Seven days in a town in India : Kittur. Aravind Adiga's book goes over incidents that happen with different people in the town in 1985. The stories mostly unfold from the eyes of the poor. The stories are fairly independent of each other but all happen on the same steets and neighborhoods of Kittur.
The books starts with a poor honest boy, Ziauddin, who comes to Kittur hungry and broke. He works hard at a teashop and gains everyone's trust and favor. As the story goes on, he does wrong things for another fair-skinned Pathan who treats him well.
The next story is about a honest businessman Abbasi. He is torn between running his business and blinding the women who do the delicate embroidery work. Every step of the way he is faced with corruption and bribery.
The authors characters think deep, a class apart from their peers. The philosophical thoughts come from the journalist, the communist, the cart puller and the guy who earns a living spraying mosquito repellent. Some characters like "Xerox" Ramakrishna are ironic. The illiterate guy sells illegal photocopies of bestsellers. The irony is not only in his profession, but that he loves books in his own way.
There is a common thread in all his stories: the caste system in India. He describes the struggles of the Hoykas; both the underprivileged and the rich. Shankara Kinni is has as upper caste father and a lower caste mother. He struggles to get accepted in society ends up doing a serious mischief. Continuing with classrooms, the author talks about assitant headmaster Mr D'Mello. He pins hopes and expectations on his favorite student who he cares about more than his own children.
Keshava is another character like Ziauddin. With sheer harwork he rises among his peers, only to be forgotten once his is on no use to anyone. Gururaj is a journalist who wants to do the right thing. However, he realizes that the facts are doctored and controlled by the people in power. Chenayya is the cartpuller who realizes that he is going nowhere with his current job. His struggles to get a new job and his hardwork give us a glimpse of the unpriviileged.
The author deals with abuse in the story of a construction worker. Jayamma's is the story of an unmarried old Brahmin woman who spends her life working as a maid the houses of various rich people. George earns the trust of Mrs Gomes with his hard work but eventually falls in her eyes.
Ratna Shetty is a quack who turns selfless when the situation demands it. The author deals with how society perceives a childless couple. Murali was a budding author with an interste in politics. He devotes his entire life to Communism only to have second thoughts about it.
There is a similarity in the stories that Murali wrote and this book. It talks about people who just think and want nothing. The book takes you to a different place and time. Its easy to get immersed in the story and empathize with the characters.
While we have our own worries, this book pull us into the dregs of humanity. There are people who are in absolute poverty. When we tap away at our computers, there are people struggling to ends meet. Struggling to gain acceptance. Struggling to survive. This exisied not just in 1985, but sadly now as well.