A year ago I was in the beginning stages of filling out a Fulbright Scholarship application to teach English in India. Why India? Well, for the superficial reason that they didn’t require proficiency in another language. My more in-depth response is because I’ve always been fascinated with Indian culture. I didn’t get the scholarship probably because I struggled defending my interest in India while trying to prove my merger, undergraduate level qualifications. Eh—other opportunities are out there, and I’m more than thrilled with returning to TT Patton for another summer of teaching crazy kids creative writing.
Still, that interest in India is there. The country’s heritage of British Imperialism, of Gandhi, and of dance and Bollywood has always held my interest. One of my best friends, Insha, is a first generation Indian-American, and I remember spending afternoons at her house dressing up in saris with dozens of bracelets on each wrist, practicing cultural dances for KUNA and BETA talent shows, eating curry while we watched Indian Soap Opera and guessed at what they were saying, and drinking chia when we studied for exams. I got a taste for the Indian culture, and I love it for it’s similarities and for it’s vast differences.
Jhumpa Lahiri, Khaled Hosseini, and Salman Rushdie helped mature this idea of India. So, when I dove into the pages of Aravind Adiga’s “The White Tiger” as an example of Post-Modernism for my British Literature class—last literature class ever!—I brought a lot of background with me.
The narrator is cynical and very abusive to the socio-political culture of India. With Adiga, though, I was able to step away from the fact that he is an Indian writer, writing about India, and think of him just as a writer. His book then become less derogatory toward India and expands to critiquing a world that would allow such behavior to continue anywhere. And, though I know no exact examples, I’m sure situation present in “White Tiger” happen in America as well. Dr. McCaffrey, my creative writing professor, keeps telling me that a writer is more universal when they are specific. Listening to the bad reviews “White Tiger” received for its abuse of India, her words resonated.
What I like best was the narrator’s explanation of his education, eavesdropping mostly. Also the timethat he spent lingering at the market, picking up books and reading them until the stall owner shooed him away. At one stand he hassled the owner to explain poetry to him and the couplet, “I was looking for the key for years,/ But the door was always open” is introduced to the story. Balram, our narrator, repeats this over and over again to himself as he contemplates a way to escape his situation.
I apply this couplet to my own life—“I was looking for the key for years,/ But the door was always open.” How often do I sit back and whine and complain about my situation when the power to change it is already mine?