life just like that, so you struggle, you rebel to make your life your own; and maybe, maybe, this is the modern concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. If centuries ago this concept is all about the strength of physique, now it’s all about the mentality. Looking deeper into the story, this seems to be the overall theme of this book and for me this is quite interesting, because, in a way, I can relate to the feeling to a certain level.

    First of all, Balram Halwai is the main character of The White Tiger. He is born in a poor family that lives in Laxmangarh, most of the time dubbed as Darkness in the story. White Tiger is a nickname given to him by a police inspector who once came to his school because by far, Balram is the most clever student in the class. His mother died when he was only like 6 or 7 or 8-yo, because really, no one living in Darkness know their own age. His father is a rickshaw puller that come to his end due to unattended TBC in a hospital without any doctors around. He has an older brother, Kishan, who has to drop out of the school because their family is too poor to buy dowry for the wedding of one of the girls in the family. Later then, Balram has to drop out for the same reason. It seems in India, the bride’s family is the one to give out dowry to the groom’s family, instead of the other way around.

    In shorts, Balram and the family is living their poor life just like many Indian family. They are living the inevitable—excuse my language, please do not feel offended—distasteful lifestyle of the poor. If you watch Slumdog Millionaires, you probably get the preview of the life described in this book.

    Afterward, Balram, like many others, finds his way into adulthood and works any sort of job just to get-by. One thing leads to another, he then works as a driver for Ashok, a son of one of the filthy rich families in his hometown. Balram learns the most from his interaction with Ashok and his family. I think, in a way, besides his father, Ashok is the only man he respects and admires.

    Ashok is another riveting character for me. It’s blatantly clear that he is westernized and wants to westernize the Indian culture but actually does nothing. At the same time he looks at the Indian culture like it is something exotic and he is not a part of it, however some of cultures is indeed ingrained in his blood. For me he is more a half-baked character than Balram. Ashok is a character I can easily pinpoint and judge in reality.

    The appeal of The White Tiger, like said above, lies in the way Balram Halwai struggles to break through from the slums, he fights his own instinct to act like the poor, he learns from his experience when working for Ashok, so he can survive the tough life and be the entrepreneur, a term Balram likes to emphasize almost in every chapter. Other than that, another thing that appeal to me is the fact that Balram Halwai is very much a human. There are stages of his character development shown through the chapters; slowly, I get to understand how this young naive man from Darkness become this person who plans to murder his employer. He is certainly a multi-faceted character, and his reaction to certain happening is something that even I can imagine myself doing it.

    However, I like this book not only for the humanitarian theme, it is also a very well written book. With a jesting-manner kind of narration style, the right amount of healthy sarcasm, and sprinkles of metaphor—“the rooster coop” (Kandang Ayam) metaphor is totally a winner!—that either makes my lips curve at the edge for a smile or a snort, indeed, The White Tiger is a fun read.

    It is, too, a given that I like this book since I find India pretty intriguing for me; it’s like a sister country of Indonesia. Throughout the novel flashes of Indian cultures show and it gives me colorful impression of this country, such as the gap between the rich and the poor is even more baffling than the one in Indonesia, well, at least part of Indonesia I live in; and how the Indian people devote themselves in the religion and the caste system. I am not sure how India is the India Aravind portrays here, but I bet some of the scenes hit the bull’s right in the eye. I learn much about India through this book, so to use the word ‘interesting’ to describe this novel is pretty much an understatement. Please, forgive my limited vocabularies.

    Other things I get from this book are questions about morality. Who does wrong? Who does right? What is justice? Is Justice different for the poor and the rich? Is Balram a bad person? Is Ashok a bad employer? The answers are lurking in every chapter and might differ from one reader to another, though.

    Yup, I think I have reached the conclusion on why I am recommending this book. The White Tiger is definitely a keep for anyone who wants to know that other side of India. It’s even more fascinating than Slumdog Millionaires—for me, though.😀

    2 thoughts on “Book: The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

    1. I enjoyed reading your review, I finished reading the book this week. I thought that it was an excellent work but I could not love it as I did not like the characters much, the only one who seemed most likeable was the protagonists brother, without giving away the story I was most disappointed in the chain of events relating to him even if he played a minor role.

      • Hi, I am glad you found the review enjoyable.. Ah, you mean Kishan? I think he is, by far, is the portrait of many Indian, those who can’t break through from his misfortune like Balram did. But might I ask, how do you find him likable?

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