The White Tiger


Review of the book

Adiga’s first book “The White Tiger” is a tale of two Indias, and reveals what happens when inhabitants of one collude with those of the other. The book describes Balram’s journey from darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable. The White Tiger contains passages of startling beauty- from reflections on the exquisite luxury of a chandelier in every room, to descriptions of skinny drivers huddled around fires fuelled by plastic bags. Adiga never lets the precision of his language overshadow the realities at hand: No matter how potent his language one never loses sight of the men and women fighting impossible odds to survive. The author uses a very simple language throughout the book; there is no use of fancy terms or any incomprehensible sentences.

At some times Adiga goes over the top and gets too filmsy in his writing and diverts from the facts. Though there may be lots of poorer sections still persisting in our motherland but still I don’t feel that so much of poverty does exist in the present India. But then who am I to comment on it, I haven’t travelled the whole India, I myself don’t have the complete knowledge of the various economic sections of the country. But what I can comment is on the book because I have read it and enjoyed each and every line of it. The White Tiger is just not any other book on the bookstand but it’s a brilliantly inventive book which has a touch of blazing salvage to it. The book exquisitely captures the fantastic cravings of the riche; it evokes, too, with startling accuracy and tenderness, the no less desperate struggles of the deprived. In one book only Adiga talks about globalization, individualism, freedom, immoral corruption, social class and caste system and the rooster coop. The book focuses on the differences in various sections of society and how a poor person Balram feels that he has been deprived of his right to good life and in the process to achieve that commits a heinous crime. While reading the book you feel as if you are living in various decades at same time. On one side there is the village of Balram where even basic amenities of life are not available, the poor are treated as animals and don’t have the right to cast vote. The Zamindari system is still prevalent there and as the time changes the politicians take over the task of ruining the life of the poor section of the society. On the other side the book focuses on the glamorous life of Delhi and Gurgaon which has been at times even compared to America. But what stays similar in both the settings is the fact that life of poor person is very cheap and holds no value.


Summary of the book

The White Tiger, book has been described in total eight chapters, each chapter describing one night and once a morning also. The story is about the protagonist; Balram Halwai who is born in Laxmangarh, Bihar. The author describes his village in “the Darkness” as the people living there are very poor and are still living in a pre-independence era. Balram narrates his life in a letter, which he wrote in seven consecutive nights and addressed to the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao. In his letter, Balram explains how he, the son of rickshaw puller, escaped a life of servitude to become a successful businessman, describing himself as a successful entrepreneur. Balram begins the novel by describing his life in Laxmangarh. There he lived with his evil grandmother, parents and brother and extended family. There is a little climax when his teacher at school named him ‘the white tiger’ which shows completely a new side and his new position at school and outside too. Though he is a smart child; still he is forced to quit school in order to help pay for his cousin sister’s dowry. He begins to work in a teashop with his brother in Dhanbad. Balram describes himself as an intelligent person who has a hunger for knowledge. While working in the teashop he begins to learn about India’s government and economy from the customers’ conversations. The daily eavesdropping on customers convinces him that becoming a driver is the only way he has to escape from this darkness. Thus begins his training from a local driver who helps him to learn the driving and also to get the job at the local landlord’s (Stork) place where he works for free at beginning. Climbing up the social ladder, Balram sheds the weights and limits of his past and overcomes the social obstacles that keep him from living life to the fullest that he can. He gives up the principles of moral life and gets entangled in the corruption to achieve the success he desired. In the book, Balram talks about how he was in a rooster coop and how he broke free from his coop. The novel is somewhat of a memoir of his journey to finding his freedom in India’s modern day capitalist society which still practices the caste system. Towards the beginning of the novel, Balram cites a poem from the Muslim poet Iqbal where he talks about slaves and says “They remain slaves because they can’t see what is beautiful in this world.” Balram sees himself embodying the poem and being the one who sees the world and takes it as he rises through the ranks of society, and in doing so finding his freedom but at a great cost.

Author: Aravind Adiga


3 thoughts on “The White Tiger

  1. Rajeev Pundir says:

    I’m not convinced that Balram after committing the murder of his master, who’s also from his village and well known to his family, establishes a cab-service in Bangaluru and is not noticed by the police. Is Indian police so incompetent?
    Moreover, Indian poverty is portrayed in extremely bad light………probably to please the Britishers to win a Booker?!!


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