Aravind Adiga's 'Amnesty': Of migrants in Australia, moral struggle!

New Delhi, Mar 12 (PTI) Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga’s new book “Amnesty” is about a young illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka living in Australia who has to decide whether to report crucial information about a murder and thereby risk deportation.

Dhananjaya Rajaratnam aka Danny is an undocumented immigrant in Sydney who has overstayed his student visa, thus rendering himself as illegal. Working as a cleaner, living out of a grocery storeroom, for three years he’s been trying to create a new identity for himself.

And then, with his beloved Vietnamese girlfriend, Sonja, his hidden accent and highlights in his hair, he is as close as he has ever come to living a normal Australian life.

One morning, Danny learns that Radha Thomas, a female client of his, has been murdered. When Danny recognises a jacket left at the murder scene, he believes it belongs to another of his clients - a doctor with whom he knows the woman was having an affair.

Suddenly Danny is confronted with a choice: come forward with his knowledge about the crime and risk being deported, or say nothing, and let justice go undone.

Over the course of a single day, evaluating the weight of his past, his dreams for the future, and the unpredictable, often absurd reality of living invisibly and undocumented, he must wrestle with his conscience and decide if a person without rights still has responsibilities.

Danny would go around Sydney with his cleaning apparatus strapped to his back.

“His five-foot-seven body looked like it had been expertly packed into itself, and even when he was doing hard physical labour, his gaze was dreamy, as if he owned a farm somewhere far away,” Adiga describes him.

“With an elegant oval jaw, and that long, thin forehead’s suggestion of bookishness, he was not, except when he smiled and exhibited cracked teeth, an overseas threat,” he writes.

Besides Sonja, Danny was friends with Ramesh, an Indian who was a librarian at the Newtown library.

Though the Australian state denied Danny medical care, a driver’s licence, and police protection, it, however, offered him unlimited and unmonitored access to its public reading rooms and information centres.

It took Adiga five years to complete this novel, this third after Man Booker Prize-winning “The White Tiger” and “Selection Day”.

He says the idea for “Amnesty”, published in the country by Pan Macmillan imprint Picador India, came to him when he was “James Payten’s guest at his old place in Erskineville”. PTI ZMN RDS RDS