Munna, Balram, The White tiger, Ashok

Munna, Balram, The White Tiger, Ashok or whatever you want to call him, is an interesting character. Usually authors try to create a narrator that readers can either relate to or love or even feel bad for. I didn’t feel any of those towards Balram. He was an unusual character. He is narcissistic, arrogant and has a dark sense of humor. From the moment Balram starts to work for Ashok and his family he has hardly anything nice to say about them. He always talks about their corrupt ways, how they must cheat and how they mistreat servants. He doesn’t just talk negatively about the family he works for but all rich people. He looks down upon all of them and the way they live. So when he finally broke free and started his own business I was happy for him! But then he quickly disappointed me.

Balram creates his own driving company and has drivers working for him. One day one of his drivers is in a rush and accidentally hits a boy on a bicycle and kills him. Balram, now Ashoke, goes down to the scene and I thought he would take care of everything the right way but he  calls a police officer he has an agreement with to keep the family quiet and his driver out of jail by paying him off. I couldn’t believe it! He looked down on the rich and their corrupt ways, yet he became just like them once he had money. One thing I did take into consideration before I decided Balram isn’t my…. lets just say favorite character, is that he did say you can’t get away from the corruption, that it’s everywhere. He had to leave New Delhi if he wanted a chance to make it, which is the reason he went to Bangalore, it isn’t as corrupt and he could do something with his small fortune, that he stole.

So, the question is, did he have to act like the other wealthy people? Personally,  I don’t think he had to do anything but the thing is, would he have been just as successful if he tried to be an honest man? In order to be successful all the wealthy people had to get their hands dirty to be where they are. So in a country where corruption is everywhere and embraced by so many, does it even matter how you rose to power?

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“Westernized”

The White Tiger wasn’t necessarily my favorite book, but since we’re all being honest here, it is a really well written novel that is a good portrayal of a servant in India, but I guess I could be wrong since I’ve never really stepped out of Canada much… One of the things I actually did enjoy was that it was brutally honest and it didn’t try to make excuses for the way India is. So when I was reading the book, I didn’t necessarily try to read it with a feminist lens but while you’re reading you can’t help but notice the way the women are treated and portrayed in the novel. In some of the earlier chapters you get a glimpse of the lifestyles of the women living in India.
Everyone who is poor in India hardly gets an education because

  1.  the teachers aren’t dedicated and slack off
  2.  they are usually pulled out of school at a young age to work and
  3. the women don’t even get a chance to even try it out

The women are expected to stay home and cater to the men, cook, clean, raise the children and in some cases, the animals too. Looking at this from a feminist lens and someone who is very privileged in life, you’d feel bad because they are being oppressed. Balram was able to break free from the cage because he had some sort of education he could rely on to help him. But what if a woman wanted to do that? Well, she’d have a very hard time because all she knows is how to cook and clean, which is important I guess, but it’s not very valuable in the “real world”.
One time I had a conversation with one of my aunts who didn’t get to finish her high school education and but she planned on completing it once she got to Canada but then had children and had to put it off. So I asked her, do you like staying home, cooking, cleaning, relying on your husband for everything? I asked her, don’t you want to have your freedom, get an education, do something for yourself? She thought about it for a little and I saw that she was a little confused. She had called my thinking very “westernized”. See the thing we often forget to consider is that for some women this is all they know, all they’ve ever known, being domestic wives. My aunt came from Iraq, and there, during her generation, girls never continued their education cause they were married off as young at 16, 17 years old. So to her, this is her life, this is what is expected of her and she accepts it, she doesn’t see any other way of living. And for many of them they enjoy it.

So my question is, are they oppressed? To truly be oppressed wouldn’t you have to acknowledge that you are and want to break away from it?

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Common denominator

Balram, the narrator, has the tendency to be very arrogant, sarcastic and, to be quiet honest, annoying. Although sometimes, I have to admit, he can say some pretty interesting stuff that just blows your mind. For instance when he compared the poor citizens of India to chickens stuck in a chicken coop. He explains, in a chicken coop the chickens are all compact and squished in this cage, fighting for breathing space. The cage smells horrible, like sweat and desperation. The chickens on the inside can see when one of them is chosen and killed and they know that they could be next, yet they don’t try to rebel, they don’t try to get out. The chickens are the poor people of India. They’re all stuck in their villages, and they’re all stuck catering to the rich and they all acknowledge this. They know all this. Yet they accept their fate.

 

This metaphor really got my mind going. At first I didn’t agree with Balram, I thought “no way, if they really wanted they could break free.” In a way I was right, but it’s a bit more complicated. You see, Balram broke free from the system, he became an entrepreneur  created his own business and had people working for him. The only catch is, he had to do it by stealing his masters money and killing him afterwards. So if you don’t have a set of morals and a conscious you’re good to go! But of course majority, at least I hope, wouldn’t cheat, steal and kill. So I was right when I said if they really wanted to they could break free like Balram, but there is that whole conscious thing.

 
Also, I don’t really know if the goal of the book was this or not, but I don’t like rich people. OK, I know I sound juvenile  and I know all rich people aren’t the same, but what gives them the right to step all over people who aren’t as rich as them? What gives them right to use people as their pawns? The common denominator, I think is  money.

