The novel shows the disparity between India's growth as a modern global economy and the problems still faced by its population despite the huge successes. The novel comes from the perspective of a man born into crushing rural poverty and his fight to break the vicious cycle of poverty to become Bangalore's successful entrepreneur. There is a wide array of topics covered ranging from the problem of the caste system in India, the rooster coup syndrome, corruption endemic to the Indian society and politics, culture of servitude as well as religious tensions between the Hindus and Muslims in India.
The novel is rich in detail on how corruption is widespread in the Indian society and in the political system. The novel shows to a large extent how the corruption in Northern India is so widespread to the extent that that it makes a mockery out of democracy. For example, Adiga explained that doctors in villages pay their way to show their presence in the hospital while they earn money working in private hospitals. Such practices are especially common in India where the poor are denied decent healthcare, education and employment. Thousands of Indians die everyday from tuberculosis as a result of improper healthcare. Moreover, medicines that were meant to be distributed freely to the poor are instead sold in the market. Doctors only examine the privileged class properly because these people are able to pay them their private fees in a corrupt manner. Corruption amongst the police is also widely illustrated. The police are manipulated by the rich and by political leaders who have misused their appointments for their own selfish motives at the expense of the public interest. Corrupted police officials are appointed for the top jobs, as they are willing to carry out the instructions and wishes of these politicians for their own survival. Politicians of the left and right are interested in getting bribes and their motives lies in the next best way to fix elections. He also explains how politicians resolve to vote rigging of the local elections where the " Great Socialist" candidates are unappeasable. In the book, it is evident that anyone with power abuses it for his or her own benefits, that's simply how the system functions. When Balram becomes a rich man, he has learned the principles of the system too which is largely about greasing the proper wheels and the palms too. In my opinion, corruption will be a serious predicament in India's role in the world economy in the future. I feel that corruption will pose a significant hindrance to India's emerging role in the world economy. Entrenched corruption practices could end up being a significant brake on India's economic development. The India depicted in this novel is a society where the rich and the poor are so habituated to the dog-eat-dog corruption to the extent where the status quo is unquestionable.
The novel highlights how those in the lower caste system are unable to break the vicious circle and are stuck at the bottom layers of the caste system. He illustrates this with the Rooster Coup Syndrome where people from the lower class are so busy fighting each other to the extent that they cannot escape their cages. They are so busy doing so that they do not have any thought of improving their lot. Same with Balram and millions like him, they arebusy fighting for breathing space to the extent that improving their lot is nowhere in their minds. Millions of people are trapped in such a situation and there is no means of escaping. To break away from the Coop, the man in the lower caste have to be prepared to see his family getting hunted, beaten and burned alive by the Masters. Balram sacrificed his morality, upbringing and eventually his entire family to break away from the Coop. Amidst prostitution, corruption, filth and deprivation; Balram finally bides his time and crosses over to the Light. Balram becomes rich not by the qualities such as virtue and hard work which made him an ideal servant but by lying, stealing and killing. He can be compared with the other rich characters depicted in the novel, who survive by living off extracting rents from the poor, killing those who rebel against them, paying brides to government officials.
In the novel, the caste system has been reduced to " Men with Big Bellies and Men with Small Bellies". The men with big bellies refer to the rich while men with small bellies refer to the people in the lower caste. According to Adiga, as long as one has enough money to enter the Light, he is seen as a men with big belly. But to enter the Light, the people of the lower caste have to sacrifice their family; their honesty and their morals like what Balram had resorted as mentioned above. There have been tremendous changes in the Indian society and these changes have resulted in traditional hierarchies changing along with the old securities of life. Despite huge economic development, nothing has been done to change the lives of the poorer Indians. As a result, many of the Indians are left confused and perplexed by the new India that is being formed around them.
India depicted as a feudal society disguised as a democracy. Despite India being an economic powerhouse, for millions of people, little had changed. There are still millions of people still living in poverty away from the hi-tech industrial centers and outside the plate glass high- rises. The literacy levels in India are relatively low and this forms a huge proportion of the poor there. Despite these people being unable to read or write, their fingerprints are still taken from them to use as ballots at election time and many of them never actually get to vote themselves. Many of the poor people in rural villages are promised better health care, better standards of living and education during elections but this promises are never fully fulfilled by the politicians. The poor or less educated people in India may see little differences between the candidates. These people work, follow rules, make a living and notice little change from one administration to another .In fact, many of the ministers in the political parties in India are themselves unable to read and write properly. If the politicians themselves are not qualified enough how it is possible for them to rule the country?
Democracy is perceived as a superior political system because it allows people to choose their own leaders. It is based on the assumption that the wisdom of the majority is better than that of a few. However, it is not really true. In fact, many a time, people, less educated people in particular, often choose their leaders wrongly. This is because in countries where the population is poorly educated as in India, candidates who appeal to the emotions of people tend to win the elections. It is important for these people to be educated as it makes the election process more participatory. The poorer people vote without clearly realizing what they are voting for or why, and this could become a threat to democracy.
The power of democracy only works if people participate in the elections. Note that I am not even discussing direct democracy where people come together to give their views and discuss. Even in cases of indirect democracy, as in India, where people only need to vote, there are still cases of a majority of the people not voting.
The political parties in India must finance their activities and these are increasingly expensive, deepening the parties' dependence on rich interest groups. There is little transparency in these relationships. Many democracies have laws to restrict or regulate political contributions but in India, these laws have been taken for granted. Politicians depend on the rich and the popular for their finances in return for substantial amount of power granted to them. The rich can be exempted from paying their income taxes or pardoned from committing crimes. For example, in the book, Pinky was not convicted despite killing the child in a hit- and-run accident. It is useless for countries to have laws if these laws are taken for granted and exploited by politicians. Basically, the system in India works in a way whereby power is granted to those who are able to bribe their way through.
In the novel, it is seen that the people in the lower caste such as the dalits and the indigenous people are faced with discrimination, exclusion and acts of communal violence. There are laws and policies adopted by the Indian government that provides a strong basis of protection but the local authorities do not implement this laws. In certain areas, the minorities are excluded or discriminated upon. For example, it was shown in the book how the former driver, Ram Prasad had to lie about his identity in order to get a job. Ram Prasad was originally born a Muslim but he had to conceal his identity and fake being an Hindu in order to get a job. The Muslims are denied job opportunities in the predominantly Indian populated areas. As a result, many have to resort to concealing their religion to get jobs so as to earn a living. In my opinion, I feel that meritocracy should be practiced in India, where people are chosen not based on wealth or caste but instead on the basis of their ability.
In conclusion, I feel that the book is rather enriching and it definitely an eye opener to the plight of the poor in India as well as the political situation in India. The book reflects how the politicians run the country and how despite India being one of the economic powerhouses fails to improve the living standards of its people particularly with respect to the poor.