Tuesday, January 13, 2009

to Aravind Adiga,

I currently live in Dresden, Germany. Its been five months for me. Few months ago, a german colleague asked me if I had read your book. He found it amazing. I thought it was just some book and didnt give it much thought. Then an american came to me and asked if I was from India. He asked me if it was true what you have written in your shot to fame book. I thought I should give it a read. It was when another German friend, went to US, got the book, read it, came back and discussed certain things you have written, that I borrowed the book from him and read it. Even before reading it, I had outrightly dismissed that everything in the book is not so amplified it seems. Whether its true or not Mr. Adiga, I dont like my country potrayed like this and people coming and asking me if it was true. Certainly, the foreigners enjoy reading your novel because the things you describe are strange to them and amazes them. Its entertainment for them.

What you have described in the book, of course is true to certain extent, but its dark. I am not saying that I refuse to see the dark, I say that its too dark for the reality. People who read it, specially for people slightly on the darker side, its not encouraging. There are people, amidst this land of corruption, amidst a mindset of hopelessness you deliver in your novel, who have crossed from the dark to light, without stealing, murdering, without of course yes, i don't support it, but without complaining. Yes of course the problem exists, only in India, drivers can make sweets, can massage their masters, only in India, one guy, raised and educated in Australia, Oxford wheresoever, can come back, look at this things, be amazed, be a little creative and pen down and earn money by potraying his country as dark. I think your novel is an sperficial one, an outsider's view and just an angry burst. India still remains exotic, a place where economic miracles happened despite all we have. Most of the appreciations that you have on the first five pages of your novel talks about your sharp observation skills. You think an average middle class indian doesnt know what going on in his country? he doesnt observe as much as you do? he probably knows more than you Mr. Adiga, but he wouldn't write it down for the future generation to read it and celebrate it. I wouldn't like my brother to read it because it will show him where he is living and one more corrupt fellow, not because of whats there, but because hopelessness would drive him to it. I would like him to fight it the honest way, Like so many young and educated people are doing, like my father did. In a country where the old corrupt population is trying to be replaced with fresh, honest young ones, where younger politicians seem to be coming into business, where recent events have been triggering people to stand up against everything wrong, your novel delivers a dark pulse of hopelessness and discouragement which is not welcome. There are reasons why we are like that, reasons we can correct. when you talk about one of the world's largest population, who were never historically aggressive, who were always peace loving until the modern world came into existence, which was economically ripped down until 50 years ago, its difficult to change courses all of a sudden. it takes generation to steer a counry. You cannot compare India to the west, or Europe. Scientifically, the populations and economy has been different. You believe Indians are in Rooster coops, mr. Adiga, the whole world, save the Russians and Indians are in a Rooster coop. I am proud that despite everything we have here, and not the best, we certainly can do better and we have propelled ourselves to a strong position on our own capabilities. At the root level, yes much job needs to be done. Educating village based populations has been the greatest challenge in a country of vast population, diversity and spread. The government goes wrong in implementing these policies which is where we have to improve. Ten Balrams would have murdered and become a corrupt businessman, but one honest fellow would have thought his part of teaching the poor if he was educated. So the solution lies in educating and imprinting honesty, vision and knowledge in coming generations Mr. Adiga and not justifying and sympathising with murderers turned businessmen, just because a fraction is corrupt. I would have appreciated if you spinned out an Indianised Alchemistic novel, which I had expected when I heard the name ' The White Tiger'. Unfortunately 'The White Tiger' isn't white.

In a country where we have as many languages as in the whole european continent, as many religions as all of the world, we have stood considerably unite. We have withstood forces from outside trying to break us down, we have made ourselves capable protect our people. and yet you have been so insensitive to differentiate the Aryans and Dravidians with so much of subtlity. Mr Adiga, todays politicians and citizens dont need to dig into the past. You cannot afford it. Our cabinet consists of ministers from every region. They have done some amount of good work together, considering what they are. You cannot deny that. In a country where a riot can break out every 100 kms, it doesnt happen, On the whole, our politicians have been considerable enough, leave all the money they waste in the parliament and touring the world, all the money they earn in bribes, to take control of policies of the country as a whole. Not all politicians in our country are corrupt. I consider my country to be in a transition phase and its only becoming better.

If you want to blame, blame the politicians, yes, they are corrupt, thugs and rapists and murderers. We need to replace them. and why did they came into power, because almost all politicians come into power on the basis of their votebanks owing to their caste and local brainwash. Now caste system was always in indian mindset. Its dificult to wipe it out like dust and its taking its time. Our politicians reflect ourselves, in a way. Now, the reflection has been more and more false. Because the reflection we see is from the past., where your novel seems to have been set. Politicians we have are from the time periods they came up exactly as Vijay or Balram in your novel. I appreciate that the Indian governement could manage to keep down the number of such people., considering the situations how India developed since independence. People want to be true and honest. Politicians are not. perhaps it will take time untill we reflect our proper selves again. And people are not coming from dark to light like Balram or Vijay, but there exist a set of grey people, who are slowly coming up, honestly, struggling - yes, but that population is what true India is going to be. If everybody thought like Balram did, everybody can justify a murder, a robbery, do you think its going to be any better? Do you think, as a counry, its justified? India is where it is now because not everyone turned into a Vijay or Balram in you novel. You are the new one in the Indo-internationalist club of writers who can complain and rub your nose in dust, show it and make money , but not think forward about what can be done with the dust to progress.


Princess Fiona said...

great post, senthil! i havent read the book, but i've heard abt it. and i totally agree with what u've written..
the same goes abt the slumdog millionaire. again, i havent seen the movie (for the same reason - i m sure it'll be very difficult for me to watch such dark portrail of my country). i will watch it sometime though.
i wish these ppl would read ur post (and many others with similar sentiments across the indian blogosphere) and realize why they r wrong. and i hope ppl are forced to change their conceptions about India. We are a country of poor, yes. But we are also a country of progress and development. Hopefully someday everybody would realize this.

bela said...

I was going to buy the book but after reading this I think i will spend my money elsewhere.

I agree with Fiona. I felt the same way after watching slumdog millionaire.

Another book in the same category is Suketu Mehta's Maximum City. It like Slumdog lovingly chronicles all the dirt and filth of India and win prizes for it too.

Kaps said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
saj said...

Senthil, very rarely do I find people who agree to disagree on the over-exaggerated folklore about the the corrupt and poor India... and very often I come across those who celebrate the Awards won by Slumdog Millionaire and its likes... glad to know you are in the first category... I haven't read the book, but I am sure its not much different than the others who only focus on portraying the glitches in India rather than looking up and seeing the achievements that India and Indians have made. I am a global citizen, yes, but I do object to an incorrect exposure of my motherland to the many out there who have no idea what the real thing is, out of these Novels and Movies that are the works of Mr. Adiga and his peers.

Cheers to you for taking out your time and writing this up, your own way of showing your respect for India ...


moon said...

nice post!..i totally feel the same way about movies like slumdog millionare and books like the one you hv written about..somebody tell these people its easy to point out mistakes, the challenge lies in coming up with solutions or atleast try to solve problems in one's own way.