Sunday, November 09, 2008

Back Online - White Tiger

The iMac has been reformatted and lots of stuff reloaded. iPhoto still crashes, but what the fuck. I'll BitTorrent Aperture at some stage.

Sort of missed today. Was it nice outside? Loading stuff, downloading movies - watched Cloverfield (good idea, Godzilla meets Before Sunset), Tropic Thunder (hilarious!) - and I finished "White Tiger", Aravand Ariga'a Booker Prize winner.

Hands up if you think this is another magic-realism Merchant-Ivory-Rushdie romance? WRONG!


Think of this shoe shop...

Then think of one of the guys under the table working to make those shoes.

I'm going to ask you to stretch your imagination - to Aravind Adiga's lengths. Imagine that one of these shoemakers has written a novel about how he extricates himself from such an impossibly exploitative situation and made it as "an entrepreneur" in Bangalore.

White Tiger is not about a shoemaker of course, I just happen to have these pics, but rather, it 'written' by a tea-maker, a clever young boy in "the Darkness" of the slum world of northern India. Balram Halwai (called Munna, "boy", until a name is needed at school) eventually eavesdrops his way of this, using information he picks up by being practically invisible to the other wealthier classes, to become the driver for a rich family. Here in "the Light" of the rich world, his sense of injustice grows until he commits a horrific crime in order "not to end up in a mound of indistinguishable bodies that will rot in the black mud of Mother Ganga." It is the only way he can see to get out - a line of poetry echoes in his mind, ironically it is the only poem he knows: ""you were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open."

The conversational tone (I say it is 'written' not narrated, because the format is that of an extended letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiaboa!) is captivating and easy to read but the themes and the reality depicted are extremely hard-hitting (or least would be if you thought India was all shagging the sadhus at the 5-star ashram, lovely colored saris and smoking good pot in Goa).

This is about the India that flashes past the tinted window of your Mercedes limousine, it's about the India I see in the clinics and hospitals. Desperately poor people chronically trapped by corruption that runs so deep it has become the supportive skeleton of the country. All I have seen improve in 10 years that I have been going there is the quality of the rich people's cars.

" drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality..."

But it does have entrepreneurs... and democracy!

And murderers.

And great novelists.



DanPloy said...

An interesting interview.

expat@large said...

Excellent: good find Dan.

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