The Brown Parrot
- Pankaj Saksena
On 14th October 2008, the Booker Committee announced in London that Aravind Adiga will get
the Man Booker Prize for his debut novel, ‘The White Tiger’. The writer, Aravind Adiga claims in
“At a time, when India is going through great changes and ,with China, is likely to inherit
the world from the West, it is important that writers like me try to highlight the brutal
injustices of society”, he said, adding that the criticism by writers like Flaubert, Balzac &
Dickens in the 19th century helped England and France become better societies.1
In a single breath, Adiga takes upon his young self, the huge responsibility of highlighting all the
‘brutal injustices’ of India, while feeling proud enough to compare himself with Flaubert, Balzac
One should be cautious while making self-comparisons with great personalities. Dickens wrote
about London & the English society as it was, with no ideology to guide him. Almost all of his
characters from David Copperfield to Oliver Twist have an autobiographical ring.
Adiga, on the other hand, is thrice removed from the society and the events he talks about in
his book. Born in a metropolitan, Chennai, educated in Australia, the UK, and the US, he has
nothing in common with his protagonist, Balram, who is a ‘low-caste’ driver from Bihar. But the
un-authenticity of narration doesn’t bother Adiga. In fact, he thinks it is quite a duty of a writer
to go beyond his own experience; to take a leap beyond reality; to plunge into pure fantasy. He
believes in writing by remote-sensing.
“I don’t think a novelist should just write about his own experience. Yes, I am the son of
a doctor. Yes, I had a rigorous formal education, but for me the challenge as a novelist is
to write about people who aren’t anything like me.”2
Dickens’ works are not a judgment on the English society. His worldview evolves in his works. If
we put them one over other, chronologically, we can see the intellectual development of
Dickens, an observant mind becoming mature.
What we see in Adiga is not a natural evolution, but a sudden ideological revelation. He is not
trying to learn anything. He knows it all. The ideas are pre-arranged. In the absence of cultural
roots he has an ideology to guide him. Secularism. Fantasy and remote-sensing makes up for
reality. Worn-out formula-writing makes up for creativity. Adiga has hitched his wagon to a
star. And in Indian heavens, there is only one star. Secularism. It is the Ideology.
Flaubert, the other writer Adiga compares himself with, is as distant from him as possible.
Madame Bovary is a psychological drama of an individual, and not a statement about the
French society, while Salambo is a purely artistic venture of recapturing a remote event of
history. No one who has read even a single work of Flaubert dares to compare him with any
writer with a social agenda. It appears that Adiga just threw some random names of writers
while being interviewed, without probably having read them.
Balzac is a different story. Again, Adiga has nothing in common with Balzac in the style and the
grasp of the subject matter. Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European
literature. So-called progressive writers in India are fond of comparing themselves with great
realistic writers like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky, Dickens, Flaubert, Balzac etc as they think that
Indian society is in an eternal need of a Bolshevik style revolution. Taking realism as the most
abject form of self-denigration, Indian writers harp on the ‘social injustices’ of India and feel
themselves to be in the proud company of great writers.
On the level of language too, Adiga falls far too short. The style of narration doesn’t match with
the projected aim of the book to point out the ‘brutal injustices’ of Indian society. His style
takes him nearer to the post-modern writing, while his aim is as ambitious as of a Communist
ideologue. For this purpose Adiga inserts some of the most famous secular slogans in Balram’s
speeches but his style of narration being post-modern is personal and individualistic.
Adiga betrays his ignorance of rural Indian society - not that he knows urban India - at many
points in the novel. For instance, he asserts that many water buffalos can be bought in seven
thousand rupees. Let him purchase just one!3
So according to Adiga, the salient features of India are: Every traditional Indian village has a
blue-movie (pornographic) theatre.4 No one can enter Indian malls without wearing shoes.
Shoes are compulsory.5 No low-caste man can ever enter an Indian mall. Even if he enters
stealthily, he is then caught, beaten and publicly humiliated.6 In India, if an owner runs over a
man with his car, his driver has to go to jail instead.7 If a servant steals anything, then his entire
family, back home, is ritually lynched to death. (their women being repeatedly raped.)8 Every
Indian book stall sells ‘rape magazines’.9 There are separate markets for servants.10 In Indian
brothels, they take extra money from servants, called as ‘Working-class surcharge’.11 Sadhus,
are actually homosexual hookers, who get paid to be buggered by foreigners.12 Indian caste
system is worse, or at least as bad as the secret police of a totalitarian state.13
The last claim is the central theme of the novel. The caste system of India is called the ‘Rooster
Coop’. Adiga compares the caste system with the secret police of a totalitarian state. This
comparison is preposterous. Communism accounted for more than twenty million deaths in
USSR, sixty-five million in China, one million in Vietnam, two million in North Korea, two million
in Cambodia, one million in Eastern Europe, 1.7 million in Africa, one and a half million in
Afghanistan and millions of others.14 And all this in less than seventy years! Does Indian caste
system in its history of more than five thousand years, has anything even remotely comparable
to equal this record?
