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The White Tiger

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by

Finka Baulieb

on 12 August 2013

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Transcript of The White Tiger

Balram
An intellectual and believer?
Religion
Muslim
Hindu
Poetry
Iqbal
Rumi
Mirza Ghalib
"Have you noticed that all four of the greatest poets in the world are Muslim? And yet all the Muslims you meet are illiterate or covered head to toe in black burkas or looking for buildings to blow up? It's a puzzle. isn't it?" (35)
"They remain slaves because they can't see what is beautiful in this world." (34)
Ram Persad
"Respect of the law is the first command of the gods." (212)
"You were looking for the key for years
But the door was always open!" (216)
"Government work is god's work." (254)
Books
Murder Weekly
(magazine)
Irony
Hanuman
“Master, do you consider yourself a man or a god?” The Buddha answered, “Neither. I’m just one who has woken up while the rest of you are still sleeping.” (270)
“Are you a man or a demon? Neither, I say, I have woken up, and the rest of you are still sleeping, and that is the only difference between us.” (271)
Scepticism
Gandhi
MURDER WEEKLY
RUPEES 4,50
EXCLUSIVE TRUE STORY
"A GOOD BODY NEVER GOES TO WASTE"
MURDER. RAPE. REVENGE.
Now I have to tell you about this magazine, Murder Weekly, since our prime Minister certainly won't tell you anything about it. It's sold in every news stand in the city, alongside the cheap novels, and it is very popular reading among all the servants [...]. Every week when this magazine comes out, with a cover image of a woman cowering from his would-be murderer, some driver has bought the magazine and is passing it around to the other drivers.
Now, don't panic at this information, Mr. Premier- no beads of chill sweat need form on your yellow brow. Just because drivers and cooks in Delhi are reading Murder Weekly, it doesn't mean that they are all about to slit their masters necks. Of course, they'd like to. Of course, a billion servants are sacredly fantasizing about strangling their bosses- and that's why the government of India published this magazine and sells it on the streets for just 4 and a half rupees so that even the poor can buy it. You see, the murderer in the magazine is so mentally disturbed and sexually deranged that not one reader would want to be like him- and in the end, he always gets caught by some honest, hardworker police officer (HA!), or goes mad and hangs himself by a bedsheet after writing a sentimental letter to his mother or primary school teacher, or is chased, beaten, buggered, and garroted by the brother of the woman he has done in. So if your driver is busy flicking through the pages of Murder Weekly, relax. No danger to you. Quite the contrary.
It's when your driver starts to read about Gandhi and the Buddha that it's time to wet your pants, Mr. Jiabao.

Cynical
Worksheet
-“Muslim Uncle, I have another question for you.”

-“What do I look like? Your schoolteacher? Don’t keep asking me questions.”

-“The last one, I promise. Tell me, Muslim Uncle, can a man make himself vanish with poetry?”

-“What do you mean- like vanish through black magic?” He looked at me.”Yes- that can be done. There are books for that. You want to buy one?”

-“No, not vanish like that. I meant can he… Can he… “

The bookseller had narrowed his eyes. The sweets beads had grown larger on his huge black forehead. I smiled at him.

-“Forget I asked that, Muslim Uncle.”

And then I warned myself never to talk to this old man again. He knew too much already.
[…]
Strange thoughts brew in your head when you spend too much time with old books. “

