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The corruption and violence runs in the veins of all the Indian towns and it is further revealed through the rigorous hardships of an honest journalist Gururaj Kamath who is on a pursuit of exposing the brutal injustice and violation of the law of the land by the powerful. He lashes at the wide spread corruption in the police, judiciary and politics but all his audacity and dedication leads him to lose his job of the Deputy Editor, of Dawn Herald, Kittur's only and finest newspaper. Actually a heavily drunk rich engineer of the town hits a man on his way back home and left him dead. In spite of knowing this the police can't arrest him since he is one of the richest men of town and nobody dares to touch him. He manipulates the whole matter as one of his employees in his factory gives the police a sworn affidavit that on the night of accident he was driving the car under the influence of alcohol. Mr. Engineer gives the judge six thousand rupees, and the police something less, perhaps four thousand or five, because the judiciary is of course more noble than the police, to keep quiet. Moreover, he gets his killer car and drives the same around the town again. Gururaj is deeply hurt by this corruption in judiciary and police and decides to expose their harsh truth in his newspaper. But they are so influential that the Editor, first tries to make Gururaj understand the practical aspect of life and on his denial, dismisses him from the job.
In the next episode Adiga portrays how the wretched labour class of the town has lost all sense of self-respect and many of them compel their children to go for begging. Ramachandran, who smashes rich people's houses in the Rose Lane of Kittur, is a smack addict and beats his wife and compels his daughter Soumya and son Raju to go for begging from the tourists coming to the town. He has been arrested and beaten so many times but his conscience has died and nobody can make him leave this addiction. It is really pathetic that his little daughter begs and then brings smacked-cigarettes for this devilish father who often beats her. The miseries of brother and sister are portrayed thus:
"When she came to lie down next to her mother, Raju was still complaining that he had not been given food all day long, and forced to walk from here to there. He saw the red marks on her face and neck, and went silent. She fell on the ground, and went to sleep"(155).
It shows that morality is at its lowest ebb here and even children are being exploited for selfish and mean motives.
The traditional caste complexes and egotistical superiority of the Brahmins is dwindling and the economic matters are becoming dominant day by day. Due to economic depravity many upper caste people are bound to do menial works that has dragged them within the fold of servant class. This vertical change in society is portrayed in the story of Jayamma, a Brahmin woman and Shaila, a little lower-caste girl both working in the house of a rich Christian advocate in Valencia, the Catholic neighbourhood of Kittur. There is an intense hatred in the heart of the Brahmin lady towards her lower caste fellow servant and she teases and humiliates the little girl. Jayamma is born in extreme poverty as described by the novelist:
"In a space of twelve years her dear mother had given birth to eleven children. Nine of them had been girls. Yes, nine! Now that's trouble."(157).
The miserable economic condition of Jayamma's parents has compelled at least three of the girls to stay spinsters for life. Due to poverty this Brahmin woman has been for forty years put on one bus or the other and sent from one town to the next to cook and clean in someone else's house.
"To feed and fatten someone else's children. This was Jayamma's life, an instalment-plan of troubles and horrors. Who had worse to complain about on this earth?" (158).
When Jayamma is tortured by her master she finds herself very close to the untouchable girl and shares the similar arrogance against the rich people. She more than often realizes that in modern times money is the most important factor in deciding the social status of anyone and caste is only the secondary one. She gets a sort of pseudo satisfaction in shunning Shaila as a lower-caste demon but in her heart of heart she knows that her true mate in the world is only Shaila since both share the destiny of the labour class. It is humorous when she complains to Lord Krishna all about her defilement as:
"For forty years I've lived among good Brahmins, Lord Krishna: homes in which even the lizards and the toads had been Brahmins in a previous birth. Now you see my fate, to be stuck among Christians and meat-eaters in this strange town…"(160).
Out of frustration she coaxes Karthik, the young son of the rich advocate, to beat Shaila and thus begins the long series of abuses and fights between these two women. Jayamma shouts so many curses on the lower caste girl who also retorts to all the foul words. But soon she again realizes that she is in no way better than the girl as they both are sailing in the same boat and so share the destiny of the servitude. Now realising this cardinal truth, Jayamma extends her sympathies for the sufferings girl and on hearing Shaila's sobs from inside her room consoles her as:
"Stop crying. You've got to get tough. Servants like us, who work for others, have to learn to be tough.'(168)
She even requests Shaila to forgive her and now the girl also finds a kindred spirit in this fellow servant. The Brahmin woman serves food to the low-caste girl in a friendly mood and oils her hair and combs it into gleaming black threshes. From that very day Jayamma begins coming, at regular intervals, to sleep in Shaila's room whenever there was something frightening outside. But the fate turns cruel when soon the two servants are separated as Shaila gets married and Jayamma is asked to walk to other house for service. Jayamma thinks that her life has gone waste as everyone changes and moves up in life and only she has stayed the same a virgin - a tragic figure still unmarried, childless, and penniless.
"Nothing will ever change for me till I die, thought old Jayamma"(179).
It is really pathetic that, in spite of her long services to this house, she is bluntly denied by Kartika to take even the old punctured ball. Therefore she steals it to take her revenge and her eyes are full of the tears.
The George-Mrs.Gome episode presents the mysteriously baffling and clandestine attitude of the rich towards the poor. George, a poor servant, happens to get an opportunity to come close to Mrs. Gomes whose husband is in Kuwait on some high paying job and she leads a very luxurious life at Valentia in Kittur with an air conditioner kept on all times. Defining Mrs. Gomes the novelist writes as:
"Of the three kinds of women in the world - traditional,' modern,' and 'working' - Mrs. Gomes was an oblivious member of the 'modern' tribe." (189).