The only place where he innovates is, in hurting the Hindu religious sentiment. Thus, the
polytheism of Hindus is mocked as,
“How quickly do you think you could kiss 36,000,004 arses?”15
Balram is called as the ‘sidekick’ of Krishna.16 The hero goes on to murder his employers, who
are earlier called as Ram & Sita! Lord Krishna is called as a ‘chauffeur’.17 About, Kali, the Hindu
“…I looked at the magnetic stickers of goddess Kali with her skulls and her long red
tongue – I stuck my tongue out at the old witch. I yawned.”18
Hanuman is called as the slave god of Hindus, an imposition which still makes the low-caste
slaves of the upper-caste.
“Do you know about Hanuman, sir? He was the faithful servant of the god Rama, and we
worship him in our temples because he is a shining example of how to serve your
masters with absolute fidelity, love and devotion…. These are the kinds of gods they
have foisted on us, Mr. Jiabao. Understand, now, how hard it is for a man to win his
freedom in India.” 19
In 1994 Christian missionary, father Augustine Kanjamala of Pune wrote an article in Deccan
Chronicle titled, ‘Replies to Arun Shourie’. In the article he wrote, “Harijans worship deities of
lower rank, while caste Hindus worship deities of higher rank. For instance, Hanuman is
worshipped by Harijans and Rama is worshipped by upper caste in the same village.... Hanuman
was the servant of Rama; Harijans are servants of higher caste Hindus. A close affinity between
their hierarchy of gods and the hierarchy of society.”20
Later, indefatigable Arun Shourie had a face-to-face debate with father Kanjamal at Hyderabad.
Arun Shourie said, “This is insinuation, it is deliberate distortion.... I can assure you that
Hanuman Ji is as dear to high caste Hindus, as to low caste Hindu. If after two hundred years of
Christianity in India... this is your understanding of India, much needs to be done.... But there is
a question... Does the servant and master relationship, high caste and low caste relationship
also apply to other Hindu gods? If not, then, how does your thesis stand? Nandi is ridden by
the Shiva. Is it that the low caste people are asked to worship Nandi? And high caste should not
worship Nandi? What you have written in your article is a foolish thing to write.”21
So in 1994, Arun Shourie systematically showed during the face-to-face debate that this
insinuation ‘is a foolish thing to write’. But in 2008, we found Adiga repeating this missionary
Aravind Adiga is in the line of a new breed of writers like Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai who
being Christian or having sympathy with Christianity, share a hatred of Hinduism and Hindu
society. It is not a coincidence but a deliberate act of the Booker committee to award all the
three. They have ignored really good novels from Pakistan. Why? Because by awarding
Pakistani writers, like Mohammed Hanif and Mohsin Hamid, the Left will gain nothing in the
bargain. You may call it the Booker Scandal. This is how the alliance of Marxists and the
missionaries works against the Hindu society.
Writing a novel in India is neither an intellectual nor a spontaneous venture. It is organized on
the lines of the formula set by the demands of secularism, seeded during the period of
Independence struggle and developed and codified during the Nehruvian era.
Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of the word, ‘Secularism’ as: the belief that religion
should not be involved in the organization of society, education, etc. This is not what it is meant
by Secularism in India. In India, Secularism is a way to oppose everything Indian, everything
native or Hindu. Indian Secularism is basically anti-Hinduism. If you find any way to oppose
Hinduism, you become a secularist in India. Secularism is a masquerade which many anti-Hindu
factions put up in order to hide their missionary agendas. The perverted meaning of secularism
is very well analyzed in “India’s Secularism: New Name for National Subversion” by Sita Ram
The literary establishment in India expects from a writer: a complete submission to the
Ideology, cramming all its popular slogans and clichés; choosing a story and then fit all the
‘facts’ in it; invent facts to patch up the gaping holes; and put in as many features of the
formula as possible.
