Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why People Hate Arundhati Roy

I first saw Arundhati Roy on our black and white TV, in a film called Massey Sahib that was directed by her husband Pradeep Kishen. Though at the time I did not know she was the Arundhati Roy. She played the role of a tribal woman, if my memory serves right, and I found her quite attractive.

Then, of course, we all got to know Arundhati Roy. The Booker and all. There were two other people with India connection who had won the Booker before, but Salman Rushdie did not live long enough in India, while Naipaul was never born in India -- they were as good as Brits. The news of their winning the Booker, for the lay Indian, must have been as significant, or insignificant, as the mayor of an American city inaugurating a library. But Arundhati Roy, by winning the prize, brought about a revolution. Just how Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai, by winning the Miss Universe and Miss World crowns, made the average young Indian woman look at herself in the mirror again, Roy's Booker breathed fire into the ambition of the ordinary Indian who had always dreamed to be a respected writer.

I never bought a copy of God Of Small Things: I read a few passages from a colleague's copy and did not feel encouraged to invest money in it, even though those days -- this was in 1997 or 1998 I think -- I was buying books left, right and centre. Maybe I hadn't matured as a reader then, even though I was old enough.

I also never got around to reading any of Arundhati Roy's Outlook articles, maybe a few paras, though, thanks to the debates they always kicked up in newspapers and news channels; I have been aware of what she is writing about. It is clear that she likes to take up the case, or the cause, of voiceless people who do not have a strong spokesperson backing them. And I think that is highly commendable. Take the Maoists for example. If you treat Maoists as enemies, you will never win the battle against them. But if you look into the reasons why Maoist rebels are born in the first place, you might have a solution at hand. But then, an exchange of gunfire is far easier than making an effort to change the system -- so what if a few policemen lose their lives? Maoists, after all, are not enemies planted on Indian soil by al Quaeda: they are our own people -- very poor, very deprived and very humiliated.

When you are living in a big city, say Delhi, where everything is just a phone call away, right from the morning milk to the pizza for dinner, life is so hunky dory that you tell yourself -- "Wow, India has progressed so much! Couldn't have imagined this happening 10 years ago!" True. But it is only the cities that have progressed, India hasn't. In a city, all you need to do is walk up to the gate of your apartment with your child, and soon a school bus will arrive to take the child to school. But in non-urban India, children walk for kilometres to get to school. Just imagine pairs of tiny feet walking five or six kilometres just to get to school. Can it get any more cruel? In many cases, they have a river or a stream falling on the way: they wade through it too.

Now, how many of the pizza-eating crowd have ever bothered to take up the cause of such people -- people who are poor, who live in remote areas, who fight not only their fate but also the system perpetrated by the state? Yet they all like to talk about the harm that Arundhati Roy -- of all people -- is causing to the nation!

What's so drastically wrong if Roy spoke in favour of Kashmiris seeking freedom? Kashmir does not become an 'integral part' of India just because the Indian government says so. It is for the Kashmiris to decide whether they consider themselves to be an integral part of India or not. If they think so, well and good, but if they don't, just too bad. People like us, who don't live in Kashmir and are not even remotely concerned with it, have no business forcing them into being an integral part of India. Cyril Radcliffe had left Kashmir out while partitioning India, but when Pakistani raiders entered the Valley in October 1947, the maharaja acceded to India and since then, the 'Kashmir issue' was born. Even when there was peace in Kashmir, the Kashmiris referred to us as Indians -- which meant they did not consider themselves as one. Slogan-shouting is one thing, ground reality another.

The Indian government is aware of the ground reality, that is why it did not book Arundhati Roy for sedition. I am sure there were many benevolent Britishers who thought that India must be freed from British rule, but I don't think Britain tried them for sedition. That's the beauty of democracy. You speak your mind. The day you are hounded for speaking your mind, you are no longer living in a democracy but in an autocracy.

The real reason why there is so much of anger against Arundhati Roy, every time she writes or says something, lies elsewhere. It lies in the Indian mindset. She is attractive, intelligent, articulate, bold and defiant -- something unpalatable for the chauvinistic Indian, male or female, who want women to be always conforming. So they go after her, hammer and tongs, even while being indifferent when serious cases of corruption are exposed day after day. Recently I put a status message to this effect on my Facebook profile, and was greeted with several angry comments. I would like to quote from two of them:

-- Can the freedom of speech in a democracy be stretched to challenge the sovereignty and integrity of the country? Rights come to citizen along with responsibility. Citizens should heckle her instead of government doing that.

