Book: The White Tiger
Bus #44; 3:30 p.m.
Pages read: 13 - 26
Before I continue, I need to interject an important part of the book which I have failed to write about before now. Balram has committed some crime in the past. We know this b/c Balram is using the information in a police wanted poster as an "outline" for his autobiography in the letter to the Premier. We don't know what that crime is, but we do know that when he committed it, he was stylishly dressed in a blue checkered polyester shirt and orange polyester trousers.
I took up the story with Balram describing his mother's funeral. The narrative of the funeral made the vision of mom spewing blood seem bland. It was a traditional, run-of-the-mill funeral pyre type situation, except that Balram got to watch as the toes on his mother's exposed foot melted and curled up. Surprisingly, little Balram fainted. I almost did too.
In this portion of the book (and the letter), Balram describes his village (lovingly referred to as the Darkness) and his life there. Conveniently, Balram's village had a street split in two by a "strip of sewage" making the need for DOT workers to paint yellow lines down the roads unnecessary. In addition, the village's tea shop would fill with the smell of dust, sand and hog shit whenever the stray dogs and hogs scattered from out in front. But not all life in the village was bad, the family's water buffalo had a charming life. It was well-fed, lovingly cared for, and its only complaint could be having to spend all day in its own "stupendous crap."
In addition to the cow, Balram lived with women who regularly pull each others' hair.
Thankfully, Adiga gives us a glimpse of some positive things in Balram's life. Adiga deftly describes how Balram would welcome his father home from extended stays by climbing over his dad and lovingly caressing his dad's face and neck. For any parent this scene evokes a genuine feeling of pure love.
Adiga also manages to show that dad, despite not feeling it necessary to name his son, has that apparently rare quality in India to want Balram to live a better life. Dad was insistent that Balram get an education (which pissed grandma off b/c she wanted her grandson to join the ranks of India's child laborers). When Balram refused to go to school b/c he was terrified of the lizard that lived in the school's cupboard, dad went to school and killed it. I ended my commute with dad smashing the lizard's head and stamping on its neck, so that Balram would feel safe to return to school. Dad, then made the praiseworthy proclamation, "My whole life, I have been treated like a donkey. All I want is one son of mine -- at least one -- should live like a man."
Yeah dad. And yeah Adiga for salvaging the book's story from getting lost in a dreary fog. By inserting a few small glimpses of love, Adiga gives the reader a reason to not give up on Balram and allows us to buy into any future storyline that makes Balram out to be a decent person.