Book Notes - The White Tiger

The White Tiger
(winner of The Man Booker Prize 2008)
Aravind Adiga

No Entrepreneur has it easy. No Entrepreneur will ever have it easy.
Their journey though is generally a potboiler story in its own uniqueness - each one has one. What is less known, not known or purposefully hidden, is the underbelly of entrepreneurial journey. Every hard boiled entrepreneur has to be part of this underbelly and play through its rules. Aravind Adiga's "The White Tiger" is probably the first such book. The journey of a 'no man' to 'the man' in this entrepreneurial journey is sloshed with heavy does of dark alleys. The beauty of this book is in its hauntedness, which keeps chasing you after you have read it, for a long time. The book tries to elevate Bangalore into a cult city status and does a good job at it. 

Some excerpts of my choice, for you.

1. ...And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. thousands and thousands of them. Especially in the field of technology. And these entrepreneurs - we entrepreneurs - have setup all these outsourcing companies that virtually run America now.

2. ...When you have heard the story of how I got to Bangalore and became one of its successful *though probably least known* businessmen, you will know everything there is to know about how entrepreneurship is born, nurtured, and developed in this, the glorious twenty first century of man.

3. The entrepreneur's curse. He has to watch his business all the time.

4. 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.

5. Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay.

6. I am not a sentimental man, Mr. Jiabao. Entrepreneurs can't afford to be.

7. To break the law of this land - to turn bad news into good news is entrepreneur's prerogative

8. I have always been a big believer in the education especially my own

9. In his journey from village to city, from Laxmangarh to Delhi, the entrepreneur's path crosses any number of provincial towns that have the pollution and noise and traffic of a big city - without any hint of the true city's sense of history, planning and grandeur. Half-baked cities, built for half-baked men

10. There is no reward for entrepreneurship in most of India. It's a sad fact.

11. I absorbed everything - that's the amazing thing about entrepreneurs. We are like sponges - we absorb and grow.

12. It's 2.44a.m. The hour of degenerates, drug addicts, and Bangalore based entrepreneurs.

13. The great socialist is said to have embezzled one billion rupees from the darkness, and transferred that money into a bank account in a small beautiful country in Europe full fo white people and black money.

14. Now that the date for the elections had been set, and declared on radio, election fever had started spreading again. These are the three main diseases of this country, are typhoid, cholera, and election fever. This last one is the worst; it makes people talk and talk about things that they have no say in.

15. Would they do it this time? Would they beat the Great Socialist and win the elections? Had they raised enough money of their own, and bribed enough policement, and bought enough fingerprints of their own, to win? Like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra, the voters discuss the elections in Laxmangarh.

16. If I may go back for a moment to that WANTED poster, Your Excellency. Being called a murderer: fine, I have no objectio to that. It's a fact: I am a sinner, a fallen human. But to be called a murderer by the police! What a fucking joke.

17. Free people don't know the value of freedom, that's the problem.

18. Drivers like to say that some men are first-gear types. Mr. Ashok was a classic first-gear man. He liked to start things, but nothing held his attention for long.

19. A servant gets to know his master's intestinal tract from end to end - from lips to anus.

20. God, why is it always the wrong kind of Indian who goes abroad?

21. When you retain semen in your lower body, it leads to evil movements in the fluids of your upper body.

22. Sometimes what is most animal in a man thing in him.

23. Iqbal, that great poet, was so right. The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.

24. See, men and women in Bangalore live like the animals in a forest do. Sleep in the day and then work all night, until two, three, four, five o'clock, depending, because their masters are on the other side of the world, in America. Big question -: how will the boys and girls - girls especially - get from home to work place in the late evening and then get back home at three in the morning? there is no night bus system in Bangalore, no train system like in Mumbai. the girls would not be safe on buses or trains anyway. the men of this city, frankly speaking are animals. Thats where entrepreneurs come in.

25. The last stage in my amazing success story, sir, was to go from being a social entrepreneur to a business entrepreneur. This part wasn't easy at all.

26. They are my employees, I am their boss, that's all. I make them sign a contract and I sign it too, and bothof us must honour that contract. that's all. if they notice the way I talk, the way I dress, the way I keep things clean, they will go up in life. if they don't, they will be drivers all their lives. I leave the choice up to them. when the work is done, I kick them out of office, no chitchat, no cups of coffee. A white tiger keeps no friends, its too dangerous.

27. I am sorry, madam, i said "I offer you my sympathies, in addition, I offer you my company, White Tiger Drivers".
"Do all your drivers have licences?"
"Offcourse, madam. You can call the police and check."
she did just that, and called me back. I think the police must have put in a good word for me. And that was how I got my own - as they say in English - 'start up'.

28. Only four men in history have led successful revolution to free the slaves and kill their masters, this page said:
Alexander the Great
Abraham Lincoln of America
Mao of your country
And a fourth man. It may have been Hitler, I can't remember.

29. An Indian revolution? No, sir, it won't happen. People in this country are still waiting for the war of their freedom to come from somewhere else - from jungles, from the mountain, from China, from Pakistan. That will never happen. Every man must make his own Benares.

30. Mobile Phones cause cancer in the brain and shrink your masculinity the Japanese invented them to diminish the white man brain and balls at the same time.

31. You will have to keep paying and paying the fuckers. But I complain about the police the way the rich complain; not the way the poor complain. the difference is everything.

32. I love my startup - this chandelier, and this silver laptop, and these twenty six Toyota Qualises - but honestly, I 'll get bored of it sooner or later. I am a first-gear man, Mr Premier. In the end, I'll have to sell this start up to some other moron - entrepreneur, I mean - and head into a new line. You see, I am always a man who sees 'tomorrow' when others see 'today'.


  1. I had a question about the book and I was trying to find an answer online. The quote "Every man must make his own Benares". I dont quite get it. Could you tell me what you made out of it?

    1. Sorry to have seen your comment so late...
      "~~Benares". I think this is about the uniqueness of the holy city - which is home to Shiva, where people come to take a dip in Ganges to get a spiritual certification in sin-cleaning, where people come during their last days in life in hope of getting a death warrant.