-- The anger of people has increased with every irresponsible statement she made which has shown complete disregard to this nation. The nation cannot sit back and ignore her when she keeps on making those politically provocative statements again and again and again!!!

Nation. Sovereignty. Integrity. Big words. But, then, we are a big nation. A very big nation. Yet threatened and outraged by the views of just one woman activist. Why?


Sepiamniac said...

The anger against Roy is not for the reaiosn you have mentioned, buddy...

I have met Roy twice, as a cub reporter.

She told me she didn't want to talk about the Booker Prize because it wasn't a big achievement, according to her. However,the Booker made for three- fourth of her interview.

My question is: as a writer what has she done for these people she is fighting for? Has she taken up any one cause and fought for it, earnestly, apart from creating fireworks that vaults her into mediaspace for a month at least?

I can't claim I am an expert in the topics she often discusses. All I can say is she is a fibbertigibbet

Anonymous said...

I don't know why but somehow this whole issue reminds me of Ibsen's "Enemy of the People". A thought provoking post...

Anonymous said...

Another of your drawing room posts. Guess you are also following the footprints of Ms Roy...way to go Mr Ghosh! ;-)
Very very juvenile observations!

Pearl said...

Dear BG,
You surprise me! I wouldnt have though any writer worth his salt would stand up for/another writer till he has read each and every word preached by Ms Roy.

Now we all know whats so right about her. We all love the way she looks projects herself. She is oh so sexy that there is no way anyone can be objective while judging her!

My only problem with her is she really has no solutions. Also each time she raises a pertinent question all the attension goes booming onto her rather than the issue(not to mention the unavailable solutions we all should be striving for!)

As a woman I envy her. She is HOT! But as a writer I would say she has a very small sky. Anykind of outsider who jumps into a problem and says one side is righter than the other has to be looked at with suspicion.(specially when both sides are equally related to us!)

I see how all your judgemnet goes to ur knees when someone like Arundhati Roy smiles that demure smile! But we are contesting the CONTENT and not the LOOK!

I live like Delhi(just like her) and I have been to all those grassroot suffering towns(which bleed your heart!) but I can also tell you that her truth are very tailoered to suit the NICHE she inhabits and earns her livlihood from! Her truth is still her truth and not the LARGER OBJECTIVE TRUTH!

Please Please Please learn to look through the illusions and agendas of people. If swearing against India and saying derogatory things about the whole idea of nationhood was such a cool thing in reality we sould all be doing it. Why just her?
Lets all spit at the whole idea of India. Say all that has been done so far is wrong and that one day I will put lots of Kohl in my eyes, wear tribal jewellery and abuse all those before and after me because I KNOW THE TRUTH BECAUSE I AM ARUNDHATI ROY!

hardik mehta said...

Awesome article Mr. Ghosh. I loved it!!
Sorry Pearl, I do not agree with your view!
there is a whole lot of ground research that Roy does. There are facts, datas, figures and a plethora of statistics that she researches upon and works upon. I would rather give her every right to do that rather than sitting in my comfort zone.
Yaad rakhna:

'abhi jiska khoon na khaula woh khoon nahi paani hai,
jo desh ke kaam na aaye woh bekaar jawani hai...'

hum sabki jawaani toh bekaari mei chali gayi....ya jaa rahi hai...

and whats the issue agar koi tribal jewelry pehnti hai ya aankhon mei surma lagaati hai?

lawyerjourno said...

She has been welcomed by 'Slippers and shoes' many times by people who dislike her ideas. I remember some two years ago on the eve of Valentine Day, she was talking about right to love and celebrate and one flying shoe fell on her face!! That was a fitting reply for someone like her!

Santosh Sadasivan said...

Mr.Ghosh, yet an another awesome & mind-blowing ejaculation. I have read your previous entries with sizeable interest. But in this case, I differ to agree...and I do not agree hither to what Oyster shells has in store..I love the way she writes and for that matter, I can obviously dismiss what she had bagged alongwith the booker, in her carriage.. Its keeps the understanding travel a longer distance..

Sepiamniac said...

@ Pearl: love the way you express your views... agree with every line

PAULA RAY said...

why not read this too:

Anita Ahlawat said...

