By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Last Man in Tower
By Aravind Adiga (Atlantic, $32.99, softcover, 421pages)
Aravind Adiga is astute about business, character and economics as he paints a humorous, immoral and stimulating picture of cooperative living.
This is a delicate and nuanced examination of the nature of personal corruption.
The Man Booker prize-winning author of The White Tiger, delivers a dexterous narrative of contemporary India where he targets social structures surrounding citizens that create a motionless state, defying advancement.
Jealousy and gluttony are allowed to flourish because a void has resulted from mismanaged governance.
It’s an impressive set-up, with Mumbai as the backdrop. Ruthless real estate developer Dharmen Shah wants to build a luxury apartment complex and offers to buy out residents of Vishram Society.
Tower B, with its young executives, come to the table immediately, but such is not the case with Tower A.
The inhabitants there pride themselves on their respectability–their “pucca” way of life in their “unimpeachably pucca” apartment building.
Once Tower A was pink, now a “rainwater-stained, fungus-licked grey”, it’s falling into a state of disrepair unchecked by its incompetent secretary.
As the sale deadline looms, tensions rise among the neighbours, who were once-civil, as only one man stands in Shah’s way: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher.
Along with an unofficial ‘parliament’, the individuals have histories that are complicated with sensitive receptiveness. Many of them are long-time residents, set in their ways and not getting any younger. Friends become enemies, acquaintances turn into co-conspirators, all the while, exploring the appeal of collusion.
Last Man in Tower delivers a picture that is multi-faceted and convincing with remarkable characters.
However, Adiga’s anger is undisputed as the India he describes shows cities expanding at a rapid rate and exacting an impossible price from a vastly distinctive swath of the population.
Edition 400, 11 March 2014
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