The White Tiger


The Autobiography of a Half-Baked Indian. That’s what I ought to call my life’s story. The Great Indian Rooster Coop.

Every evening on the train out of Surat, where they run the world’s biggest diamond-cutting and polishing business, the servants of diamond merchants are carrying suitcases full of cut diamonds that they have to give to someone in Mumbai. The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy. What if one day, a driver took his employer’s money and ran? Every man must make his own Benaras. The book of your revolution sits in the pit of your belly, young Indian. Crap it out, and read. Instead of which, they’re sitting in front of colour TVs and watching Cricket and shampoo advertisements. There is a story I think I heard or maybe read – I can’t remember. One day a cunning Brahmin, trying to trick the Buddha, asked him, ‘Master, do you consider yourself a man or God?’ The Buddha smiled and said, ‘Neither. I am just one who has woken up while the rest of you are still sleeping.’

‘Name.’ ‘Balram Halwai.’

‘They’re going to Delhi. Mr. Ashok and Pinky Madam.’ ‘We hit something, Ashoky,’ She spoke in the softest of voices. ‘No.’ The jails of Delhi are full of drivers who are there behind bars because they are taking the blame. Just when I thought I’d never go to sleep, I began reciting a couplet, over and over again.

I was looking for the key for years

But the door was always open.


‘It’s raining, Balram. Do you think we should call for help?’ ‘Oh, no, Sir. Trust me. Come out.’ He obeyed me. ‘Come over this side, Sir. The bad tyre is on this side.’ I rammed the bottle down. The glass ate his bone. It’s a good, strong bottle, Johnnie Walker Black – well worth its resale value. I took the Honda City, finest of cars, most faithful of accomplices, on one final trip. Being a man on the run isn’t all about fear – a fugitive is entitled to his share of fun too.


Yes, Ashok! That’s what I call myself these days. A White Tiger keeps no friends. It’s too dangerous. I shouldn’t think of them at all. My family. Mr. Ashok’s family can put up a reward on my head, and it will not matter. I have switched sides: I am now one of those who cannot be caught in India. A man in a uniform may one day point a finger at me and say, Time’s up, Munna. I’ll never say I made a mistake that night in Delhi when I slit his throat. I’ll say it was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hour, just for a minute, what it means not to be a servant.

Arvind Adiga, The White Tiger, (HarperCollins India, 2008).