The story of my upbringing is the story of how a half-baked fellow is produced.
But pay attention, Mr. Premier! Fully formed fellows, after twelve years of school and three years of university, wear nice suits, join companies, and take orders from other men for the rest of their lives.
Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay.
-- -- --
To give you the basic facts about me -- origin, height, weight, known sexual deviations, etc. -- there's no beating that poster. The one the police made of me.
Calling myself Bangalore's least known success story isn't entirely true, I confess. About three years ago, when I became, briefly, a person of national importance owing to an act of entrepreneurship, a poster with my face on it found its way to every post office, railway station, and police station in this country. A lot of people saw my face and name back then. I don't have the original paper copy, but I've downloaded an image to my silver Macintosh laptop -- I bought it online from a store in Singapore, and it really works like a dream -- and if you'll wait a second, I'll open the laptop, pull that scanned poster up, and read from it directly...
But a word about the original poster. I found it in a train station in Hyderabad, in the period when I was traveling with no luggage -- except for one very heavy red bag -- and coming down from Delhi to Bangalore. I had the original right here in this office, in the drawer of this desk, for a full year. One day the cleaning boy was going through my stuff, and he almost found the poster. I'm not a sentimental man, Mr. Jiabao. Entrepreneurs can't afford to be. So I threw the thing out -- but before that, I got someone to teach me scanning -- and you know how we Indians just take to technology like ducks to water. It took just an hour, or two hours. I am a man of action, sir. And here it is, on the screen, in front of me:
Assistance Sought in Search for Missing Man
General Public is hereby informed that the man in the picture namely Balram Halwai alias MUNNA son of Vikram Halwai rickshaw-puller is wanted for questioning. Age: Between 25 and 35. Complexion: Blackish. Face: Oval. Height: Five feet four inches estimated. Build: Thin, small.
Well, that's not exactly right anymore, sir. The "blackish face" bit is still true -- although I'm of half a mind to try one of those skin-whitener creams they've launched these days so Indian men can look white as Westerners -- but the rest, alas, is completely useless. Life in Bangalore is good -- rich food, beer, nightclubs, so what can I say! "Thin" and "small" -- ha! I am in better shape these days! "Fat" and "potbellied" would be more accurate now.
But let us go on, we don't have all night. I'd better explain this bit right now.
Balram Halwai alias MUNNA...
See, my first day in school, the teacher made all the boys line up and come to his desk so he could put our names down in his register. When I told him what my name was, he gaped at me:
"Munna? That's not a real name."
He was right: it just means "boy."
"That's all I've got, sir," I said.
It was true. I'd never been given a name.
"Didn't your mother name you?"
"She's very ill, sir. She lies in bed and spews blood. She's got no time to name me."
"And your father?"
"He's a rickshaw-puller, sir. He's got no time to name me."
"Don't you have a granny? Aunts? Uncles?"
"They've got no time either."
The teacher turned aside and spat -- a jet of red paan splashed the ground of the classroom. He licked his lips.
Copyright © 2008 by Aravind Adiga
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