Through Balram's eyes, social evils are shown to be present in India. One can trace the highlighting of social evils throughout Balram's narrative. One of the most basic is the idea that there is an element of domination and control that seems to be a part of the Indian historical DNA. Whether it has come from abroad in the case of the British and the most recent example of the Americans/ "Western" cultural invasion or perpetrated amongst its own citizens, India's social fabric is not one of unity and solidarity. Rather, it is shown to be one in which there is animosity, competition, and desire to dominate an existential reality of "the other."
Balram's childhood narrative of village poverty is another element of a social evil in India. He depicts a reality in which the "progress" and "hope" of India remains in the urban centers, while the vast majority of the nation exists in rural poverty, unseen to the eye and denied by most. Laxmangarh, named for Lord Rama's most dutiful brother, is the embodiment of rural poverty that exists throughout India. Balram's recollection of his mother's body interacting with the filth of the holiest of rivers, the Ganges, is another example of a social evil in India. While growth and progress has become so much a part of the discourse regarding India, the massive amount of pollution throughout its natural settings is a part of the narrative of social ills within the nation. At the same time, the holiest of shrines, the Ganga River, is subjected to the most blatant toxic dumping and pollution. This highlights a social condition in which the most sacred of divine notions are subjected to the worst in human treatment. (In a timely aside, this past weekend, shootings at the Hanuman Temple in Ayodhya remind us that this social ill in India is quite relevant.)
Balram's depiction of social ills extends to the massive level of social and political corruption evident. In describing the elections in India, one sees how embezzlement and corruption undermine the democratic process in a nation that likes to boast itself as "the largest democracy in the world." "Election fever" is a statement of this corruption. The depiction of the Prime Minister "praising" India's progress in the midst of so much regression is particularly noteworthy here. Social prejudice in the form of caste discrimination is also detailed, as Balram realizes he will always be tethered to his caste. Another social ill in India, social caste prejudices play a large role in the lives children will live, often helping to deny education to many children who wish to have it. The caste system in India does a marvelous job in condemning many to lives of poverty or worse simply because it closes doors, as opposed to opening them. The poverty that lines the streets of India's major cities is reflective of a social ill, conditions that people tolerate or perpetuate in order to consolidate their own sense of control and power in "modern India."
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