Pages 217/218

13th-century Persian poet
talks about personal growth and development
he is concerned with the spiritual evolution of a human being
Urdu and Persian poet from the Mughal Empire during British colonial rule
During his lifetime the Mughals were eclipsed and displaced by the British and finally deposed following the defeat of the Indian rebellion of 1857, events that he wrote of.
The idea that life is one continuous painful struggle which can end only when life itself ends
"The prison of life and the bondage of grief are one and the same
Before the onset of death, how can man expect to be free of grief? "
Philosopher, poet and politician in British India who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement
Iqbal's thoughts in his work primarily focus on the spiritual direction and development of human society
talks about "enslaved societies"
Iqbal’s message emphasized progress, constant growth, and revival of the self through love or compassion.
Buddha
"[…] this is Hanuman, everyone's favourite god in the Darkness. Do you know about Hanuman, sir? He was the faithful servant of the god Rama, and we worship him in our temples because he is a shining example of how to serve your masters with absolute fidelity, love, and devotion.
These are the kinds of gods they have foisted on us, Mr. Jiabao. Understand, now, how hard it is for a man to win his freedom in India." (16)
"Look at that".
"What?"
"That statue."
I looked out of the window to see a large bronze statue of a group of men […] At the head is Mahatma Gandhi, with his walking stick, and behind him follow the people of India, being led from darkness to light. (114)
Stuff
"the retention of semen in the lower body leads to evil movements in the fluids of the upper body.”(213)
"young girls tasted like watermelon" "diseases of mind and body get cured when a man penetrates a virgin. “These are known facts.”(165)
"cell-phones destroy the brain"
“It hurts my business, but my brain is important, sir; it’s all that a thinking man has in this world.” (p.262)
“As the fire ate away the silk, a pale foot jerked out, like a living thing; the toes which were melting in the heat, began to curl up, offering resistance to what was being done to them. Kusum shoved the foot into the fire, but it would not burn. My heart began to race. My mother wasn’t going to let them destroy her.”(p.14)
“I went amid the books and sucked in the air; it was like oxygen after the stench of the brothel.(215)
“Even as a boy I could see what was beautiful in the world: I was destined not to stay a slave.”(35)
"I watched him walk behind the bamboo bars. […] He was walking in the same line, again and again—from one end of the bamboo bars to the other, then turning around and repeating it over, at exactly the same pace, like a thing under a spell.
He was hypnotizing himself by walking like this—this was the only way he could tolerate his cage.
Then the thing behind the bamboo bars stopped moving. It turned its face to my face. The tiger’s eyes met my eyes, like my master’s eyes met mine often in the mirror of the car.
All at once, the tiger vanished." (237)

“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.” (276)
"What's the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim?" (7)
“Call yourself Gvaskar. Azharuddin is a Muslim.”
“Father, what a silly thing to say! Hindu or Muslim, what difference does it make?” (p.59)
Sharma is a surname found in the India and Nepal as a surname or given name among Brahmins.
"bliss", "happiness", "shelter", "laid back", "protection."
"Ashok Sharma"
“Now Iqbal … has written this remarkable poem [...]
The exact words of the poem I can’t remember, but it goes something like this.

God says: I am powerful. I am huge. Become my servant again.
Devil says: Ha!

When I remember Iqbal’s Devil, as I do often, lying here under my chandelier, I think of a little black figure in a wet khaki uniform who is climbing up the entranceway to a black fort.[...]
Up in the blue skies, God spreads His palm over the plains below, showing this little man Laxmangarh, and its little tributary of the Ganga, and all that lies beyond: a million such villages, billion such people. And God asks this little man:
Isn’t it all wonderful? Isn’t it all grand? Aren’t you grateful to be my servant?
And I see this small black man in the wet khaki uniform start to shake, as if he had gone mad with anger, before delivering to the Almighty a gesture of thanks for having created the world this particular way, instead of all the other ways it could have been created.
I see the little man in the khaki uniform spitting at God again and again, as I watch the black blades of the midget fan slice the light from the chandelier again and again.” (74)

