Words Wednesday: Aravind Adiga

Happy Words Wednesday! Today we’re highlighting Indian author Aravind Adiga, who’s just released his latest novel Selection Day.

Aravind Adiga quote, The White Tiger

This Aravinda Adiga quote comes from his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The White Tiger.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Published in 2008, The White Tiger was the debut novel by Aravind Adiga. The story is told from the first-person perspective of Balram Halwai, a poor man from a rural village in India. Balram makes his way to Dhanbad and eventually New Delhi by working as a driver for a rich family involved in the dirty coal business.

Slight spoiler alert: Balram kills his employer, steals his money, and becomes successful (while hiding) in the entrepreneurial hubbub of Bangalore.

The novel is told as a long letter from Balram (known as “The White Tiger” for his rare intelligence among his uneducated village classmates) to the Chinese premier. Told in darkly humorous language, the novel explores the social chasms of modern-day India by telling how Balram narrowly escaped from the “rooster coop” imposed by Indian society, the rich, and the corrupt politicians.

Like all of the quotes we especially love, there’s a complexity to this easily quoted adage. On the face of it, the quote is powerful and…good. What’s more heart-warming than the thought of someone being awoken and freed of shackles by nothing but the sheer beauty of the world?

On the other hand, though, this quote is spoken by a man who has murdered his employer (“master”) for money and has in all likelihood caused the deaths of his entire extended family. Is there beauty in this action, in Balram’s social rising? He did stop becoming a slave, at least in one major way in how he stopped being a slave?

Aravind Adiga quote

Here’s some context for the entire quote:

“Iqbal, that great poet, was so right. The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave. To hell with the Naxals and their guns shipped from China. If you taught every poor boy how to paint, that would be the end of the rich in India.”

-Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

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