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Gandhi’s Notion of Trusteeship in Adiga’s The White Tiger

Caste Based Differences in Adiga’s novel and Gandhi’s Notion of Trusteeship. (The White Tiger)

Adiga’s novel ‘The White Tiger’  highlights the caste based differences which are an inherent part of the Indian social set up. Gandhi’s ideals and his ideas are also discussed throughout the novel frequently.  Basically, the author explains how far the Indian society has grown from his ideas.

Talking of Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship he notes that it has remained no more than just a dream of Gandhi. Contemporary Indian society seems to have forgotten those ideas and ideals completely. The picture after freedom is not the picture Gandhi imagined. The author also analyzes the relevance of Gandhi, Gandhism and Gandhian ideals for modern India. An important question the novel poses is that if Gandhi’s ideas could present a solution to the rampant poverty and inequality then how practicable they are in modern India and how many people would really agree to them.

Caste and caste based differences have ever been a part of the Indian society;  since the ancient times and even before the British arrived. Their elimination looks entirely impossible; however a solution could be found in Gandhi’s ideas of trusteeship.  Identity in the Indian society has come to be associated with several factors including caste, religion, and status. Based on these factors new divisions and differences were born into the new India. At the basis of Gandhi’s ideas of socialism and trusteeship were equity and equality. However, as the novel highlights these seem to have grown irrelevant; rich have grown greedier and poverty has become an anathema.

The lower caste people generally work in the lower paid jobs or as Rickshaw pullers. Those who are a little better off, earn their living working as drivers for the rich. However, the lower caste is still backward in several terms. Even after the British rule, caste and status constitute important disparities in free India. Lower caste people still exist on the margins far from the mainstream society.   Backward and exploited, these people are forced to live a wretched life on the periphery. An example is Balram’s family. Balram’s father wishes his son does not get to live the same miserable life he was forced to lead.  They are backward, exploited and weak. His dream is to get his son far from this life to lead a rich and content life.

Gandhi had dreamt of an India where everyone would have equal opportunities. He had dreamt of a truly equal India where no one leads a poor life and no one is exploited. He believed in the empowerment of the poor but after him the meaning of his Indian dream is lost. Modern India keeps the poor at the periphery unlike Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship.

Gandhi preferred trusteeship over public and private ownership. Adiga’s novel shows that wealth in India is accumulated in the hands of the rich. Poor are still working hard for every morsel of food, but even harder for their self respect. Gandhi hoped that once the poor were educated and aware of their rights no one would be able to exploit them. However, everything that has happened contradicts Gandhi’s vision. Equity and equality cannot be achieved under the current circumstances. Exploitation of the poor is rampant as happens in the case of Balram who has to bear the responsibility of a crime Pinky Madam committed.

Gandhi’s view was that trusteeship could be the response to the disorder in the Indian society. He wanted that the rich become the trustees of wealth on the behalf of the poor. Otherwise a class war could start and nothing could be more damaging to our social values than a class war. Caste system or the Varna System in the form it is found in India has already eaten into its social values. Gandhi expected the rich to embrace trusteeship and bring the ever rising discontent under control. Balram has been a good student but still could not overcome his poverty. It demonstrates the deprivation poor face in India. Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’ describes all these discrepancies that have arisen in free India in fine details while also elucidating Gandhi’s vision for modern India, free from poverty and exploitation.