A writer is expected to follow the secular formula, which is to show how Hinduism is inferior to
other religions; how superstitious and stupid Hindus are; how evil caste-system is; how vile
Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are and how suppressed Shudras are. Show how violent
Hindu mythology is, while the very word of Islam means peace. Show that just like Islam and
Christianity, Hinduism is also an import in India, having no original claim. Make Hindu history in
India as short as possible. At the same time, extend the Christian and Islamic claims on Indian
soil as long back in history as possible.22 Throw in some exotic stories of widow burning, caste
discrimination, infanticide etc. to pepper this secular curry.
Shift the focus of readers from primary problems like the Islamic destruction of medieval India
to secondary problems like corruption, poverty, population, unemployment etc.
This is the formula which guides every new book and every new writer in India. There is no new
voice, no new question, nothing new under the sky. All has been discovered. Every question has
been asked, every answer has been given by the Formula, and every problem has been solved
by it. What remains to be done is to repeat the secular slogans again and again. For this no
tigers are required. Parrots are more than enough for the job.
This formula has a history, which is very well portrayed by Dr. Ravi Shanker Kapoor in his book
More Equal than Others: A Study of the Indian Left, 2000.23 The literary establishment of India is
guided by the leftist intellectuals. All over the world, the Communists have always infiltrated
the institutions in order to influence the public opinion. Giving these institutions a neutral
veneer, they sell Communist propaganda without letting the masses know the truth behind it.
They also fool some intellectuals in furthering their propaganda. So Bengal Friends of the Soviet
Union (BFOTSU) was created by the blessings of Rabindranath Tagore.24
Most importantly the leftists have infiltrated all the literary, arts and fine arts institutions in
India. Thus pro-communist All India Progressive Writers’ Association (AIPWA) was formed in
which eminent people like Mulk Raj Anand, Munshi Premchand, Sarojini Naidu, Kirshan
Chander, KA Abbas, Shivdan Singh Chauhan, Ramananda Chatterjee and Ram Bilas Sharma
participated.25 In the field of theater too, the influence of the leftists was predominant. The
Indian People’s Theater Association (IPTA) is still very influential in India and continues to shape
the world-view of the youth.26
Novels in India, just like the Bollywood movies are produced according to the guidelines
dictated by the establishment. If a new writer follows the secular formula, then his books will
be bought by all the schools, colleges, universities and most importantly, all the libraries across
the country. For a year or two he will be interviewed by the media, invited to speak on the
‘problems’ of India and their ‘solutions’. The ‘intellectual circles’ of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata
will throw some parties for them where these writers will fume and fret about the evils of
Indian society. Pretty secure career.
Dr. Ravi Shanker Kapoor elaborates in another of his book How India’s Intellectuals Spread Lies,
200727 that the motive of all this effort is to drill guilt into the hearts and minds of the Hindu
majority. So all the ills of Indian society are blamed on Hindus. Adiga too indulges in guilt-
mongering against Hindus. The Leftists have been largely successful in their endeavors. Hindus
have been defensive.
“The guilt pervades further, permeating the public debate, infecting the body-politic,
dominating the minds and hearts of those who matter… 28 In India, more than half a
century of guilt-mongering and other Leftist tricks have created a climate of opinion in
which Marxist lies pass of as gospel truth.”29
This is what Nobel Laureate, V S Naipaul resents when he comments about Indian writing.
Commenting on India’s intellectual incompetence, Naipaul says:
“Sixty years after Independence that problem is still there. India has no autonomous
His words ring quite true in the context of Indian writers in general and Adiga in particular.
There is no autonomous intellectual life in India. The literary concepts are dictated by the
“… no national literature has been created like this at such a remove, where the books
are published by people outside, judged by people outside, and read to a large extent by
Yes! No national literature has ever been created in a foreign language. In spite of tall claims
and revolutionary agenda, the paradox of Indian English writing remains. The paradox of a
literature divorced from its native language. Indian writers rarely speak and never read or write
in any of the Indian languages.
Most of the Indian writers who have won awards like Booker, no longer live in India or have no
connections with the rural India which they claim to write about. More the rootlessness, more
the arrogance. Thus Arundhati Roy writes about the sexual attraction between zygotic brother
and sister; Kiran Desai talks about non-existent ‘Garwhali Terrorism’, but not about the existent
Islamic or Naxalite terrorism; and Adiga is worried about the pornographic theatre in Indian
Comparing Indian literature with Russian, Naipaul comments:
“In the nineteenth century, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev and Gogol and Herzen lived for
some time outside their native Russia; but they wrote in Russian for Russian readers and
(for all of them except Herzen) Russia was where they were published and had their
readers. Russia was where their ideas fermented.
