Author: Aravind Adiga
Publication Date: 3rd November 2009
Genre: Fiction, Picaresque novel
Goodreads Rating: 3.75/5 (as of 13th June, 2021)
My Rating: 5/5
BLURB (Taken from Amazon)
Meet Balram Halwai, the ‘white tiger’: servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer…Born in a village in the dark heart of India, the son of a rickshaw puller, Balram is taken out of school and put to work in a teashop. As he crushes coal and wipes tables, he nurses a dream of escape. His big chance comes when a rich landlord hires him as a chauffeur for his son, daughter-in-law, and their two Pomeranian dogs. From behind the wheels of a Honda, Balram sees Delhi and begins to see how the Tiger might escape his cage. For surely any successful man must spill a little blood on his way to the top? The White Tiger is a tale of two Indias. Balram’s journey from the darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable.
I wanted to read The White Tiger from the moment I had seen its movie trailer come out. And I am glad that I read the book before watching the movie because it was worth it. Now, without further ado let’s dive straight into the story.
The White Tiger is the story of Balram Halwai who uses his wit and skills to escape from poverty and become a successful entrepreneur. The novel starts with Balram Halwai emailing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, requesting a meeting with him while talking about his life story.
Now, let’s go a little backward and talk about Balram’s past life.
Balram comes from a poor family and lives in a village named Laxmangarh. He is not very fond of his joint family and aspires to study and do something big in life. But when his father is unable to repay the loan he took from the landlord (referred to as The Stork in the novel), Balram dropped out of his school and started working in a tea shop. Even while working in the tea shop, Balram starts spying on every customer at the table and overheard everything they said. He decided that this is how he will continue his education. But the owner of the tea shop wasn’t very happy with his work and so he fired him. Thus, Balram and his brother Kishan decide to go to Dhanbad so that Balram can start his career afresh.
While working in a tea shop in Dhanbad, Balram decided that he want to work as a driver as this profession would help him earn more money. Thereafter, he took driving lessons and landed a job as a chauffeur of The Stork’s younger son Ashok, who has recently come to Dhanbad from New York. But how does he become a successful entrepreneur from a chauffeur? For that, you need to read the book.
The novel ‘The White Tiger’ mostly revolves around Balram, Ashok, Ashok’s wife Pinky, Mukesh (Stork’s elder son, also referred to as The Mongoose in the novel), and The Stork. I liked the fact that the novel is written in first-person narration as it was easier to access Balram’s inner thoughts. Coming to the character of Balram, I would say that he is very cunning as well as confusing. Yes, I will agree with the fact that he knew how to work his way through but I felt that sometimes even he didn’t know what he was doing and why he was doing it. As a reader, I couldn’t understand whether I should empathize with him or should I despise him. Now, I will talk about the character of Ashok. Both Ashok and Balram shared a warm relationship as a master and servant. As he has stayed abroad, Ashok knew that servants should be treated respectfully. But, whenever Ashok’s family was around, i.e. when he was with his elder brother and father, Ashok behaved as if Balram never existed. This was something I disliked about Ashok. Now, while talking about Ashok’s wife Pinky, I would say that she is very annoying. Pinky didn’t have that much role in the book except in one instance when I liked her because she supported Balram for something he has not done. I don’t have much to say about the characters of Stork and Mongoose. The only thing that I want to say is that they are those kinds of people who think that the poor should remain loyal to them and that they can dictate whatever terms they want to their servants.
The novel focuses on three prominent themes- poverty, inequality between rich and poor, and corruption. The narration was very engaging and keeps the reader hooked until the very end. I found the novel an absolute page-turner and would recommend it to every reader.
P.S. Do not forget to watch the movie after reading the book as it is also brilliant!
About the Author (Taken from Amazon)
Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras and grew up in Mangalore. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, University of Oxford. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, Financial Times and the Times of India. His fi rst novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. His second novel, Last Man in Tower, was published in 2011.
To buy a copy of the book, click on the link below.
For more bookish updates, follow me on Instagram