The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Born in a village in heartland India, the son of a rickshaw puller, Balram is taken out of school and put to work in a teashop. As he crushes coals and wipes tables, he nurses a dream of escape.
The White Tiger is a tale of two Indias. Balram’s journey from the darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable.Adiga sets out to show us the underbelly of India. We see this through the eyes of Balram, born into the "darkness" of rural India, but entered the light that is Delhi via a job as driver to Mr Ashok, the son of a rich landlord. Now, though, Balram has escaped servitude and is himself a rich businessman. What's more, his unlikely journey involved a murder.
The result is an Indian novel that explodes the clichés. Welcome, instead, to an India where Microsoft call-centre workers tread the same pavement as beggars who burn street rubbish for warmth.
Balram's story is told via seven letters to the Chinese prime minister, who, Balram has decided, must be told the truth about India before a forthcoming state visit. So he begins: he tells of Delhi's servants, who live in rotting basements below the glass apartment blocks that are home to their employers. He tells of how Ashok's family bribe government ministers, and how national elections are rigged. Ashok, trendy and liberal, is forever expressing guilt over Balram's treatment, but his fine words never come to anything. It's a thrilling journey through a rising global power; where the brutality of the modern city is compounded by that of age-old tradition. "In the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India," says Balram. "These days there are two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies." Soon enough, of course, Balram must tell us just how, exactly, he got his Big Belly. Tired of a life of servitude, he takes the violent action that secures his place among Delhi's rich.
I loved this story, it’s a real page turner, quirky, sarcastic, poignant, and often hilarious. the characters were robust and believable. A thoroughly good read.