“Nineteenth-century Russian writing created an idea of the Russian character and the
Russian soul. There is no equivalent creation, or the beginning of one, in Indian writing.
India remains hidden. Indian writers, to speak generally, seem to know only about their
own families, and their places of work. It is the Indian way of living and consequently the
Indian way of seeing. The rest of the country is taken for granted, and seen superficially,
as it was even by the young Nehru…”32
So true and so fitting on a writer like Adiga. The establishment prefers imitation which is safe
over innovation which can be dangerous, ideology over reality, slogans and clichés over facts
and truth. An ideological world-view makes up for the ignorance of history. A concern for the
‘brutal injustices’ of India, makes up for the lack of creative writing.
No writer is recognized by the secular establishment if he doesn’t confirm fully to the Formula.
The mechanism which keeps the writer on track can be best described by Adiga’s own
metaphor for the caste-system, the ‘Rooster Coop’. This Rooster Coop is maintained by the
Formula, manned by their faithful ‘intellectuals’. The Coop is full of parrots who endlessly
repeat the secular slogans. Once in a while if a parrot takes courage to break out of the coop
and sing a different tune, he is immediately silenced by the intellectual community, Indian
media and academia. His name is tarnished, his reputation destroyed, his positions in the Coop,
lost. He is made to feel the fault of his heretic ways and finally he is brought back to the fold.
Almost all of those who contribute to this mechanism are themselves the captives of the Coop.
But as Adiga would have it, the Coop has a mechanism of its own. The parrots imprisoned by
this Coop help the Coop to remain intact. If one of their fellow parrot ever tries to do some
unparroty acts, then his legs are pulled back by his own mates. Thus no one is ever allowed to
leave this Rooster Coop of Secularism. The system goes on. The Coop remains intact. There are
ever new parrots in the Coop, but all of them keep parroting the old tune. Adiga is no different.
Poverty and corruption are made a fetish in Indian writing, as if they are not secondary problem
having some primary cause, but the basic instinct of the Indian civilization. If a writer tries to
probe the primary problems then he is immediately labeled as anti-poor, fascist and Hindu
fundamentalist. The Coop is so strong that no insider is able to see the truth. Only an outsider
like Naipaul is able to perceive the reality and express it courageously. Recognizing India as a
wounded civilization he goes back to medieval times to search for the primary problems of
“There is a new kind of coming and going in the world these days. Arabia, lucky again,
has spread beyond its deserts. And India is again at the periphery of this new Arabian
world, as much as it had been in the eight century, when the new religion of Islam
spread in all directions and the Arabs – led, it is said, by a seventeen year-old boy –
overran the Indian kingdom of Sind. That was only an episode, the historians say. But
Sind is not a part of India today; India has shrunk since that Arab incursion. No
civilization was so little equipped to cope with the outside world; no country was so
easily raided and plundered, and learned so little from its disasters.”33
Naipaul goes beyond the immediate and the superficial. He goes beyond poverty,
unemployment and other clichés and finds the root of the present Indian misery in its Islamic
defeat during the middle ages.
“… its [India’s] independence has meant more than the going away of the British; that
the India to which Independence came was a land of far older defeat; that the purely
Indian past died a long time ago.”34
He thinks it is necessary to go beyond these secondary causes:
“An inquiry about India, even an inquiry about the Emergency has quickly to go beyond
the political. It has to be an inquiry about Indian attitudes: it has to be an inquiry about
the civilization itself, as it is.”35
But these are untouchable subjects in the Rooster Coop of India. With every new addition in the
Secular Indian tradition, the writers become even more confident of their worn-out formula.
Not surprisingly, Naipaul has this to say about Indian writers:
“The education of the new Indian writers – and nowadays some of them have even
been to writing schools – also gets in the way. It seems to them they have the most
enormous choice when, in imitation of the successful people who have gone before,
they settle down to do their own book. They are not bursting with a wish to say
anything. Nothing is going to force itself out in its own way; they are guided in the main
by imitation…. This is where India begins to get lost…”36
Imitation is the hallmark of Indian formula-writing. Adiga is an imitation of his predecessors like
Arundhati Roy, who were an imitation of writers like Mulk Raj Anand, who in turn were an
imitation of yet others… a tradition of imitation going back to the times of Lord Macaulay. In
fact, he inaugurated this tradition in India in his famous note to Lord Bentinck, the then
Governor-General of India - Minute of Education on India in February 1835:
“We must at present do our best to form a class who maybe interpreters between us
and the millions whom we govern; the class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but
English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”37
This defines Adiga’s intellectual ancestry. In many ways, Adiga’s book is not different from
‘Untouchable’ of Mulk Raj Anand, as artificial, as superficial, as far from reality, as incapable of
asking questions, as faithful in following the intellectually bankrupt tradition of Secularism.
