The White Tiger

Ah…..reading for pleasure. Something I haven’t done in such a long time (completely my fault). It is the combination of a long flight from Newark to Mumbai and jet lag that has resulted in me devouring almost 3 books in 2 days. Just wanted to share my thoughts and how they tie in with my first observations of India. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to India before but I finally feel like I am at a place where I can understand its subtleties and make some opinions of my own.

Observation #1 – If I had to sum up this country in one word it would be juxtaposed. Is that even a gramatically correct statement? More thoughts to come.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – (thank D,P, and M for this wonderful gift). I started this book at the airport and finished it in the middle of the night in Bombay when I couldn’t sleep. Maybe I had high expectations because it won the Booker Prize last year and had a lot of hype in general, but I honestly wasn’t that impressed. There go my chances of ever getting him to be on NaanSense Radio….oh wait, there is no more NaanSense. Anyways, the book did hold my interest and it was written in a very interesting manner but i just wasn’t “wowed” by it. Basically, it is about this man who is re-telling the story of his life as he makes his way “up” in society to be a driver for a big shot in the city.  The book did, however, bring up some really interesting points about India and gave me a perspective on something I never thought about that much. I find myself wondering more and more about the lives of drivers and servants and cooks. I remember when I was young, I would come to India and be so taken aback by the fact that there were servants. This is when everything in the world was black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, and basically my way or the highway. This is also the time when we were learning about slavery in elementary school and I connected

everything I saw back to that. I still feel strange coming to India and having to curb my instincts to do things for myself – such simple things like carrying my luggage inside, bringing in packages from the car, putting my dishes in the sink, etc. I know that I can still do those things for myself but it’s almost considered strange here. It’s something to get used to I guess? I still have a hard time asking someone to get something for me when I know I am perfectly capable of getting it myself – I don’t think that’s something I can get used to. I am trying to make the distinction between pity and what really fuels my hesitation. I’m still trying to figure it out. Any thoughts?

Here is a really fascinating passage from The White Tiger about servitute in India (it’s long, sorry):

The Rooster Coop doesn’t always work with miniscule sums of money. Don’t test your chauffeur with a rupee coin or two – he may well steal that much. But leave a million dollars in front of a servant and he won’t touch a penny. Try it: leave a black bag with a million dollars in a Mumbai taxi. The taxi driver will call the police and return the money y the day’s end. I guarantee it (whether the police will give it to you or not is another story, sir!) Masters trust their servants with diamonds in this country! It’s true. Every evening on the train out of Surat, where they run the world’s biggest diamond cutting and polishing business, the servants of diamond merchants are carrying suitcases full of cut diamonds that they have to give to someone in Mumbai. Why doesn’t that servant take the suitcase full of diamonds? He’s no Gandhi, he’s human, he’s you and me. But he’s in the Rooster Coop. The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy. Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many…a handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 percent – as stong, as talented, as intelligent in every way – to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man’s hands and he will throw it back at you with a curse.

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3 Comments to “The White Tiger”

  1. I like how your droplets of consciousness have kind of formed a stream in this review, particularly the naansense bit. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your comment on my blog :-), I’ve been thinking a lot about personal narrative and private/public voice lately and have been inspired to write more and make myself more visible-sharing my thoughts and feelings vulnerably about where I am in my journey.

    I think your “observation” is on point-about india being a land of juxtapositions. India is truly a “Land of Contradictions” with apparent disparity between the privileged and non-privileged classes.

    I can definitely appreciate your anxieties when you express, “I still have a hard time asking someone to get something for me when I know I am perfectly capable of getting it myself – I don’t think that’s something I can get used to.” I remember when I went to India. During the 3 mos I was there, I think my relatives had some seedy thought that I was gay as I would help my aunts in the kitchen or naive as I would try and help the servants wash the dishes.

    I explore these class experiences and their dynamic in this novel I’m working on as our young 19 yr. old protagonist makes her way from LA to Calcutta “juxtapositioned” with her grandmother’s driver who lives w/his family in the shanty region.

    I’m currently in the midst of a workshop which I think would be right up your ally called “The Art of Wisdom Writing” themed around finding that inner creative voice and refining the craft of personal narrative.

    Lately, I’ve been ruminating with the idea of personal introspective and creative inquiry as being a process of activism itself as we bring to light the struggle of our own demons mirroring the conflict of social dynamics.

    I look forward to your blogs to come 🙂

  3. “He’s no Gandhi, he’s human, he’s you and me.”
    Funny how Gandhi doesn’t seem “human” in this sentance… yuh.

    anyway, id dint like the book at all, aside from the insight into indian minds.
    and.. well. it taught me alot about the “darkness” i guess… but what i “learnt” has not had a chance to be tested for truth yet…

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