The White Tiger That Wasn't


I do not think The White Tiger deserved a Booker prize. I do not think it deserved anything at all. I'm sick and tired of authors making a commodity out of India's poverty and earning millions from it. But lets talk about the book first.

It is a mediocre story, set on a theme that is as boring as it is over done. Poverty, corruption and the great rich-poor divide. So passe! Don't get me wrong. There are many books and short stories written on Indian poverty - many of them in regional langauges - brilliantly conceived and subtly executed to to convey the message. Adiga's story is just too in-your-face. And as described by another blogger' crudely moralising'.


What is wrong with this book is that Adiga went over the top. He painted everything black or white - more black than white if you ask me. He even went so far as to name it Light and Darkness, a sledgehammer approach to imagery which leaves the reader cold. The story moves on, in ever darkening morbid circles, outlining everything that is wrong with India - urban, rural - nothing is spared. No one has any redeeming features. And so the protagonist moves through the story, lying, deceiving and finally murdering his way to success, all the while calling himself an entrepreneur.

Adiga seems to be under the mistaken impression that, by writing a superlative version of all that ails India, he is raising awareness about it. In an interview he says: "...nearly a thousand Indians, most of them poor, die every day from tuberculosis....I've tried hard to make sure that anything in the novel has a correlation in Indian reality." Depicting reality is one thing. Many others have done so and far more successfully than Adiga. But trashing your country, every which way you turn, is unforgivable. It makes me want to kick his Australian immigrant ass.

Incidentally, Mr. Adiga, if you wanted to correlate to Indian reality, what did you do with the 50,000 pounds of prize money?

So how did he win that Man Booker prize? Here is my theory - I think the English were rather pleased with his depiction of India. It kind of assuaged their hurt at being relieved of the 'white man's burden'. And they decided to do their good deed for the day by rewarding Adiga. Run along then! How else can you explain why Adiga triumphed over Amitav Ghosh?

I'll end now, on a positive note (unlike Adiga). The book has one redeeming feature. Its a quick read.

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4 Responses to The White Tiger That Wasn't

  1. Ruta says:

    I totally agree with ur thoughts. Though I havent yet read this book, from the gist that u have provided, i can guess waht it would be.

    Its really sad that most of these writers/ film makers like to potray India as "only slums and poverty etc". Just like the recent movie "Slumdog Millionaire". And more disturbing is the kind of "appreciation" such works gets. As you have aptly said that there have been better ways of showing the realities. Like Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri or film makers like Madhur Bhandarkar. For that matter, I feel even the 'God of small things' have been over-rated. I personally found it to be very average novel.

  2. Sudeshna says:

    Nice posting as usual...had heard about Adiga's novel fromanother friend who described it as a 'attempt to dry humor'...and did not feel like reading it.

    But I would like to respond to comments of Ruta regarding Slumdog..... Somehow, I liked the film......I harbour a different view about films that have potrayed 'poverty' as the one and only reality. Directors like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak and the other stalwarts of Bengali art movies...have based many of their movies on the same lines and recognised as well. Many of those films were incomprehensible and some succeeded in leaving you feeling depressed and pessistic no nothing. There were problems raised with no solutions forwarded or hypothesised. I found Slumdog quite inspiring as against the others depicting the black side of India. I found jamaal finding the solutions, the answers from his own life experiences, the undaunted spirit of India was well captured as well, the values of solidairity and 'we-feeling' were not missed either. I won't say that the film was innovative, I would also not say that it did not get undue attention, but I know what the film taught me, what I took back with me after leaving the theater....and thankfully, it wasd not an empty mind, and the film was not forgotten after reaching home.

  3. radha says:

    Deepa, an extremely good review. But when you think of the Shibu Sorens, Mayawatis, Lalus and their like, you can associate the story with some reality. But it is definitely what we do not want to read - when it just goes on and on - after all that is not all there is to India, is it? And not the way an Indian should portray his country. And yes, wonder what he did with his prize money.

  4. radha says:

    Deepa, an extremely good review. But when you think of the Shibu Sorens, Mayawatis, Lalus and their like, you can associate the story with some reality. But it is definitely what we do not want to read - when it just goes on and on - after all that is not all there is to India, is it? And not the way an Indian should portray his country. And yes, wonder what he did with his prize money.