Delhi: Three years after bagging the Booker, Aravind Adiga feels he has matured as a writer and hopes readers will judge his new novel `Last Man in Tower` primarily by its literary quality and not see it as a work of social criticism.
"I am older now than when I wrote `The White Tiger`. I was ill for a part of 2010, so that has changed me too. I do hope I`ve matured as a writer. At the same time, no novelist should mature too much or he might produce boring works. One hopes to gain in power and amplitude while retaining a fresh and unconventional quality to the writing," the 37-year-old writer says.
"Any novel should attempt to create a dramatic situation that features compelling characters. Like other novels, `Last Man in Tower` should be judged primarily by its qualities as a story and not as a work of social criticism.
"I hope to tell a story that will entertain and challenge my readers. I am not making a statement about society or politics," Adiga told PTI in an exclusive interview about his just-released work which is a suspense-filled story of money and power, luxury and deprivation set in a Mumbai housing society.
Asked whether Adarsh Society would have been a better plot, he laughs, "Ha. The scandal of the Adarsh Society had not broken out at the time of writing this novel. I wouldn`t have picked it in any case.
"I wanted a completely normal housing society and the building in the novel, Vishram, is based on the real building in Vakola (Santa Cruz East) where I lived where I was writing `The White Tiger`. I wanted a normal, solid, middle-class Mumbai setting for the book."
The novel, published by HarperCollins` imprint Fourth Estate, is set in the Vishram Cooperative Housing Society, close to the airport, under the flight path of 747s and bordered by slums.
On how, "Last Man in Tower" began, Adiga says, "In early 2007, I read a story in a newspaper about a redevelopment offer made to an old building in Mumbai, and went to see that building. Back then, developers were making lavish offers of redevelopment to decrepit buildings in Mumbai- they would offer prices of 200-300 per cent the prevailing market rate if the residents agreed to sell their flats and move out.
"As these buildings are co-operative societies, all residents have to agree to such an offer. Often there would be one old man or woman saying `No`. This person just did not want the money- whether it was 300 per cent or 3,000 per cent the market rate - and tensions developed between him and his neighbours. I could sympathise with both sides.
"Of course the old man had the right to stay in his home if he wanted to; but on the other hand, what about the needs of his neighbours? In a democracy, what is more important, the individual`s right to dissent, or the overall happiness of his society? The question seemed crucial not just to Mumbai, but to all of India."
"Last Man in Tower" speaks of real estate developer Dharmen Shah who offers to buy out the residents of Vishram Society, planning to use the site to build a luxury apartment complex.
Initially, though, not everyone wants to leave; many of the residents have lived in Vishram for years, many of them are no longer young. But none can benefit from the offer unless all agree to sell.
As tensions rise among the once civil neighbours, one by one those who oppose the offer give way to the majority, until only one man stands in Shah`s way - Masterji, a retired schoolteacher, once the most respected man in the building.
Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji`s neighbours - friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co-conspirators - may stop at nothing to score their payday.