Tieless in Tokyo and The White Tiger – two book titles, and two stories that couldn’t really be any further apart.
If you’re looking for more armchair travel inspiration, read on.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Poverty, duty, loyalty and murder.
I’d been meaning to read this for quite a while. It seemed highly recommended and also sparked quite a bit of controversy when it was published. 🚨
In short, Aravind tells us the story of Balram, an Indian boy who grew up in a village from a poor family.
Balram decided he wanted more out of life and went out and made it happen (or got lucky, or a bit of both).
Aside from insights into Indian culture, family tensions, Indian politics and the day to day divide between the rich and poor (referred to as darkness and light), the story pulls on some strong moral heart strings.
The most glaring one I’d say being questions around what we feel are justified actions to redress the ‘corrupt’ imbalance between rich and poor, poverty and indulgence. Especially where that indulgence is enjoyed to the continued detriment and mistreatment of the poor and continued corrupt privilege of the rich. 💰 💰
Back door bribes to government officials from rich landlords trying to escape paying income tax….that sort of thing!
Don’t worry, I won’t get all sociological on you, but the story is a great one for opening up some heartfelt debate around these themes – as well as feeling like you’re on another trip to India, all from the lens of a ‘low caste’, ambitious and determined Indian servant. 🇮🇳
I finished the book with mixed feelings and although the book is written as fiction, I wonder whether this story is true to anyone in similar circumstances or inspired by a true story.
An Indian Robin Hood 🏹 yes, that’s sort of what I felt Balram became, in some ways, but Balram also shone a light on the ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ mentality, in a world where corruption rules, he ended up using some corrupt methods to get him on the path out of the darkness, after failing to achieve this the right and honest way. 🦹🏻♂️
Aravind writes this book in the style of a letter from Balram to the Chinese president, telling him his whole life story….a memoir to help the president understand more about how Indian entrepreneurs have become so successful in the business world. 📈 📊
I had no idea this was happening – apparently a drama series is set to be released next year based on the book!! I’ll be watching. I wouldn’t if I hadn’t already read the book – now I’m curious to see if the series matches what I had imagined.
P.S. This was the first time I’d ever heard of drivers/chauffeurs being expected to pour drinks for passengers while they’re driving….one hand on the wheel while bartending!!! Is this a common custom? 🥂
Tieless In Tokyo by Anthony Phillips
This one’s all ‘real life’, and thankfully there were no murders or deeply thought provoking moral dilemmas to contend with. Just good old fashioned tourist stuff.
If you’re curious about Japan/Tokyo you’ll probably enjoy this. 🇯🇵
Anthony takes us with him to Japan for the first time, and we literally spend 10 days with him wandering around Tokyo – his first stop. We hear his thoughts and all the quirks and sights he experiences.
The whole thing started off as his personal journal – then it morphed into this book. 📖
It’s written with a lot of humour too, like a funny tour guide.
Food seems to be one of the most interesting things – and the way Anthony describes getting caught in the lunch time rush of pedestrians sounded like a tsunami of pedestrians – sweeping him along – no way to stop, nothing to grab hold of lol. 😯
Interesting foods and misleading drinks, packets of food that heat themselves up – no microwave required. What??? 🍜 🤨
Anthony didn’t take us to any Robot restaurants or Owl Cafes, shame really, I would have enjoyed getting his take on those as they both sound pretty outrageous! 🦉 🤖
I wasn’t keen on the frequent dives into fantasy land (imagining things in his head about the things going on around him then snapping back to reality) – at first it was funny, it’s OK now and again but he seemed to do it a lot and I would rather have heard more about the reality than his imagination.
Overall though, this is a keeper – staying firmly on the shelf, I really did enjoy it.
Tieless in Tokyo and The White Tiger