Preeti's Reviews > The White Tiger

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
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Oct 20, 11

bookshelves: india, desi-authors
Read from October 17 to 18, 2011

This book was ridiculous! And I mean that in all sorts of positive ways. Basically it hits you upside the head with zingers that make you laugh and feel depressed at the same time. As I went along, I read some of my favorites to my husband who, after a while, got depressed just from hearing the quotes. My favorite, the one that snuck up on me was:
"Go to the tea shop anywhere along the Ganga, sir, and look at the men working in that tea shop - men, I say, but better to call them human spiders that go crawling in between and under the tables with rags in their hands, crushed humans in crushed uniforms, sluggish, unshaven, in their thirties or forties or fifties but still "boys." But that is your fate if you do your job well - with honesty, dedication, and sincerity, the way Gandhi would have done it, no doubt." (p43)

Ouch!

If you are from India, grew up there, were born there, or even know a thing or two about life there, this book will definitely make you feel guilty. (I was born there but moved to the US when I was 2, but I do try to keep abreast of what's happening there, and I have family there as well, who fall anywhere from the lower middle to middle class range - no one is poor.)

I'm really finding it hard to put to words how this book affected me. It was like seeing both sides of the coin - the book is told from the viewpoint of a poor, lower class driver (aka servant) and what he goes through. And he's one that ends up doing better than most!

I think what I feel is sort of equivalent to "white guilt" but in this case it would be "upper class" or "higher caste guilt." I've always been highly sympathetic to the plight of poor people in India - the division between the poor and the middle class is huge and grows larger every day. Whenever I go there, I'm so uncomfortable with the "servants" and in general, waiters, drivers, anyone who is in a service industry, because they are, in essence, servants and they definitely act (at least in front of your face) like you are higher than them, better than them. But what do you do in these situations?

I'm totally going off topic here but I remember when I was younger and my family and I were visiting India. I was with my mom and she saw a guy on the street selling some trinkets, one in particular was a sort of wind chime thing made of shells. He was selling it for 100 rupees. If you're familiar with India, you know that you bargain for practically everything. So my mom was trying to bargain him down and wouldn't go past 50 rupees. He kept trying to convince her, saying things like how would he feed his family, etc, but finally ended up selling it to her for 50 rupees. After we left the area, I made my mom feel SO guilty for not giving him the full amount (it was maybe $3 US at the time) that she went back and tried to find him, but he was gone. She still remembers the incident.

So what's the point? I guess... Well, my mom's family would probably be lower-middle class in India (and she could have more than afforded to spend $3 US) yet she would still do this kind of thing - there are always divisions no matter how high or low your class is.

I might have more to say later, but I'm not sure if what I've said thus far was coherent. Either way, this is a highly recommended book. I'm definitely planning on reading Aravind Adiga's other works.

To end, a couple more of my favorite quotes:
Now there are some, and I don't just mean Communists like you, but thinking men of all political parties, who think that not many of these gods actually exist. Some believe that none of them exist. There's just us and an ocean of darkness around us. I'm no philosopher or poet, how would I know the truth? It's true that all these gods seem to do awfully little work - much like our politicians - and yet keep winning reelection to their golden thrones in heaven, year after year. That's not to say I don't respect them, Mr. Premier! Don't you ever let that blasphemous idea into your yellow skull. My country is the kind where it pays to play it both ways: the Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time. (p6)

One fact about India is that you can take almost anything you hear about the country from the prime minister and turn it upside down and then you will have the truth about that thing. (p12)

Do you know about Hanuman, sir? He was the faithful servant of the god Rama, and we worship him in our temples because he is a shining example of how to serve your masters with absolute fidelity, love, and devotion.
These are the kinds of gods they have foisted on us Mr. Jiabao. Understand, now, how hard it is for a man to win his freedom in India. (p16)

Strange thoughts brew in your heart when you spend too much time with old books. (p218)

There are probably a bunch I missed, because I got so engrossed in the book at one point. I finished it in less than 24 hours, which rarely happens these days.
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Quotes Preeti Liked

Aravind Adiga
“Now there are some, and I don't just mean Communists like you, but thinking men of all political parties, who think that not many of these gods actually exist. Some believe that none of them exist. There's just us and an ocean of darkness around us. I'm no philosopher or poet, how would I know the truth? It's true that all these gods seem to do awfully little work - much like our politicians - and yet keep winning reelection to their golden thrones in heaven, year after year. That's not to say I don't respect them, Mr. Premier! Don't you ever let that blasphemous idea into your yellow skull. My country is the kind where it pays to play it both ways: the Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Go to Old Delhi,and look at the way they keep chickens there in the market. Hundred of pale hens and brightly colored roosters, stuffed tightly into wire-mesh cages. They see the organs of their brothers lying around them.They know they are next, yet they cannot rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with humans in this country.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many, Mr. Jiabao. A handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 percent—as strong, as talented, as inteligent in every way—to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man's hands and he will throw it back at you with a curse.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Strange thoughts brew in your heart when you spend too much time with old books”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Go to the tea shop anywhere along the Ganga, sir, and look at the men working in that tea shop - men, I say, but better to call them human spiders that go crawling in between and under the tables with rags in their hands, crushed humans in crushed uniforms, sluggish, unshaven, in their thirties or forties or fifties but still "boys." But that is your fate if you do your job well - with honesty, dedication, and sincerity, the way Gandhi would have done it, no doubt.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Do you know about Hanuman, sir? He was the faithful servant of the god Rama, and we worship him in our temples because he is a shining example of how to serve your masters with absolute fidelity, love, and devotion.
These are the kinds of gods they have foisted on us Mr. Jiabao. Understand, now, how hard it is for a man to win his freedom in India.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger


Reading Progress

10/17/2011 page 43
15.0% "Holy shit, this book is full of zingers. They just creep up on you. Zing zing zing!"
10/18/2011 page 147
51.0% "Couldn't put it down! Hope to finish by tonight or tomorrow."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Tanya (new) - added it

Tanya hot damm, you finished it already ?!


Preeti Ha yes. Still digesting it before I put up my review.


Preeti Exactly, Brian! I agree.


Cheryl What a great review! I loved seeing India and the book through your eyes. Really sounds like a truthful and therefore powerful book. I'll add it.


Preeti Cheryl wrote: "What a great review! I loved seeing India and the book through your eyes. Really sounds like a truthful and therefore powerful book. I'll add it."

Thanks, Cheryl! Hope you like it, whenever you get around to it.


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