Dear Mr. Ghosh,
I might not be as learned as you all are but one basic thing i understand here is that you are asking to support a cause that ll break the whole nation into pieces.. kashmir for one, is not the only state with problems and seeking different land..khalistan has also been a burning issue and i'm sure you are equally aware that it's again catching should we divide that too??? For years our hard earned money has been spent on maintaining peace in the valley, to protect those people.. and now you realize it should be freed.. and ask yourself is that really a solution and AN END to all the troubles????
The problem in Our Indian system is that in the name of democracy people have been in time creating issues and providing thought processes that never lead to any solution but further divided our opinions and that is the reason the long pending cases stretch for ages as there are so many angles to think from....and thats the reason millions of dollars are being spent on protecting kasab...

P.S: I would also like to inform you that I am a woman myself and I don't envy women who look gorgeous,prosper in their carriers,make the nation proud rather i look upto them as a motivation to succeed.. so stop providing these baseless reasons for the anger she has provoked on her comments on a sensitive issue...and nothing else..

Sudeep Chowdhuri said...

Dear BG,
It is (mostly) a free world. You are free to like Ms. A her for her looks, as I am free to dislike her for abusing the freedom which she enjoys – a freedom hard won.
Truly, there are few who “have ever bothered to take up the cause of such people”. I have seen a few of them, heard about many of them. These people spend time amongst the poor and downtrodden, share there hardships. Unfortunately, this does not grab headlines. Ms. A would find it somewhat difficult to do that – it could spoil her looks, not to speak of the difficulty of sending nice editorial pieces to Dawn, Jung, Nation etc. (Pakistani papers for those who don’t know).
Recently, in Facebook, and related to Ms. A, you had asked if we know our history. So a few lost pages, which many are not aware of, since it is not part of our “official secular history”.
Do you know what makes up Kashmir? Ladakh is a part of Kashmir, people there (Buddhists) want to be with India, Jammu is a part of Kashmir, people there (Hindus) want to be with India. Kargil is a part of Kashmir, people there (Shia Muslims) want to be with India. The so called “Azad Kashmir” is also a part of Kashmir, but you won’t even hear its people because they were “resettled” by Punjabi’s and Afghans, an operation headed by a gentleman named Musharraf, when Zia was President. You will probably never visit POK (Pak occupied Kashmir), but if you ever go to UK, and meet Punjabi speaking Kashmiri’s you will know why. Only the Kashmir Valley wants independence, but for most Indians that is the same as Kashmir. Cry, my beloved country.
Also, most people think that Kashmir came to India, only because of the “weak Hindu ruler”. Are you aware that there was a vibrant political movement, which was against the “weak Hindu ruler”, but pro-India. A party headed by the Grandfather of the current CM, Omar Abdullah. I could tell you a lot more, but just mentioning that the party changed its name from “Muslim conference” to “National conference”, before Independence, should tell you where the loyalty of the people of Kashmir lay.
What went wrong later is a long story, and the subject for a book, not a blog reply.
Coming to the Maoists, they are poor, downtrodden, subjected to brutality by many including Police. All of this is true. Still, one wonders, if that is so, why do they not allow any attempt at development or improvement in their lives? Read the news carefully, and you will see immediate (and brutal) reaction to any attempt at development. Could it just be possible that development would rob the Maoists of their cadre? Reminds me of the committed communists back in Kolkata – the ones who did not do well remained committed communists, the ones who did very well often ended by as a US Green Card holder. I know – some of them are related to me by blood.
The spread of Maoist influence was well known and predicted few decades back – but no one listened. Ask Ajai Sahni (and many many others). The Chinese string of pearls strategy is well known – just that no one in the corridors of power are interested. This is very similar to how before 1962, India Generals had war gamed a Chinese attack, and predicted almost exactly how we would lose – on a day by day basis – again, no one in the corridors of power was interested.
“Nation. Sovereignty. Integrity. Big words.” Truly… big words, but then, this is our home, this is where we stay, and, we all have our loyalties. Where do your loyalties lie?

Anonymous said...

Miss one time booker awardee has an opinionated mind and the opinions come pouring out every time she senses a lack of attention or could it be someone else seeking attention through her.. Omar Abdullahs recent statement on Pakistans inclusion in Kashmir talks and Arundhati's speech have been well timed..

If Kashmir is not an integral part of India, why do we provide our soldiers as fodder for enemy guns there?? Kashmir maharaja blundered when he chose to stay independent. India respected the decision, but Pakistan had its forces in Kashmir in no time at all. Thats when Indian troops were called in. To say it isn't a part of India is a foolish statement by a woman mostly driven by communist thoughts..

