Sunday, November 30, 2008

The White Tiger

So let's talk about India. Why? Because I'm going there in ten days and am reading a Man Booker Prize for Fiction winning novel by an Indian about India. OK, I know there was a terrible incident in Mumbai this past week, and it was truly awful, but I think it's been covered fairly thoroughly in the Mainstream Media and, quite frankly, I don't really have much to add. Well, except that I'm going to India anyway, you terrorist fuckwads!

Which brings me to The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Look, this obviously isn't the first time you've heard of this truly original novel. Not only do I think how the Economist wants me to think, but I read what the Economist wants me to read. But in case you haven't got around to it yet, please feel free to do so. The book is about social classes, freedom, tradition, and all sorts of other stuff, but the parts about Indian democracy are just brilliant — all through the eyes of an uneducated, impoverished villager. A few highlights to pique your interest:
  • I was listening to a program on the radio about this man called Castro who threw the rich out of his country and freed his people.

  • I gather you yellow-skinned men, despite your triumphs in sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, still don't have democracy. Some politician on the radio was saying that that's why we Indians were going to beat you: we may not have sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, but we do have democracy. If I were making a country, I'd get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy, then I'd go about giving pamphlets and statues of Gandhi to other people, but what do I know? I'm just a murderer!

  • The Great Socialist himself is said to have embezzled one billion rupees from the Darkness, and transferred that money into a bank account in a small, beautiful country in Europe full of white people and black money.

  • "It's the way it always is," my father told me that night. "I've seen twelve elections — five general, five state, and two local — and someone else has voted for me twelve times. I've heard that people in the other India get to vote for themselves — isn't that something?"

  • They sat in silence, which confused me. If I had just gone into the President's House, I'd roll down the windows and shout it aloud to everyone on the road! "Look at that." "What?" "That Statue." I looked out the window to see a large bronze statue of a group of men — this is a well-known statue, which you will no doubt see in Delhi: at the head is Mahatma Gandhi, with his walking stick, and behind him follow the people of India, being led from darkness to light. The Mongoose squinted at the statue. "What about it? I've seen it before." "We're driving past Gandhi, after just having given a bribe to a minister. It's a fucking joke, isn't it?" "You sound like your wife now," the Mongoose said. "I don't like swearing — it's not part of our traditions here." But Mr. Ashok was too red in the face to keep quiet. "It is a fucking joke — our political system — and I'll keep saying it as long as I like." "Things are complicated in India, Ashok. It's not like in America. Please reserve your judgment."

  • The jails of Delhi are full of drivers who are there behind bars because they are taking the blame for their good, solid middle-class masters. We have left the villages, but the masters still own us, body, soul, and arse. Yes, that's right: we all live in the world's greatest democracy. What a fucking joke. Doesn't the driver's family protest? Far from it. They would actually go bragging. Their boy Balram had taken the fall, gone to Tihar Jail for his employer. He was loyal as a dog. He was the perfect servant.

  • The Great Indian Rooster Coop. Do you have something like it in China too? I doubt it, Mr. Jiabao. Or you wouldn't need the Communist Party to shoot people and a secret police to raid their houses at night and put them in jail like I've heard you have over there. Here in India we have no dictatorship. No secret police. That's because we have the coop. Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many, Mr. Jiabao. A handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 percent — as strong, talented, as intelligent in every way — to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man's hands and he will throw it back at you with a curse.

Oh, I could go on and on copying someone else's words. But why bother? Go read the book.

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