Aravind Adiga has won (2008) the Man Booker Prize for his very first novel. Curious, I had placed a hold on the book at my town library and sure enough the book is in big demand and is on a strict 15 day turn-around.
Adiga has written a gripping tale and covers both India and China with the protoganist Munna or “The White Tiger” writing from Bangalore as a now powerful taxi operator who provides taxi services to the call centers of big brand companies like Microsoft and so on. Munna is an “entrepreneur” writing to the Chinese Prime Minister (throughout the entire novel) who is visiting Bangalore and wants to meet local Indian entrepreneurs to understand their story. The book is about Munna’s evolution as an “entrepreneur” from abject poverty based roots as a Rickshaw Puller’s son.
The most fascinating thing about the book is the understanding that Adiga brings about the changing ancient social structure in India. He does so in a sort of cynical manner highlighting rare betrayal by the servant of the master. I rather prefer the lighter approach of PG Wodehouse called the “feudal spirit” where Jeeves is pretty much always loyal to Bertie Wooster.
To Adiga’s credit however, he does bring out continuity and change in the Indian social fabric as the economy booms and “catching up” with China is on peoples’ minds. Adiga’s incredulous observation that dependable “servants” literally drive the economy is masterful. He mentions the diamond trade among others where trustworthy assistants move around with millions in diamonds or cash with literally no “legal” controls and almost no problems. While “The White Tiger” or Munna is a deviant – you do get the feeling of continuity and stability in a bizarre sort of way. Definitely worth a read.