The White Tiger

The White Tiger Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6: The Sixth Morning


Apologizing for his sudden departure, Balram explains that he was called away because of a serious incident in which a man lost his life (he is quick to insist that he is not responsible for the death). He turns on his chandelier and continues telling the Premier his story, explaining that this section of his tale concerns itself with his corruption from a naïve village boy into a debauched, depraved city resident. Balram insists that this change in himself followed a similar change that occurred in his his master Mr. Ashok.

After the Mongoose returned to Dhanbad, Ashok began to dress differently and changed his cologne. One night, he had Balram drive him to a discotheque at a mall, and then to the Sheraton Hotel. At one point, both men lustily admired a woman walking by, and then their eyes met in the rearview mirror. Both were ashamed but, feeling as though they shared a body, Balram became sexually aroused, attributing this to Ashok’s own state of arousal. Finally, he reached the Sheraton Hotel, ending the tense car ride.

While waiting outside at the hotel, Balram chatted with Vitiligo-Lips, who reiterated his prior offer to procure illicit goods for Balram’s master. When Balram declined, Vitiligo-Lips shared that his own master had a preference for Mumbai film actresses.

The servants read Murder Weekly together, and then Balram asked Vitiligo-Lips what his future will be like as a driver. Vitiligo-Lips answered that the best-case scenario was that Balram could save enough money to buy a small house in the slum and send his child to university. At some point, he would be too old to continue driving.

After a while, Mr. Ashok left the hotel with Ms. Uma, a woman whom Balram identified as a Nepali. Mr. Ashok was holding her around her waist, behavior Balram disapproved of. Mr. Ashok instructed Balram to drive them to the PVR Saket, a cinema complex.

While they were inside, Balram went into to the “second PVR,” a smaller, grimier version of the market, meant for servants (173). There, he bought some food and acted condescendingly towards a knife-grinder who approached him while he ate. He insulted the man, using an insult Mr. Ashok once directed at him: “How stupid can you people get?” (174).

After eating, Balram approached a man selling books written in English. Though the man did not know the language, he distinguished the books by their covers. Balram enjoyed standing around the books, feeling as though his brain was buzzing from their energy. He thought about Pinky Madam's parting gift of 4700 rupees, a strange amount that suggested she likely planned to give him more money but continually kept larger increments for herself, in the stingy manner of all rich people. He reasoned that they must have owed him more money if she was willing to part with that much.

Conversing with the bookseller, Balram marveled over the expensive magazines that the rich buy, and then expressed his frustration with India's socioeconomic conditions. The bookseller argued that the current situation would eventually change because of the growing power of the Naxals and the Chinese interest in encouraging a civil war in India. Their conversation was interrupted when the bookseller had to wait on a gang of rich kids. Balram left, knowing he would soon have to pick up Mr. Ashok and Ms. Uma.

During the drive home, Mr. Ashok and Ms. Uma kissed and canoodled in the backseat. Balram grew indignant to observe this, given that Ashok was still legally married. Later, back in his room, Balram rebelled by donning the maharaja costume and driving the car around the city by himself, playing music and blasting the air conditioning. When he returned home, he spit on the seats for good measure, but then wiped them clean.

The next morning, Balram felt guilty over his joyride and considered confessing. He eavesdropped on a conversation between his master and her lover to discover that she was not a random pickup, but rather a woman Ashok was in love with before he left for New York. Balram felt guilty for doubting his master's morality.

Meanwhile, Ashok received a phone call from his family in Dhanbad, instructing him to bribe another minister. He expressed his discomfort with such shady dealings to Ms. Uma, who encouraged him to leave the family business and find a new line of work. He countered that the situation was more complicated.

Mr. Ashok asked Balram to drive Ms. Uma home, but she was embarrassed to be alone with him, worrying that village men like Balram consider unmarried women like her to be whores. She further worried (correctly) that he would think her a Nepali because of her appearance. Mr. Ashok insisted that Balram was part of the family, but she countered that he needed to be less trusting. Balram overheard the entire conversation.

That evening, Balram drove Mr. Ashok to the minister's house, stopping at several ATM's along the way so that Ashok could make withdrawals for the bribe. For the first time, Balram entirely understood the nature of Ashok's duties in Delhi. At the minister's house, the minister's assistant and Ashok exited together, and the former insisted they go out on the town. As they rode around, Balram poured whiskey for the men, who eventually asked to go to the Sheraton hotel. Balram eavesdropped on their conversation, which was about the coal business, Ashok’s impending divorce, and the volatile political situation in India. At one point, the minister's assistant offered to buy Ashok a prostitute, but Ashok refused, explaining that he is seeing someone. Eventually, the minister's assistant's demands wore Ashok's protestations down, which disappointed Balram. However, he insists upon the man's honor to the Premier, noting that Ashok was corrupted by the Delhi elite.

