The Rooster Coop is Balram’s metaphor for describing the oppression of India’s poor. Roosters in a coop at the market watch one another slaughtered one by one, but are unable or unwilling to rebel and break out of the coop. Similarly, India’s poor people see one another crushed by the wealthy and powerful, defeated by the staggering inequality of Indian society, but are unable to escape the same fate. In fact, he argues that the poor actively stop each other from escaping, either willfully by cutting each other down, or less purposely but just as powerfully, through a culture that makes them expect such abuse and servitude. The Rooster Coop Balram describes is one that’s “guarded from the inside.”
Balram believes that the traditional Indian family unit keeps the Rooster Coop of social inequality alive. If a servant attempts to escape or disobeys his employer, the superior’s family will punish the servant by murdering or brutally torturing his family. In this way, familial loyalty and love become weaknesses in the context of rooster coop logic. In a country where the rules are stacked so overwhelmingly against the poor, Balram comes to believe that to create a better life and “break out of the Rooster Coop,” one must be willing to sacrifice everything, including attachment to traditional morals and to one’s family.