There are people of other states in India who don't consider themselves to be Indians. Should we let the people of those states decide whether they want to remain a part of India too?? We have already divided teh country into little plots of land. We have a female farmer who tills imp issues once in a while. what else do we deserve??

Why should we hate the oh such a beautiful Ms Roy, lets just let her speak her mind..

But, democracy demands and so I would like to excercise my rights too and would like her to know that a writers greed for more readership and audience can lead people to insanity. She should shed her impatience and shake her curly haired head into action and produce some pieces of Art worth reading rather than being used by politicians..

wildflower said...

Thank you for writing this!

Anonymous said...

I did not real the whole thing.. only till whats wring if she supports the extremists or something like that..

But believe me.. i'm doing major on that..its not that simple.. its a difficult choice when u have to choose btwn good and bad when u have a country to run..

Unknown said...

LOL! What an article! :-D And some observation there as to why people hate Roy!

I and I think most of us like and respect her a lot for she being a great writer but I kneel and request her to please come back to writing!She should really give us one more of a classic like God of Small Things!
As for the reason stated, she is attractive (huh?I love attractive women!), articulate (huuuh?Why should I hate her for being articulate?), bold(That just makes her sexier!) and defiant (Makes her wilder!LOL!) why would any Indian male "HATE" her for that!!! Or any woman for that matter! No one was even jealous when that attractive,articulate etc etc got her Booker's, in fact the whole of India congratulated her!
So does that mean, if she would gone to an Orphanage and helped the children there, I would have hated her because my dream woman(or Hottie!) is working for a cause? Weird conclusion!
Well, the very poor,the very deprived,the very humiliated friends keep blowing buses filled with common men and children "with tiny feet who wade through streams to go to school". If you blow up innocents to make a point then sorry, I don't think anyone would support your cause!
And about Kashmir, madam, seriously you need an overhaul! Saying that Kashmir is not an integral part of any of the two nations would have been far better than saying Kashmir is not a part of India!

lata said...

crap article by BG and superb comments by pearl, Anita, sujoy, tapas etc.

Indian Home Maker said...

So there is one more person who wonders why Ms Roy is hated so much for simply expressing her views.

shubha said...

You don't have to agree/ disagree with what she says, but at least appreciate Ms Roy for standing up for what she believes in!
And Kashmir can be talked about for winning debates and gaining votes, but a woman voicing her opinion (albeit one that is different from the politically correct opinion) on the same has to face so much antagonism?
We are ok with so-called experts going on TV and having pointless debates while we shake our heads or loudly agree, sitting snug in our urban homes in relative comfort, none of which affects anybody in Kashmir, but Ms Roy's voicing an opinion that at least made people sit up and take notice and realise that MAYBE, the PEOPLE of Kashmir want something entirely different from what the Rest of India THINKS they want, and pass it off as patriotism! And no, the Kashmiri people are not really in a position to voice opinions.
And we cease to be a Democracy the day we try and book people for sedition for voicing strong opinions.

Megha Bansal said...

Not at all. No one hates for that. I don't hate her, but I am just surprised that someone of her 'stature' and apparent knowledge speaks about somethign she knows little about. Even Kashmiris don't want to be annexed from India, then who is she to suggest it? The reason people are angry is because she is someone people respect and admire and then such nonsense pops out of her mouth, that is incredible!

Anonymous said...

"Why do people hate Arundhati Roy?"
I have asked this question many times myself and have come to the conclusion that its mostly because people are just plain dumb!

srijithunni said...

I haven't read "The God of Small Things" either, but have read some of her article, especially one, where she had gone and lived with Naxals and was sort of personal and nice. I dont hate her. I just guess I sort of lost respect for her, when she became a walking cliche. In a democratic setup how can someone always be anti-establishment ? Also dont like it that there has not been a single point of focus/issue that she works for.

One day she is with Medha Patkar in Narmada Basin, one day in Singure, one day with Naxals in Chattisgarh and the next day in Kashmir, shouting against India. ? I mean what is the point. If there is a social issue you are concerned about, you dont start by creating a ruckus, but by working with the affected people. I mean, the fact that she is still tolerated itself speaks a lot for India.

Deepa Nagaraj said...

I just read this article abt Arundhati Roy and as some readers above have mentioned, though she speaks strongly on the issues as anti-this, anti-that, this Booker winning author has not done anything more than talking....It is so easy to sit in the arm-chair and shout aloud rather than being active in an arena. After the Booker achievement, just to be in the news, she keeps making some controversial statements. The latest one being 'Why I'd rather not be Anna'.