…by Aravind Adiga.
The story is about Balram, born in one of the poorest villages in India, the Darkness, as he calls it; he is forced out of school to work in a local tea shop. As the boy realizes that he is no good at helping out in the shop, he decides he wants to learn driving to become a driver. And he goes on to achieve his goal…a local taxi driver teaches him driving for a price and then Balram finds a job as a driver to one of the landlords’ family from his village. Eventually, he moves to Delhi with the landlord’s son, an American return.
What happens in Delhi, how Balram grasps the master-servant divide that is prevalent all over the country, how he gets fed up being the servant and plots bigger plans, how he goes from a driver in Delhi to a rich entrepreneur in Banglore, what all he sacrifices, what gruesome acts he does in order to achieve his ambition to become that business man…all that constitutes to the rest of this interesting tale. Sometimes intriguing, sometimes witty, the book delves well into that big divide of classes, the rich and the poor, in India.
I have mixed feelings about the book, mostly negative.
While, I can say that the author keeps language and the narration simple and storyline was somewhat interesting, there was some level of depth lacking to the story. The author paints a good picture of all the characters, sure. But I found it hard to connect with any of those characters. While I did feel pity for everything Balram had to go through, I couldn’t get myself to understand why he would go to the level of killing his master…the one he repeatedly says he liked and was faithful to. Yes, the reasons were given as to why he did what he did, but that wasn’t compelling enough to justify his acts, I felt.
So yeah, I can’t say it’s one of the best reads ever.
If you watched Slumdog Millionaire and didn’t like the storyline because you thought it portrayed India in a negative way, then this book is not for you. It has many similar elements – the corrupt politicians, the dirty slums (and the westernizing cities), the heartless criminals, the I-will-do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-ahead (even murder) attitude, the exploit-the-poor mind-set, etc.
Overall, an ok novel with a good narrative…that’s about it.
My rating: 2*.
*for the rating scale, click here.