The White Tiger is a 320+ page English novel by Arvind Adiga which was given the 2008 Man Booker prize. He was given an award close to Rs. 4,000,000 for this novel. Going by the amount he pocketed, and the praises that I saw (a masterpiece, Compelling, Delightfully mordant wit, blazingly savage and brilliant), I remained under the impression that here is another one of those classic novels that are timeless.
I had been reading some dissenting voices here and there, but felt that these people might not have read the novel. Unfortunately, my illusion was shattered when my son presented me with a copy of this book. With great expectation I started reading it two days ago, and was able to complete it an hour ago. I must say that those whose dissenting voices I ignored are probably the only people who read this novel – other than the judges.
One of the allegations that keep surfacing about Man Booker and other non Indian literary awards (that many Indians have won) is that these awards are given for novels that present India as a shit hole, as a nation of illiterate people who have nothing except hunger, poverty and corruption in India. I feel that at least for this novel that allegation is totally true. I am now on the trail of the other “award winners” and would present my reflection upon them very soon.
White Tiger mentions many of the evils and corruption that one sees in India. However, the books fails to see anything that is good, and there lies the catch. Nor are these evils described to motivate the reader to change them. On the contrary, the reader is bound to think, oh that is the way India is and it is not going to change. It seems that is exactly what the European judges wish to read.
The prize was originally known as the Booker-McConnell Prize, after the company Booker-McConnell began sponsoring the event in 1968. It has undergone many changes since then, but one thing has remained unchanged: the price is given only to writers from the former British Empire, including those countries like India that were a Colony of the Empire.
Coming back to the novel: it is less of a novel in the traditional sense of the novel where you have a suspense that remains there till the climax. On the contrary, it is written more like an essay in a narrative format. Thus the only binding factor that I could think of, to retain readers till the end, is that this is a “Booker-prize” novel. I hope and wish that very soon such prizes would become a disqualification in our view, if they are written to cater to the taste of those European readers who would like to keep seeing India as a nation of slaves, now rendered a shit-hole because it is no longer a British Colony.
The book presents India in a very bad light, has no moral in the end, and almost all the reviews that you read praising it are false-talk. I suspect that all this review-publicity is either a business promotion strategy or a you-scratch-my-back, I-scratch-your-back type of review. Not only that, young Indian readers who read this book are left with a very bad impression of their motherland. Evil is not projected as something that ought to be removed, but rather as something that is inherent in India, or even as the unchangeable spirit of India.
Such novels should not be encouraged. You should look with suspicion those people who endorse this kind of novels. They either do not understand what they read, or are so much given to despising India that they do not get the underlying message of the book.