The minister's assistant directed Balram to a brothel, where they picked up a tall, beautiful blonde prostitute from the Ukraine. She looked like Kim Basinger. Balram then drove them to a hotel, hoping all the while that Ashok would change his mind. However, they all went into the hotel together.

After about an hour, Mr. Ashok left the hotel, and Balram drove them home. He then drove immediately back to the hotel, hoping to see the woman leave. He felt strangely obsessed with her. However, when a police officer noticed him sitting alone in the car, Balram wisely left.

He drove alone through Delhi, imagining himself in conversation with it. He observed men in the streets, and pondered the prospect of civil war in India. When he returned to the apartment building, he found a strand of golden hair on the seat cushion. He still has the hair, and keeps it in his desk.


For several chapters of the novel, the device of the Premier mostly disappears. It remains a wonderful way for Balram to express himself openly, but also to hide his inner demons, revealing them more through suggestion and dramatic irony than open admission. However, the transition between the fifth and sixth chapter reminds us that Balram does have a life from which he writes this story. There is a business in which he is involved, and the interruption both raises questions to whet the reader's curiosity, and reminds us that the Balram in his story (the one still a driver in Delhi) is a work in progress, a man in the process of becoming something different.

And this idea of becoming something different ties into the underlying motif of dualities and pairs, which is significantly emphasized throughout this chapter. The central dichotomy between the Darkness and the Light in India is illustrated continually throughout the text, with examples of pairs that reflect it. The “men with big bellies” and “men with small bellies,” the rich man’s market and the smaller, grimier version for servants, the gleaming city hospital and the village hospital: all are examples of things from the “Light” half of India and their distorted, inferior reflections in the Darkness. The rearview mirror, emphasized at length in this section, brings the most significant of these Light/Darkness pairs - Ashok and Balram - into an uncomfortable confrontation with one another, causing embarrassment and awkwardness for both men.

Brought into sharp relief by the mechanism of the mirror, the connection between the paired Ashok and Balram, subtly suggested throughout the text, now takes on a newfound overtness. Balram openly expresses his belief in a physical link between the two, explaining that “master and driver had somehow become one body that night” as he shares Ashok’s feelings of sexual arousal (169). The bond between the two characters is further established by Balram’s conviction that his own moral corruption took place only as a direct result of that of his master — after all, “Once the master of the Honda City becomes corrupted, how can the driver stay innocent?" (167).

With the two characters firmly established as a linked pair, the narrative builds anticipation for a moment of confrontation between Balram and his counterpart. This suspense is further nurtured by yet another instance of Ashok defending Balram’s trustworthiness when another character suggests replacing him. These moments are laced with a tense irony, as the reader is painfully aware of Ashok’s naiveté. We know that Balram will eventually murder him.

The suggestion of this duality, however, is more than personal. It is also political. The more linked Balram feels to his master, the closer he comes to the rage that will lead him to atrocity. Similarly, Adiga's suggestion is that the more that the Darkness infiltrates the Light, with poor people flooding into the streets of Delhi, the closer the country comes to civil war. Because they are two halves of the same coin, the underclass becomes progressively more aware of what it is not. And as this awareness grows, so too does the rage that might lead to violent upheaval. Adiga then uses Balram as a metaphor. As he becomes more aware of how fragile the separation between himself and his master is, he also begins to note the reality of the depravity that the poor suffer. He feels a connection to the city, to its aspirations and inherent violence both.

Another irony that emerges within this chapter is a new side of Balram’s character: his traditional moral beliefs, seemingly incompatible with his growing individuality and eventual decision to commit murder. Balram’s attitude towards Ashok’s new love demonstrates a village sensibility that includes an adherence to a distinctly old-fashioned moral code. This traditionalism is further emphasized by his adherence to village wisdom, such as the belief that penetrating a virgin cures all diseases. The fact that Balram is, in his heart, a traditional village boy demonstrates just how much he must transform in order to eventually embrace an alternate system of morality that allows him to justify murder and a betrayal of his family. Or, put another way, simply murdering his master does not make him a master. Instead, because the two classes are linked as a pair, each contains the other. Balram might change his circumstances, but there is an extent to which he can never change himself. Even in his current situation, with the gall to write directly to China's Premier, he cannot totally repudiate his village sensibility. Again, seen from a political lens, the suggestion is that civil war might disrupt a social order, but it will never alter the inexorable way in which the upper and lower classes are natural reflections of one another.