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Have you ever…

While reading a book, have you ever read a word, a sentence or even a paragraph and stopped, closed the book and just thought about what the narrator has just said? Well I found I did that a lot while reading The White Tiger. Aravind Adiga, the author, has a first hand experience of what it feels like to live in India, so I trust his portrayal of a poor Indian servant living in the 21st century, which is what Balram, the main character, was. Balram is a very arrogant sardonic narrator, yet he speaks the hard truths. One of the things that made me stop reading and think about what Balram was saying is this quote, that I immediately took down because it really made me think;

“See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.”

That quote really had an effect on me. I never really thought about it like that. In our North American culture we have all these weight loss programs, pills and machines that enable us to loose weight. I mean I understand that you have to be healthy, but when you look at it from a poor mans view, it seems kind of ridiculous. Why eat and waste all that food if you’re just going to want to get rid of it later on. Really what this quote made me think is that we don’t put ourselves in other peoples shoes enough. Sure, when we see that commercial on TV asking us to donate we feel bad then change the channel. I feel like human beings are very self-centered beings and maybe that’s just human nature, but I think I still think that we should take a moment sometimes to really be grateful for everything we have. This novel is fiction, but it is based on actual events that happen in India. I’m not trying to say that I’m perfect and that I don’t think about myself but if this novel effected me in any way, it was that it made me grateful that my parents came to Canada and I was born in such a great country.

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ACT 1

Image

“That is the question”

(I hope you see what I did there!)

I don’t really want to talk about that specific line (or how awesome Katniss looks), but more about if Hamlet really should seek revenge for his fathers death. If he should really kill his uncle. 

I personally think Hamlet shouldn’t. Is that really the answer? To revenge one murder with another? That would just create a vicious killing circle, not pretty. What I don’t necessarily understand about Hamlet is why he listens to the ghost in the first place. If I listened correctly in class I’m sure Mrs.White told us that during that time period they believed that ghosts were evil omens and that they brought, whats the word? evil into your life. So why was Hamlet even contemplating getting revenge for a ghost? 

You see, this is where it gets a little complicated, it was in the form of his father. His father personally asked him to seek revenge for him. (Even in the afterlife parents still want to tell us what to do! Unbelievable.) So Hamlet can’t necessarily tell his dead father no, can he? I guess he could though with that whole free will thing and all (which I will not begin to talk about. For later).  

I’d like to believe that if ghosts really did come back from the dead that I wouldn’t do their dirty business for them! Would you? Would you seek revenge for someone you cared for that had passed?

Me? I don’t think I would, even if it was my dad, who I love very much, but I’m not into that whole murdering-people-for-revenge thing. Does that make me a bad person? Katniss? What do you think?

“To kill or not to kill, That is the question”

 

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ACT 2

crazy

All this talk of love and revenge and weird aunt-mothers/uncle-fathers has got me going crazy! Oh, you to Hamlet?

So act two, Hamlet is going crazy. Is he faking it or genuinely going crazy?

Everyone believes he has gone mad. Hamlet himself believes he’s faking it. (Just a quick side note, if he is faking, he sure knows how to act crazy!) This whole crazy subject really has me going crazy. I’m not so sure if it’s real or not. We’re told by Hamlet that he is faking it, but after reading act 2 you start to really question Hamlets sanity.

I’m sure he started off acting, but all the questioning really starts with that one scene with Ophelia where he acts all creepily in love/crazy and only gets get taken further in act 2 when he is having a conversation with Polonius and Hamlet does not make one bit of sense.

It’s understandable though, pressure from his dead father to get revenge and Hamlet is to chicken to do anything because he’s too busy contemplating the meaning of life. So I guess the fact that Hamlet could genuinely be going crazy isn’t such a, well, crazy idea! Hamlet has a lot going on in his life, I mean the fact he saw his dead father as a ghost is enough to make anyone go crazy, but having to seek revenge and watch your mom with your uncle/father just makes it worse.

Poor Hamlet? I’m not so sure. I’m fairly certain I should be sympathizing with him but I just can’t seem to. I find that he’s just talk. I want him to do something, anything! But all we get are his long soliloquies. I know it sounds terrible, but I want some action! This is Shakespeare, shouldn’t someone be dead my now?

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Names

In the first section (chapters 1-4) of The Namesake we see the importance of names. Ashoke and Ashima give the honor of naming  their son to Ashima’s grandmother and when they fail to receive the letter they must name their first born on their own.  Ashoke decides on a meaningful name for his son Gogol, the author of the book that “saved” his life.

When we pick names, whether it may be for a newborn, our pets or even our favorite stuffed animal, we naturally want to give them names that are meaningful, that relate to ourselves.We name things that reflect ourselves in some way, something we love, something meaningful to us. We want to show our love by giving the people we care about names that mean something to us. And that’s what we saw in the first four chapters of The Namesake. The name Gogol represents something so important to Ashoke, a turning point in his life, like having his first born is a turning point in one life.

Although sometimes our loved ones may not understand or accept our reasoning behind our decisions. We see in chapter 4 Gogle questioning his parents decision on his name. We tend to do that when we don’t understand something. We question and judge without being fully knowledgeable, it’s human nature. Gogol shows this when he starts questioning his name and becomes frustrated because his name is neither Indian or English. He starts to question his identity, he starts to feel that he doesn’t quiet fit in, with his family or friends.

The first four chapters really show the importance of names and how they influence who we become.  And I’m looking forward in seeing how this will influence Gogol in the chapters to come!

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