Balram and Religion, Books and Poetry.
Does not have an organized structure, or the concept of enforcing any kind of religious law, rather, people are simply encouraged to do good Karma and avoid bad Karma.
Upon death, the soul leaves the material body and gets another body and life (rebirth) depending on the total sum one's past karma, good or bad deeds (--> Caste system)
All Muslims believe in Allah, Muhammad and the Quran (--> Monotheism)
Ritual worship in Islam is much simpler but obligatory upon all Muslims (ex: obliged to fast during the holy month of Ramadan)
One's life in this temporary world is considered to be a test taken by Allah
growth of the Indian economy
Hindu nationalism
Islam initially entered North India through military conquest, which led to the sacking and sacrilege of many Hindu temples
partition of British India into modern secular India and Islamic Pakistan
sees the Muslims as a "foreign" people bringing in a "foreign" faith into India
see the "polytheistic" and "idol-worshiping" Hindus as filthy and abhorrent
"Balram Halwai is a vanished man, a fugitive, someone whose whereabouts are unknown to the police, right?" (60)
"As I was watching the red wall of the minister's house, a peacock flew up over the guard's booth and perched there; for an instant its deep blue neck and its long tail turned golden in the setting sunlight. Then it vanished." (126)
"At night a woman walked with a cellophane bag; my headlights shone into the bag and turned the cellophane transparent. I saw four large dark fruits inside the bag- and each dark fruit said,
You've already done it. In your heart you've already taken it.
Then the headlights passed; the cellophane turned opaque, the four dark fruits vanished." (147)
"Paw prints.
An animal had walked on the concrete before it had set.
I got up and walked after the animal. The space between the prints grew wider- The animal had begun to sprint.
I walked faster.
The paw prints of the accelerating animal went all the way around the malls, and at last, where the pavement ended and raw earth began, they vanished." (155)
"I haven't read many books, but I have read all the ones that count". I know by heart the works of the four greatest poets of all time..."(5)
"Now, there are some (...) thinking men (...) who think that not many of these gods actually exist. Some believe that none of them exist. (...) I'm no philosopher or poet, how would I know the truth? It's true that these gods seem to do awfully little work- much like our politicians- (...).



That's not to say that I don't respect them, Mr Premier! (...) My country is the kind where it pays to play it both ways: the Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time." (6)
"I guess, Your Excellency, that I too should star off by kissing some god's arse.
Which god's arse, though? There are so many choices.
See, the Muslims have one god.
The Christians have three gods.
And we Hindus have 36,000,000 gods.
Making a grand total of 36,000,004 divine arses to choose from." (6)
"... start a school for poor children in Bangalore. A school where you won't be allowed to corrupt anyone's head with prayers and stories about God or Gandhi..." (193)
"I slapped my forehead. What a fool I'd been! It's Ramadan, they can't eat and drink during the day."
"..was a poor, honest, hardworking Muslim, but he wanted a job at the home of an evil, prejudiced landlord who didn't like Muslims- so, just to get a job and feed his starving family, he claimed to be a Hindu!"
"See, he began every day by bowing in front of at least twenty pictures of various gods he kept in his side of the room, and saying 'Om, Om, Om'."
Does poetry influence Balram into making particular choices?
Who are the great 4 poets he talks about?
Ram Persad: Muslim/ Hindu conflict
Does Balram believe?
Religion as a tool of manipulation
Different kinds of books for different kinds of people
Believer?
Balram changes during the novel
The desire of Balram to break out of the Rooster Coop, and his concern even when he already has.
"See, sometimes I think I will never get caught. (...)
But at other times someone in the streets calls out, 'Balram', and I turn my head and think 'I've given myself away'.
Getting caught- it's always a possibility. There is no end to thing in India, as Mr Ashok used to say. (...)
A man in an uniform may one day point a finger at me and say 'Time's up, Munna".
"You are familiar already with my love of poetry..."
He has broken out of the Rooster Coop
A hero, then?
"(...) signs and symbols in poems, which appear to be about roses and pretty girls and things like that, but when understood correctly spill out secrets that allow the poorest man on earth to conclude the ten-thousand-year-old brain-war on terms favorable to himself. (217)
The two Forts

"Iqbal, that great poet, was so right. The moment you recognize what's beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave. (...) If you taught every poor boy how to paint, that would be the end of the rich in India.
I made sure Dharam appreciated the rise and fall of the fort's outline- the way its loopholes filled up with the blue sky- the way the old stones glittered in the light." (167)

In his village

In the zoo (Delhi)
How servants are being kept in the Rooster Coop
(Talking about the war between rich and poor)
The peacock is The National Bird of India
It is a symbol of grace, joy, beauty and love
"This is the absolutely best thing to read in the car." (Vitiligo Lips)
Full transcript