The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Published April 2008 by Simon and Schuster
Narrator: John Lee
Balram Halwai, the white tiger, of the title, is writing a confession of sorts in a series of seven letters to the Chinese premier. The premier is heading to Bangalore, India on a fact finding mission and Balram takes it upon himself to tell the premier all about Bangalore and his own success.
Balram was born in poverty, the son of a rickshaw driver. Because the government is not paying the school teachers, his teacher absconds with all of the funds intended for the students and does very little teaching. So Balram spends only a few years in school before he heads off to earn a living. Eventually he works his way up to being a driver for a family of businessmen. In his letters to the premier, Balram writes about life growing up, life as a driver, the politics of India and the class structure. And a crime he has committed that has allowed him to become the entrepreneur he is at the time of the letters.
The picture Adiga paints of India is vivid - the reader can easily imagine the stench of the air pollution in the cities, the filth of the slums, the sounds of the traffic. Nothing is safe from Adiga's barbs - democracy is corrupt, business is hand-in-hand with politicians, employers and servants alike treat servants with contempt. At times this book is almost comical, at other times it is nothing short of a tragedy. Ethics are entirely missing in every character. You will not like Balram but I felt that he had done the best that he could under the circumstances of his life.
I listened to this on CD and the gentleman who narrated it is Indian which really enhanced the experience for me. This book is not for everyone. It is not light, it is not fun. But I enjoyed it a lot.