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Book Review: The White Tiger

   Rushina Tamang - Jul 21 2023

“The White Tiger” is an incredible piece of literature written by writer Aravind Adiga. First released in 2008, this book has managed to win hearts and minds of many readers in different countries. The book was awarded with 40th Book Prize in 2008 and the New York Times Best Seller award. This book is a retrospective narration of the book’s protagonist, Balram Halwai, a rich businessman of India who was once the son of a poor family. The book talks about the solution to poverty founded by Balram and his experiences with being a part of the unfair division of the rich and the poor.

The story begins as Balram is writing a letter to the president of China, Wen Jiabao, sitting in his office. The president was visiting India’s richest city of businessmen, Bangalore to learn about their successful paths. Taking this opportunity, Balram writes a letter to the president revealing the secret he found about how to get out of poverty. Balram was born in a poor family in Laxmangarh. His father being a rickshaw driver, his grandmother being greedy for money and him living in a huge joint family, his family made much less than what was needed to pay “the animals”. “The animals” was the name given to the richest landlords of Laxmangarh, who had found ways to make amends with rich politicians and start their illegal businesses. Balram was the most intelligent student in his class when he was young. When a school inspector had visited his school, Balram caught his attention as he was the only student who could answer his questions. Hence, the school inspector named him “The White Tiger”, which is the most intelligent in the jungle that is born once in many years. Balram was offered to study in one of the best schools in the city by the inspector which even his parents had agreed upon but his grandmother Kusum had pulled him out of school at the last moment so that he could work and help the family. Balram’s older brother was already working at a tea shop breaking coal. And after Kusum pulled Balram out of school, he started working with him.

But instead of working Balram would spend his time listening to the customer’s chit chat. From there he learns about how much the people who work for the rich earn. Hence, he sets a mission on his mind to find a rich master and serve him. At that exact moment, The Stork, one of the richest landlords, arrived at the village to take taxes from the villagers. And for the first time, The Stork had brought his youngest son, Ashok to the village after many years since he had gone to America to finish his studies. When Balram looks at Ashok, he decides in his head that he’ll only serve him. Hence, after a lot of convincing, Kusum finally gives him Rs.500 to go learn driving in the nearby city. But under the condition that he sends his earnings to the family every month.

After that, Balram sets out to find the Stork’s mansion offering his services. After seeing that Balram could speak English, Ashok expresses an interest in him and hires him. There, Balram being the nosy person, overhears the conversation between the Storks family and the region’s most supported politician referred to as the Great Socialist. From that conversation, he finds out that the Storks family had a coal business which sourced out the coal from governmental mines illegally and had bribed politicians to keep their mouths shut preventing them from paying taxes. But the politicians kept demanding more and more. Hence, Stork had sent his son, Ashok and daughter in law, Pinky to Delhi to make more bribes. Pinky was a christian. Hence, the Storks weren’t very fond of her. Despite being hired, Balram was appointed as the secondary driver who was more like a maid. As the primary driver did all the driving. Hence, Balram found a way to get the primary driver fired and became the primary driver who drove around Pinky and Ashok in Delhi.

But after spending time in Delhi, Pinky accidentally kills a poor young girl while drunk driving. The Storks put a silence on this instead of helping the poor girl while she was still alive. Which puts Pinky into disbelief as she wasn’t the type of corrupted person. She starts getting into fights with Ashok after that incident as Ashok starts seeing people like his father. After not being able to hold herself in a household where her own husband’s views were different from hers, Pinky sets out to America. Ashok becomes depressed after his wife leaves him, he starts getting drunk every day and becomes a mess. Where Balram has to take care of him like his wife. But soon, as Ashok’s behavior becomes more and more arrogant towards Balram, he starts realizing that Ashok does not care about him.

And in response to that, he starts developing hatred towards Ashok and starts seeing him as the Stork’s son. At that same time, Kusum sends Balram’s younger cousin Dharam to him with a letter asking him to take care of his cousin. Balram creates a plan in his mind to take the bag of money Ashok takes everywhere to bribe politicians and run away with it. But can’t make a move as if he does something like such, the Storks would kill his entire family. This is where he develops his “The Rooster Coop” theory about how people have the full power to control their own lives and live with freedom but don’t due to relationships with other people and responsibilities which is the main reason people suffer poverty. After planning for days, Balram finally takes out his plan. He kills Ashok, steals the bag of money and runs away to Bangalore with his cousin Dharam and starts his own taxi company called “White Tiger Drivers”. And at the end of the letter, he mentions that he doesn’t know what had happened to his family and also that he doesn’t care. Because he doesn’t regret doing a single thing from his past.

In my opinion, this book doesn’t portray any of its characters as antagonists or protagonists. It only portrays them as the roosters who have either gone out of the coop or are trying to get out of it. It shows the freedom that many long for. But some just prefer to remain where they are as they have basically lost any hope of freedom just like Balram’s elder brother. But the main message the book is trying to show from the perspective of Balram Halwai’s life is that all humans have the power to leave their current lives and all the pressure behind and escape their rooster coops at any time but they refuse to do so by their own will due to being bound with relationships and responsibilities. It also includes the vast discrimination between religion, upper and lower cast, the poor and rich and gender discrimination. Even in the stork’s house, they hated their own daughter in law just because she was a Christian but never saw the amount of effort she tried to put into the family. Overall, I loved the comedic theme of the book. And the suspense and thriller that came with it. Reading this book was a one of a kind experience. And I loved every second of it.

Name: Rushina Tamang
Grade: X, Machapuchhre
Author: Aravind Adiga
Published on: 2008

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