Looking at the ruins of the Hindu kingdom Vijaynagar, at the hands of Muslims, Naipaul reflects
over the origin of the current intellectual bankruptcy of India:
“…I began to wonder about the intellectual depletion that must have come to India with
the invasions and conquests of the last thousand years. What happened in Vijaynagar
happened, in varying degrees, in other parts of the country. In the north, ruin lies on
ruin: Moslem ruin on Hindu ruin… In the history books, in the accounts of wars and
conquests and plunder, the intellectual depletion passes unnoticed… India absorbs and
outlasts its conquerors, Indians say. But at Vijaynagar, among the pilgrims, I wondered
whether intellectually for a thousand years India hadn’t always retreated before its
conquerors and whether, in its periods of apparent revival, Indian hadn’t only been
making itself archaic again, intellectually smaller, always vulnerable.
“The crisis of India is not only political or economic. The larger crisis is of a wounded old
civilization that has at last become aware of its inadequacies and is without the
intellectual means to move ahead.38
The imitation has seeped into the sub-conscious of Indian psyche, and Indians are no longer
aware of it. Thus Adiga thinks of himself as pioneer in bringing out the problems of India, but he
is just parroting the secular slogans:
“The middle classes think of themselves still as victims of colonial rule. But there is no
point anymore in someone like me thinking of myself as a victim of a colonial
Commenting on India’s inability to judge, Naipaul says:
“India has no means of judging. India is hard and materialist. What it knows best about
Indian writers and books are their advances and their prizes. There is little discussion
about the substance of a book or its literary quality or the point of view of the writer.
Much keeps on being said in the Indian press about Indian writing as an aspect of the
larger modern Indian success, but literary criticism is still hardly known as an art. The
most important judgments of an Indian book continue to be imported.”40
Nothing else can be more representative of the intellectual bankruptcy of rootless Indian
writers, than the fact that they do not even realize it. India is full of parrots, green, red, white,
black, brown… but none of them are conscious that they are actually parrots. Some even think
that they are tigers…even white tigers!
- Pankaj Saksena
http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/16adiga.htm October 16, 2008
Adiga, Aravid. 2008. The White Tiger, Harper Collins India, New Delhi, p.236
Courtois, Stephane. The Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press, 1999, p.4
Adiga, Aravid. 2008. The White Tiger, Harper Collins India, New Delhi, p.9
Arun Shourie and his Christian Critics, 1995, Voice of India, New Delhi, p.45-46
Arun Shourie and his Christian Critics, 1995, Voice of India, New Delhi, p.61-62
Adiga, Aravid. 2008. The White Tiger, Harper Collins India, New Delhi, p.272. The theory used here is Aryan
Invasion Theory, a tool used by the British against Indians to keep them divided and to justify their presence on the
Indian soil, as the theory claims that Aryans or the North Indians are also foreigners and came from Central Asia to
India around 1500 BC.
Kapoor, Ravi Shanker More Equal than Others: A Study of the Indian Left, Vision Books, New Delhi, 2000
Ibid. p. 20
Ibid. p. 21
Ibid. p. 22
Kapoor, Ravi Shanker How India’s Intellectuals Spread Lies, Vision Books, New Delhi, 2007
Ibid. p. 158
Ibid. p. 159
Naipaul V S, A Writer’s People, Picador India, 2007, p. 191
Ibid. p. 192
Ibid. p. 192-193
Naipaul V S, India: A Wounded Civilization, Penguin India, 1979, p. 7
Ibid. p. 8
Ibid. p. 9
Naipaul V S, A Writer’s People, Picador India, 2007, p. 193
Macaulay, T B Minute of Education on India 2 February 1835
Naipaul V S, India: A Wounded Civilization, Penguin India, 1979, p. 17-18
http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/16adiga.htm October 16, 2008
Naipaul V S, A Writer’s People, Picador India, 2007, p. 193-194