Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga

Ideally this should have been posted a very long time back - maybe in 2009, when I had read Aravind Adiga's 'The White Tiger' for the first time. Both Shyamakshi and myself had read the book. While I was impressed, Shyamakshi wasn't. My mother read the Hindi version recently (I was the one who suggested this book to her) and she wasn't impressed either. I have read the Hindi translation too, and my opinion about the book remains unchanged - even today.
Balram Halwai, the protagonist of the story is an interesting character. He comes from an upbringing which he refers to as 'The Darkness'. This is that part of India where the kids work at the tea stall and look up-to becoming a bus conductor when they grow up. The desires of these 'The Darkness' dwellers are endless, but limited to an extent. Their definition of the sky stops at the ceiling. Balram too was one of them. But eventually he corrected his definition of the sky, and transformed himself into a new identity.

In my opinion, most drivers in real life must be Balram. Their job does not demand a lot of speaking. They must be churning a lot of thought processes in their minds. The seeds of their thoughts germinate from the life of their passengers or the shady magazines that they lurk after. The idle mind takes them to a ride - with shades of reality and hues of fiction. And it is this bunch of thought processes that decides how they live their life.  But not everyone becomes The White Tiger. Not everyone has the courage to come out of the chicken-coop.

With such a backdrop, Hindi fits snugly in such Indian story lines. English adds polish, which makes the narration relatively bland. We want Balram Halwai to narrate in the language he thinks in. 'The White Tiger' isn't a literary piece of work. And it isn't supposed to be. It is a first person narration of someone who reads 'Murder Weekly' to feed his thoughts, who chooses to take the life of his employer to get rich.

The Hindi translation by Manohar Notani is a good attempt, but could have been better. Nevertheless, the narration does pack a punch. If you've liked the original work, try out the Hindi version. It will not disappoint you.