Caste away

From The Guardian:

Between-the-Assassination-001 In one of the stories in Between the Assassinations, Aravind Adiga's collection written in parallel with his Booker-winning The White Tiger, Murali, a young communist and short-story writer, is told by his editor: “There is talent in your writing. You have gone into the countryside and seen life there, unlike ninety per cent of our writers.” Adiga, too, has boldly gone where few Indian writers choose to venture, casting his gaze beyond the complacent smugness of middle-class drawing rooms to the anger and squalor lurking in the underbelly of urban India.

Kittur, the fictional coastal town “between Goa and Calicut” which serves as the backdrop to these linked stories, is said to have 193,432 residents. Adiga's cast is limited, but his tableau covers a wide social and economic spectrum. We meet upper-caste bankers and lower-caste rickshaw pullers, Muslim tea boys and Christian headmasters, capitalist factory owners and communist sidekicks. Adiga gives a human face to each of these characters. The book opens with the story of Ziauddin, one of “those lean lonely men with vivid eyes who haunt every train station in India”. Then there is Ramakrishna “Xerox”, who has been arrested 21 times for selling illegally photocopied books to students; Shankara, the mixed-caste Brahmin-Hoyka student, who sets off a bomb in a Jesuit school; Abbasi, the idealistic shirt factory owner, who offers drinks laced with his own shit to corrupt government officials; Mr D'Mello, an assistant headmaster with “an excessive penchant for old-fashioned violence”; Ratnakara Shetty, the fake sexologist, who sets out to find a cure for a young boy with venereal disease; the Raos, a childless couple who seek refuge within their own circle of “intimates”; Keshava, the village boy who aspires to become a bus conductor; Gururaj Kamath, the newspaper columnist who incessantly “looks for the truth”; Chenayya, the cycle-cart puller who “could not respect a man in whom there was no rebellion”; Soumya and Raju, the beggar children on a mission to buy smack for their drug-addict father; Jayamma, the spinster who seeks comfort in DDT fumes; George D'Souza, a “bitter man” struggling to establish “the proper radius between mistress and servant”; and Murali, the communist who writes short stories about “people who want nothing”.

More here.