Author: Aravind Adiga
My rating: 5/5
I am not so kind hearted to give a full score for pretty much every movie I see or every book I read. But then, I cant help it if only the best seems to come my way ;-)
What can I say about this book. Its disturbingly true and a succinctly accurate portrayal of certain parts of India. Mind you, I stress upon the word “certain”. I'm definitely not the types who would push the garbage into the backyard and make things look all hunky dory. Yes, I can understand and to a certain degree agree to the disturbing thoughts of Munna aka Balram Halwai aka Ashok Sharma!!....”certain”
What I liked about the book ? The narration, the simple language used, the character presentation and above all the emotions that it generates in you as you read along!
I'm not sure if I really need to write about the plot here. With Adiga winning the Booker prize and the book becoming an instant hit, I'm sure most of you would know what the story line is all about. But still, for those people who haven't read it ...a jist.
The narration is through the eyes of the main protagonist – Munna all through the book. He is a small town boy, living in Laxmangarh somewhere close to Gaya, the place where Buddha happened to get enlightenment. This is definitely irony. Or was it on purpose that the author chose to make the character live here ??
Munna is christened Balram and his age deemed 18 by the inspection officer just so he is made eligible to vote. Not that he ever was able to. He describes in one place that even though his vote was cast at every election, he hadn't seen how the voting booth actually looked inside!! Thanks to booth capturing that is rampant in certain parts of India. I'm glad that voting in Bangalore is still smooth and democracy prevails. Thats why Im still stressing the word “certain” again. So, yeah, thats how Munna gets his name Balram.
The story is simplistic and told by Balram in a letter to the Premier of China. He describes slavery in different forms meted out by different kinds of people in different ways. Balram goes through all this; first as a helper in a tiny tea shop, then as a secondary driver, then as the main driver. His life moves from being a driver to finally becoming an entrepreneur. His life story told over seven nights of letter writing....with the chandelier for company.
He goes from being an obedient driver through to becoming a murderer. He gets corrupted, does things that he wasn't supposed to do leading to things he shouldn't do and finally to what no one should do! He does it all, escapes from being caught inspite of having committed a crime and what the heck, sets up his own business, prospers and settles well down in Bangalore city under the name of Ashok Sharma.
Strangely, I neither felt pity nor anger nor hatred towards the character. Was that again what Adiga wanted to convey...is this something so natural for a person to become under such circumstances ??
There has been similarity drawn to Slumdog by many. Yes, perhaps because both got world recognition by depicting poorer India. But somehow, more than the movie, this book had a stronger effect on me. In the sense, though I loved the book, I feel it very necessary to say these things – India is the world's largest democracy, India is shining in science and technology, we still do have the IT edge, we can give any country a run for their money, we won a gold medal this Olympics, our films can compete with world class cinema, there is no dearth of talent and intelligence, a few of Indian origin are actually part of the Obama team, an Indian Mittal is still one of the richest persons in the UK and only we have the power to “buy” players from different countries to play for teams named after Indian cities!! Beat that!!
I really did want to say the above especially for the non Indian readers primarily because a book can so vividly explain situations and yet leave a lot to imagination. As a book lover, I feel one goes through more emotions reading than one can feel from watching a movie for 2 hours.
Go enjoy it with an open mind and remember its the story of “a” person Balram....
Author: Aravind Adiga