Sunday, May 30, 2010


Basi Virk Trial begins again tomorrow, Monday morning, May 31 at 9:00 AM. Is there a White Tiger in our midst and we just haven't noticed?

An idle Sunday afternoon and I, with a tall cool glass of sparkling water (yes, water!), began watching a witty, clever man giving a book review on TVO. (TVO is available in BC on cable.) I watched, holding my breath, as an energetic little bald man described a book about the way of life in India. He didn't need to explain how much he liked the book, as it showed very clearly.

Thus was I drawn into a full hour of his scholarly revelations about what it means to be a citizen of the world's largest democracy; what it means to be born into a caste system which is alive even today; and what limited options are open to those with a mind to break free of the virtual enslavement. And before anybody begins to yell at me ... oh yes, I know you're out there ready to yell at me ... I'd just like to give credit to my parents who spent the first 5 years of their married life in India. My Dad, as an engineer, was there on a 5-year  contract and when his first term was ending, he and my Mother had the choice of renewing for another 5 years (i.e., making their permanent home in India) or returning to their British homeland.  They decided to become Canadians.

I mention this only because my parents never lost their affection for India or their concerns about India's future. I grew up hearing their memories of elephants who never forgot, of snakes the width of the road, of corruption that seems to accompany an oppressed state, and currie. Currie that could strip wallpaper off walls, was the dinner of choice for my parents and my older sister (born there) which I, Canadian-born, have never fully  mastered. So before anyone thinks of yelling at me for being anti-somthing, please remember, I was born with an affection for the great, mysterious nation of India. I know that it harbours greatness. And I also know that there are things about it which we can scarcely understand but we should try.

Why mention this? Well, because -- while watching the book review of The White Tiger today -- I realized that we pretend  there's no cultural significance to the plain fact that the three men who will be standing again tomorrow morning in BCSC accused in the BC Rail Case are Indo-Canadian. Why not consider the significance of the plain fact that the three men are related to one another: Dave and Aneal are cousins; Dave and Bobby are brothers-in-law. I'm not sure, but I believe that Udhe Singh (Dave) Basi is the oldest and culturally that's significant.

So I suggest this book as one way of informing ourselves of the dominant factors in the lives of Indian citizens, or of those not long removed from India: the book is The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I've just ordered my copy (after listening to the book review, which I believe can be found on the TVO Channel under the program "Big Ideas"). The book is described (somewhat less subtly) by Chapters Online as follows (and also HERE):

Introducing a major literary talent, "The White Tiger" offers a story of coruscating wit, blistering suspense, and questionable morality, told by the most volatile, captivating, and utterly inimitable narrator that this millennium has yet seen.

Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life -- having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village's wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram's new world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of "Murder Weekly" ("Love -- Rape -- Revenge!"), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive.

Balram's eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn't create virtue, and money doesn't solve every problem -- but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

Sold in sixteen countries around the world, "The White Tiger" recalls "The Death of Vishnu" and "Bangkok 8" in ambition, scope, and narrative genius, with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation -- and a startling, provocative debut.


Thanks so much for the steer. I've reserved a copy through the library and am looking forward to reading it as a counterfoil to the more serious reading that life seems to dictate. It's good to know that you are able to maintain a sense of proportion, equilibrium and humour in the midst of all the madness that surrounds us, particularly those who, like you, have to deal with health issues as well as the general welfare of your fellow citizens. My wife gave me a bit of a sarcastic shot the other day about all the reading I do on the Basi, Basi and Virk trial (though we agree on much of the substance of what ails humanity) and I had a passing thought about how gripping the story can be, especially when seen through the eyes of someone as engaged as you are, and who, at the same time has so little self-interest, other than the enlightened general interest of the citizenry, as you do. You're a beacon.
Thank you, Danneau ... it's refreshing and energizing to hear such kind words.

I hope and pray that someone is writing the book on the BC Rail Corruption Case ... there can't be a more fascinating, horrifying story ever to come out of British Columbia ... and the more it is covered up, the more interesting it gets.

Have you been visiting Pacific Gazette the past while? RossK's analytical mind has put a few astonishing "co-incidences" together ...
You'll 'like' the book I think Mary.

And you'll probably find some parallels between Anand's novel and business/government and corruption here BC... particularly now. Or recognize, at the very least, some unhealthy tendencies.

He's a former jouralist and he's written a driving political satire more than a traditional novel....

Enjoy - if you the end it's a sad and sadly true exposition of how a particular sort of person will 'use' anyone and do 'anything' to advance their particular interests.

It's a quick and easy read and it pulls the reader along rapidly disabusing him (or her) of the idea that the 'changes' in modern India have really changed things in terms of bettering the lot of the average Indian...What Anand's narrator tells the visiting Chinese Premier in this epistolary story is, I fear, pretty close to the truth.
A marvelous book, I read earlier this year in India. (I even reviewed it on my travel blog).

As to a 'white tiger' in the courtroom, I think all the real white tigers are being called as witnesses, and hopefully the biggest white tiger of them all, Gordon Campbell.
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