I find Adiga’s villains utterly cartoonish, like the characters in Bollywood melodrama. However, it is his presentation of ordinary people that seems not only trite but also offensive. Here is his description of the migrant Bihari workers returning to their villages after their hard labor in the cities:
A month before the rains, the men came back from Dhanbad and Delhi and Calcutta, leaner, darker, angrier, but with money in their pockets. The women were waiting for them. They hid behind the door, and as soon as the men walked in, they pounced, like wildcats on a slab of flesh. They were fighting and wailing and shrieking. My uncles would resist, and managed to keep some of their money, but my father got peeled and skinned every time. ‘I survived the city, but I couldn’t survive the women in my home,’ he would say, sunk into a corner of the room. The women would feed him after they fed the buffalo.
I have witnessed such men, and sometimes women, coming back to their village homes countless times. The novelist seems to know next to nothing about either the love or the despair of the people he writes about. I want to know if others, who might never have visited Bihar, read the passage above and recognize how wrong it is, how the appearance of verisimilitude belies the emotional truths of life in Bihar.
Take a look!