Water, White Tigers and Corrupt Neoliberalism: Controversial Entrepreneurs in Recent Fiction from the Subcontinent


  • Isabel Alonso Breto University of Barcelona


Water has traditionally held a variety of metaphorical meanings in literature. Mostly, however, it has been deployed as a purifying element, endowed with the virtues of cleansing and renewing both persons and situations. Such perception of the substantiating role of water finds an echo in the main Indian cultures, both Hinduism and Islam. This article argues that the traditional metaphorical use of water as connected to renovation is very present in contemporary fiction of South Asian origin, yet its main argument is that this idea of renovation, which has traditionally been perceived as positive, is not necessarily ridden with celebratory aspects in the novels under discussion. Rather, water plays in these works controversial if not highly problematic roles. The works discussed are Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008), Chetan Baghat’s Revolution 2020 (2011), and  Moshin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013), novels whose main characters are fictional representations of the pioneers of their generation, in all cases moving from rags to riches at the expense of surrendering to immorality or corruption. Besides entailing a sharp criticism of the indiscriminate neoliberal practices which are enriching certain sectors of Asian societies, these novels denounce the severe misuse of water sources, essential for the daily routines of millions of people who, with the changes brought about by rather abrupt processes of modernization, are deprived of access to their traditional means of subsistence.


Keywords, Aravind Adiga, Chetan Baghat, Moshin Hamid, water, corruption, neoliberalism


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Author Biography

Isabel Alonso Breto, University of Barcelona

Professora Agregada

Departament de Filologia Anglesa i Alemanya




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