Saturday, January 17, 2009

The White Tiger Review: Hunt it down

The booker can to better! That s what I first thought while reading Arvind Adiga s "The White Tiger".

The plot is simple enough: Balram Hawai, a nameless faceless man from the "darker" part of India rises to become a successful entrepreneur. Along the way he undergoes countless changes in his search for his one chance to escape his drudgery. When it finally comes, Balram changes forever by committing the ultimate crime: he kills for the money.

The tale is refereshingly told, in first person but not to you. Even though the hardback was over 300 pages, the writing style is very fluid and the first person account sometimes does feel like reading a print version of Forrest Gump. That s the pity. Everything could have been much more layered. You are not expected to linger on any page, to think about the what the implications of what is happening are. The hero (or the anti-hero) is not subtle and neither is his handling by the author. Everything is single-layered, almost as if the audience is expected to be dumbed down. The entrepreneur phase is unexpectedly short - the moment till the total transformation takes place consumes most of the book. The settings are very sketchy at best - not enough research possibly (I can see an alternate career for myself here). Is there a dark underbelly that is shown? Hardly.

Is there a receptive global audience for this sort of writing? India has moved on, where it has not - the problems are much more complex than the books suggests. India is the land of entrepreneurs and it is the ultimate escape from drudgery but its got nothing to do with situations. And a guy on nation-wide poster is not caught? A mole perhaps?

What was Balram s destiny. His parents wanted him to be the one that escaped, was what he did a fact of that choice of their parents? would his brother have acted similarly? Was the white tiger just acting as it was supposed to? The white tiger is one of a kind - is he hunted more than the others?

Rating: 3/10

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