The White Tiger / Aravind Adiga

Born in “the darkness,” Balram Halwai narrates how he escaped from the grinding poverty of rural poverty of India to become a success in life.  In his lifetime he has worn many different hats, that of a servant, a philosopher, an entrepreneur, and more importantly, a murderer.  Despite the blood on his hands, Balram’s biting wit and keen insight makes him a likeable anti-hero.  The story he shares had me captivated from the start.  It is not a pretty one—the India he brings to life on the page is a democracy in name only.  The wealthy caste is determined to keep the bulk of the population in the “Rooster Coop.”  In the rural areas life is brutal and often short.  But Balram is luckier than most; he has landed a job as a driver for his village’s wealthiest man.  Moving with him to Delhi, he gets a firsthand look at corrupt government officials and sees how the elite feasts off the labor of the working poor.  In a comical and cynical tone, Balram contrasts the divide between the rich and poor in Delhi. While the wealthy live in air-conditioned comfort and grow large bellies, the average citizens defecate outdoors, half-starved and riddled with disease. Balram soon realizes if he is to escape the “Rooster Coop,” he must take matters into his own hands.  The novel is based on a series of letters that Balram writes to His Excellency Wen Jiabao, China’s Prime Minister.  His caustic pen spares no one as he describes the hypocracy of the globalization of the Third World.  It is an unadorned portrait of India that he paints, one that will continue to haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.

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