Make Indian marriages with whites last

A closer look at India

The newspaper world has known him for a while, because after graduating from high school in Sydney, where his parents emigrated to, after studying in New York and Oxford, he worked for years as India correspondent from Bombay, first for the Financial Times, then for the Times. At first he was permanently employed, later he became a freelancer, not least in order to have time to write short stories and the debut novel.

Aravind Adiga is one of the group of Indian writers who lived abroad for a long time, in the Indian diaspora, before they returned to India. This has sharpened most of them their view of the Indian situation. You can compare, evaluate, classify and do not succumb to false loyalties. This is certainly true for the young prizewinner, because his novel is a heavy reckoning with modern Indian society and that got him a lot of trouble at home. For example, the Indian folk art expert Ritu Sethi was annoyed:

"The book throws us back three decades. It contains all the stereotypes. The BBC used nothing but show cows in the streets. The book goes back exactly there."

Author Manjula Padmanabhan also condemned the novel.

"I found the book boring and tasteless ... The tone of voice is absurdly cheeky ... Everything is possible, nothing really ... You constantly hear the echoes of the Indo-Internationalist Literature Club between the lines ... Is that schoolboy ridicule the best we can do ?. ​​"

Harsh words that clearly show that Aravind Adiga hit the mark. Indeed, "The White Tiger" is a violent attack on the Indian self-image as the largest democracy in the world and as a booming emerging market. None of this is true. At least that's what the story of the novel suggests.

The focus is on Balram Halwai, currently an entrepreneur who runs a flourishing taxi company for the large call centers in the Indian Internet metropolis Bangalore. One night he sat down and wrote to the Chinese prime minister, telling him his success story several nights in a row, which, however, turned out very differently than the famous rise from rags to riches. The unusual addressee is indirectly explained by Aravind Adiga's conviction:

"If you are poor, you would prefer China to India every day because your children would have a better chance of being adequately fed. Your wife would be more likely to survive the birth. You yourself would probably live longer."

Balram is one of those poor people who actually never get a chance to free themselves from their misery. He grows up in the country in a small village. He's smart enough to go to high school, but his family doesn't have the money for that. Like hundreds of thousands of Indians, he seeks his fortune in the city. That consists of a job as a driver for a wealthy industrial family who owns half the village he comes from. She treats the peasants and their servants as if they were serfs, harasses them, and pays starvation wages.

Balram becomes the chauffeur of the son Ashok. On the trips he overhears how the family wins elections in the area he comes from through fraud and brutal violence, bribing government employees, politicians and police officers in New Delhi in order to secure orders. Then one night his master's drunken American wife gets behind the wheel of the car. That ends in a catastrophe, because she drives a child to death. Her husband demands that Balram take the blame on himself. Not an isolated case, as he complains in his letter to the Chinese prime minister:

"Delhi's prisons are full of drivers behind bars for taking the blame for their decent, rock-solid middle-class masters. We have escaped the villages, but we still belong to our masters - our bodies, ours Soul, our ass.

We live here in the greatest democracy.

What a fucking joke. "

The chauffeur gets away one more time. The bribed police put down the proceedings. The American leaves her husband and returns to the USA. From then on, he has fun with prostitutes. When the entrepreneur's son then looks around more or less openly for a new driver, Balram knows that he has little time left to act. The opportunity arises in the event of a nightly breakdown on the way to handing over a large bribe. The driver kills his master and disappears with the money, building up his transport company with him. The police are looking for him, but the profiles are miserable, nobody recognizes him. However, as an act of revenge, his master's family wiped out all of his relatives in the village.

Bottom line of the story: For someone like Balram, there is no chance of advancement unless they commit a crime, according to Aravind Adiga in an interview:

"If you can't speak English, have no education, no health insurance, then how are you going to change your life? A poor man in India makes 4,000 rupees a month. He can never achieve anything with that. The only way to change is for yourself someone like Balram in becoming a criminal. Otherwise he can only escape into fantasies and dreams and he will never make it. Often times, life is so hard that you just have to be brutal. "

Indian society is presented in the novel as anti-social, corrupt and inhumane. No wonder that some Indians insult Aravind Adiga as a polluter, although he himself has repeatedly pointed out that he does not share the attitude of his hero, but as a writer feels the obligation to remind India's middle class of its responsibility for the poor:

"At a time when India is going through great changes and is likely to inherit the world from the West along with China, it is important that writers like me shed light on the brutal injustice of society. And that is exactly what I am trying to do. That is not what I do about attacking the country, but about the much bigger task of self-exploration. "

With great reliance on the power of literature, Aravind Adiga believes that his ruthless, fast-paced, hilariously ironic novel can help change all that. One of the great old men of Indian literature, Khushant Singh, praised the book as very readable, but just as depressing. Never before has he seen such a dark and one-sided picture of India. He ends his criticism, however, with the remark that Adiga's black humor and his biting satire convince the reader to forgive him for his half-truths. In fact, the novel can also be understood as an evil satire, which obviously makes most Indians stuck in the throat of laughter. A debut that has it all. A prizewinner who definitely deserves the award.

Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger
Translated by Ingo Herzke, C.H.Beck Verlag, 319 pages, 19.90 euros