Notes on the underclass | world | Hindustan Times
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Notes on the underclass

After the glittering prize ceremony in London’s Guildhall, Aravind Adiga, who won the Man Booker Prize 2008 for his debut novel The White Tiger, spoke to Vijay Dutt about how he came to write his novel, why he chose to base some of it in Delhi , and why he wrote the book he did.

world Updated: Oct 15, 2008 23:37 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times

Why Delhi: The book is dedicated to the people of Delhi. For it is to Delhi that all good and bad things come for resolution. It is the most viscerally connected to the rest of India. Delhi is where the big hinterland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar lead to. It is also the political capital. But more so, it seemed to me that where India is happening today is in Delhi and not Mumbai. I do live in Mumbai now. It is the great Indian city of 20th century and Delhi is the Indian city of the 21st century.

On the title: Because in the Delhi Zoo, there is a white tiger. It is a very unusual kind of animal, a genetic mutation and you get it once in a generation. So for someone to have done what my character has done in the book, I think he would be some sort of a white tiger.

His original idea: When I came back to India after many years, the story I wanted to do was that of a chauffer, because they listen to every thing in the car. You are struck by how much money is left in the car at times, and the kind of things that are discussed in the presence of the driver. What if someone used that information to do some thing, I thought.

On his inspiration: I worked as a journalist in Delhi and north India. But I grew up in the south, which is very different culturally and economically. And travelling along the Ganges, which was this fabled river when I was growing up, I saw some things for the first time. It got me thinking of India in a new way.

Why this book: This work is an attempt to relocate India in a political and economic context in its literature. And is an attempt to capture the voices of the people you meet along while you travel… How extraordinary that this voice [of the common man] in India had not been captured. It was important for me to catch this voice and present someone from the under class which is perhaps as big as 400 million. And do so without sentimentally and without depicting them as the mirthless, humourless weakling that they usually are.