George is the mosquito-spray man and very well knows that rich use the poor only as tools:
"The rich abuse us, man. It's always, here, take twenty rupees, kiss my feet. Get into the gutter. Clean my shit. It's always like that.' (194).
Seeing the strong physique of George this rich lady becomes passionate for sexual relationship with this him and provides him and his sister services at her home. The inviting gestures of the lady are irresistible and he is attracted towards her. When he tells his friends about his rich princess they laugh at his foolish wish. Soon he gets even the job of her chauffeur and she allows him to stay in the backyard room of her large house. But one day suddenly a hot dialogue embitters and the spoils their half-way relationship and a mutual hatred crops up. She humiliates him by shrieking:
"You work for me! You must do what I say!"(208)
Grumbling and cursing her he walks out of the house and reaching the arrack shop drinks very heavily. Lashing the poisonous ego of the rich Adiga writes as:
"Oh, these rich people are all the same,' George said, bitterly. 'We're just trash to them. They'll just use us and throw us out. A rich woman can never see a poor man as a man. Just as a servant' (208).
George becomes very resentful as the rich woman throws him and his sister out that very night. It shows the brutality and vanity of a hypersexual rich woman.
Next chapter is a satire on the crowd-catching typical quack doctors often found in every Indian town. Ratnakara Shetty, a self-proclaimed sexologist, traps the youths by assuring the cure for all sort of sexual diseases. The young men gather around him to have a glimpse of the sexologist and to hear the perversions spoken by him. In the name of miraculous medicines to cure sexual diseases and impotency he befools people by giving them sugar pills only. He happens to meet a young man who comes as a prospective groom to his daughter and Ratnakara could guess his sexual disease which he confesses to have transmitted from a prostitute. On repeated requests Ratnakara personally takes him to a qualified doctor who diagnoses that he is suffering from some mysterious disease that may be AIDS. While waiting at the bus stand Ratnakara Shetty enters in a discussion with an unknown person on the disintegrating system of nation as:
"Everything's been falling apart in this country since Mrs. Gandhi got shot,' the man annoyed at the delayed arrival of his bus said, and kicked his legs about merrily. 'Buses are coming late. Trains are coming late. Everything's falling apart. We'll have to hand this country back to the British or the Muslims or the Russians or someone, I tell you. We're not meant to be masters of our own fate, I tell you.' (231).
The last chapter of the novel highlights the failure of the Communist ideology through an episode at the Salt Market village, the much rural and largely poorer part than the rest of the town of Kittur. Here a communist comrade - Murali is presented dodged by a restlessness, a feeling that he was meant for some greater endeavour than could be found in a small town. In his young age Murali had a passion for eradicating all corruption and injustice from India. Adiga writes:
"He knew what he wanted to do with his life already: there was an enemy to overcome. The old, bad India of caste and class privilege- the India of child marriage; of ill-treated widows; of exploited subalterns - it had to be overthrown" (267).
He tried out all the political parties and finally became a communist under the patronage of Comrade Thimma. At the age of fifty-five he is still a bachelor but now he is haunted by a craving to fulfill his suppressed sexual desires and so plans to trap a widow's young daughter for marriage at this advance age.
It is mockery of the communist principle that when the widow of a farmer comes to get his help Murali tries to exploit the opportunity to trap her beautiful daughter. But as soon as their work is done, the woman and her daughter start avoiding this man of invidious design. The novelist writes in a satirical tone:
'He had done his work for them; he was not needed any more. This is how people in the real world behaved. Why should he be hurt? (271).
On his last unsolicited visit, the widow bluntly tells him that she would never cater his fallacy to get her daughter and attacks the communist ideology as:
'Why would we want to get you into our family, in any case? My late husband always told me, the Communists are trouble. She further threatened him as: Look here! The woman got up. Please leave or there will be trouble.' (274).
This creates a disgust and self-hatred in him as he is told on face that he is a lecherous old Brahmin, preying on the innocent girl of a lower caste. Now he feels that he has wasted his whole life in foolery. His dedication to uplift the proletariat of Kittur was ultimately meaningless and self-deceiving. He is filled with an agony of complete failure as Adiga writes:
"Ultimately it was not Marx; it was Gandhi and Nehru to blame. Murali was convinced of that….. Like Gandhi you had to withhold all your lusts. Even to know what you wanted in life was a sin. Desire was bigotry. And look where the country was after forty years of idealism? A total mess. Maybe if they had all become bastards, the young men of his generation, the place would be like America by now!" (277).
The prevailing conditions at Kittur symbolize the situations in almost each and every town of modern India. Here, through some heartmelting episodes Arvind Adiga exposes the brutal injustices being done by the powerful in the name of caste, creed and class. All the episodes and characters portray one or the other critical problem of an every-Indian town. As Adiga is the champion of the downtrodden and poverty ridden people, a strongly compelling, darkly humorous and piercingly angry indictment against the exploitation and corruption runs as a strong undercurrent theme in this novel also.
To conclude, the novel reflects the morbid realities that testify to the existence of acute poverty and disparity between the rich and the poor and only ideology of the time is exploitation, hatred and violence. Corruption has become the part and parcel of the Indian system and under the influence of consumer culture all the values have gone with the wind. In the streets of every Indian town the rich people are driving brand-new cars, blaring pop music from the West, wearing shiny metal watches and doing hanky-panky things. They have earned a cunningness of exploiting the common people on the pretext of caste, community and creed for their own self motives and the poor are damned to suffer. The novel thus brings into light all the disheartening problems cropping up in Indian towns to arouse the sensible and sensitive people of the nation to eradicate these scars from the face of India.
Adiga, Aravind. Between the Assassinations, (London: Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd., 2008).
All quotes in the text of the article are from this edition followed by page number(s).