The White Tiger – Trapped in The Rooster Coop

Servitude is engrained in the Oriental. Give them freedom and they won’t know what to do with it. Supplication, propitiation and obsequiousness certainly have their place in a generalised view of the characteristic Indian steriotype. Genetically predisposed to be of service, even when being dishonest. A behaviour full of contradiction. And this is the kind of sense Adiga creates in the character of Balram Halwai, who attempts to break free of this ‘Rooster Coop’. But what exactly does it mean and how does it work:

‘When you get here, you’ll be told we Indians have invented everything from the Internet to hard-boiled eggs to spaceships before the British stole it all from us.
Nonsense. The greatest thing to come out of this country in the ten thousand years of its histor is the Rooster Coop.
        Go to Old Delhi, behind the Jama Masjid, and look at the way they keep chickens there in the market. Hundreds of pale hens and brightly coloured roosters, stufed tightly into wire-mesh cages, packed as tightly as worms in a belly, pecking each other and shitting on each other, jostling just for breathing space; the whole cage giving off a horrible stench – the stench of terrified, feathered flesh. On the wooden desk above this coop sits a grinning butcher, showing off the flesh and organs of a recently chopped up chicken, still oleaginous with a coating of dark blood. The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers lying around them. They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop.
        The very same thing is done with human beings in this country.

        Watch the roads in the evenings in Delhi; sooner or later you will see a man on a cycle-rickshaw, pedalling down the road, with a giant bed, or a table, tied to the cart that is attached to his cycle. Every day furniture is delivered to people’s homes by this man – the deliver-man. A bed costs five thousand rupees, maybe six-thousand. Add the chairs, and a coffee table, and it’s ten or fifteen thousand. A man comes on a cycle-cart, bringing you this bed, table, and chairs, a poor man who may make five hundred rupees a month. He unloads all this furniture for you, and you give him the money in cash – a fat wad of cash the size of a brick. He puts it into his pocket, or into his shirt, or into his underwear, and cycles back to his boss and hands it over without touching a single rupee of it! A year’s salary, two years’ salary in his hands, and he never takes a rupee of it.
        Because Indians are the world’s most honest people, like the prime minister’s booklet will inform you?
        No. It’s because 99.9 per cent of us are caught in the Rooster Coop just like those poor guys in the poultry market.
        The Rooster Coop doesn’t always work with miniscule sums of money. Don’t test your chauffeur with a rupee coin or two – he may well steal that much. But leave a million dollars in front of a servant and he won’t touch a penny…The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy…The Great Indian Rooster Coop.
A handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 per cent – as strong, as talented, as intelligent in every way – to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man’s hands and he will throw it back at you with a curse.
I will never envy the rich of America or England…they have no servants there. They cannot even begin to understand what a good life is.
        Now, a thinking man like you…must ask two questions.
        Why does the Rooster Coop work? How does it trap so many millions of men and women so effectively?
        Secondly, can a man break out of the coop? What if one day, for instance,  driver took his employer’s money and ran? What would his life be like?
        The answer to the first question is that the pride and glory of our nation, the repository of all our love and sacrifice…the indian family, is the reason we are trapped and tied in the coop.
        The answer to the second question is that only a man who is prepared to see his family destroyed – hunted, beaten, adn burned alive byu the maasters – can break out of the coop. That would take no normal human being, but a freak, a pervert of nature.
        It would, in fact, take a White Tiger. You are listening to the story of a social entrepreneur, sir.’ pp. 173-177

Published in: on December 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Passage to India

Back from India and what an excellent experience! I hesitate to say crazy because somehow I wasn’t shocked at all, everything was just as i had pictured it. So many people had raved about how crazy it was, the pollution, the bustle, the noise, the crowds, the lack of health & safety and the list goes on to include just about every opposite quality of the west.  Of course, in true developing third world fashion, the extreme poverty is modestly off-set by the not so modest marvels of luxury hotels, restaurants and bars complete with exceptional first-calss service.  Then again, with every statement about the country, there is an aspect of india to contradict it, so the best way to describe it is to say that it is absolutely everything, just with fewer white people.


Naturally, my first venture to India had to be accompanied by E.M. Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’, which presents some rather incisive comments on the British colonisation of the country with wider explorations as to the fundamental incompatibilities of two cultures. Upon my return, in keeping with the region, I have also gotten through the engaging and quick read of Aravind Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’, which I recommend as a kind of modern day assessment of Indian mentality and life in contrast with the comparative order of the West.

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment