Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Aravinda and Pavan

Who are they ? Well I am sure you know Aravinda Adiga much better than Pavan K Verma. Reason. Former has just won the prestigious Man booker prize for his book, The White Tiger , while latter is the author of a critique of Indian masses "The Great Indian Middle Class". Last week, I had been reading these two and I almsot felt like I am reading the same book. One treats the same issue in an aesthetic manner while the other takes us through some glaring facts.

I will discuss them individually, however.

The White Tiger.

An epistolary, highly criticized, facile English book by a novice author. I had my own misgivings about this book after having read so many bad reviews about the authenticity of the tale and blah blah. However, I took a chance and it paid. For this is an awesome book by an Indian foreigner, who has critically or rather cynically taken up the case of lower strata of Indian society. He portrays a devilish picture of Indian rich class and sad and gloomy picture of a Indian Poor. He has portrayed with craft and ingenuousness of Balram Halwai, the protagonist, the hardships of a poor man and the exploitation of poor by rich and powerful. He has been utter;y cynic in his description of a parallel India that exists and is untouched by the boon of developments. All the rhetoric of Indian economic upheaval are nothing but a lie on their face. He has taken liberty to create self conceived notions of poor people and his metaphor of Village as Darkness would but only enrage many. He could be vindicated on the ground that he has taken up a work of fiction, and in fiction you need to go to extremes to draw out the contrasts.

However, the base story wasn't something which an Indian reader would feel as a novel one. They see it around themselves daily. Maybe foreign readers would find this very surprising, considering the image of Indian they have post Globalization boom. It was the narration which was interesting. The base lacked in originality and authenticity however the topping was good.

The Great Indian Middle Class:

This book is by an erudite author, backed by his IFS post in Indian government, which leaves no opportunity to look for any trace of an inauthentic book. Rather , its a revelation of the way things are around us. The country is doing well in economic terms , but how much share has the 40% of the lower strata of this country have had? He asks this question on your face, and along with that he brings out beautifully the central theme of Indian Middle Class. How it has evolved, what are its inner landscapes and how it has continuously failed to read the writing on the wall. He appreciates the tenacity of ,middle class as successful entrepreneurs, labors ,winners despite all odds, however he shuns them for their inability to look beyond their own personal gain. He shuns the short sightedness of this class and ridicules the way they have got inured to the pandemic poverty around them, forgetting even that it exists. This book beautifully discusses the transition of middle class and their ideologies from pre -independence to post independence to the era of economic liberation [1991] . How has this particular class ,which always looks for an ideology to live by , in lack of it, has become a consuming giant , not looking beyond its own personal interest. He also points out that in a country which is still so vastly poor it doesn't make sense for the middle class to be so ,lost in itself. If they don't see the writing on the wall now, it could lead to a deeper chasms between two classes and also a breakage of social fabric and more so in his own words ,

"If it [the middle class] does not [look at it] , the India of today will be the envy of amoral,cynical,economically lackluster and debilitatingly divided nation that can emerge tomorrow. the harvest of an opportunity lost, a heritage wasted"

Personally , I liked the starting the book a lot , wherein he raises a pertinent question that when at the stroke of midnight India became free , Nehru delivered his speech in ENGLISH, certainly not the language of common masses. He has very beautifully brought forward a relevant point about the Indian freedom movement and freedom. Quoting him over here,

"On 15 August 1947 the bells of freedom tolled for all Indians, but they tolled specially for those who inherited the paraphernalia of giving shape to independent India"

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