Here’s to the first book I ever read that made me think enough to write about it. And I need help with this one. If you have read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, do let me know your opinion on this one:
It is the story of a boy born in ‘the Darkness’. The Ganges, which we all have been brought up to revere and worship as the holiest of holy rivers, is said to be the source of the Darkness – for all living on its banks. The fate of an honest man – an untimely death coughing blood on the dirty floor of a God forsaken government hospital, as contrasted with the fortunes of corrupt inhuman pot-bellied sections of the society that collectively oppress him.
The book speaks of two Indias – The Light and the Darkness. Contrary to the communist images that that might stir in one’s mind, the book is not what we ‘haves’ would term a socialist propaganda either. The reader discovers as (s)he goes along that it has more to do with what Adiga calls the ‘Rooster Coop’ – a metaphorical parallel between roosters cooped up in the butcher’s van, one over another, never daring to make even the slightest attempt to escape having accepted their fate for the cards dealt to them and the destitute, the people born in the India of Darkness. The highest point (and the lowest ebb) of the book comes when the protagonist, for creating his world the way it is ‘instead of all the other ways it could have been’, looks up at the heavens and spits at God.
However, despite the entirely well deserved applause (not to mention the Man Bookers) for being such a jolt of pragmatism I have one lingering issue with Adiga’s story. The Darkness and a following taste of the Light turns an honest man into an unabashed killer, with one justification – when you are born in the Light, the most important thing you have that others unlike you don’t is the option to be a good person. The difference between a man born in the Light and one who lives his life in the Darkness is that of choice; the latter does not even have the choice to be a good person. From booth capturing to corrupt policemen, this sad status quo, according to the protagonist, is much beyond repair, which leaves him with his only way of escaping from the shackles of a lifetime of grateful boot licking traded for his dignity which would otherwise be his fate – theft and murder.
With the fortune of having lived my life as one of the luckier ones here, I may not have a right to say much in this regard. But there is one belief this optimist wants to cling on to till the very end and here is the part where I would like to know the views of others, whether fed on sugar coated reality like me or otherwise – isn’t there always a choice?
– Albus Dumbledore