12 January 2007

At Home with Arundhati Roy

Novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy is a troublemaker. I regularly use her political essays in my freshman lecture course for just that reason. It is not that one would agree with every position she articulates, but I find the way she articulates political and social issues - with a mix of intelligence and outrage and humor and directness - to be both appealing in itself and too often lacking in American political discourse.

Roy has, of course, become a favorite among leftists in the West. So I was interested to read a short essay from OutlookIndia (28 December 06) regarding how her pronouncements and activism are received in India. It seems that there are many in her homeland who find Roy's outspokenness troublesome and are not bashful about saying so. The essay, "Why We Love to Hate Ms. Roy," by Saba Naqvi Bhaumik is a largely laudatory reply to such critics who the author portrays as sexist and convention-bound. Here are the concluding lines: "

"Indians would probably like Roy better if like VS Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, those other great writers they claim as their own (despite both of them living in the West), Roy made grand statements about Islam or Indian civilisation in rarefied writers’ fora and then swiftly retreated from the public stage. Besides, shouldn’t she learn some lessons from Naipaul and Rushdie, both of whom are now on the right side of the great ‘clash of civilisations’ debate?

Yet, Roy seems to prefer clashing with those who believe they know better. But Indians are a forgiving people and her critics would absolutely adore Roy if she moved to the West, where they believe people like her actually belong. Then every Indian heart would swell with pride whenever they recall their great galaxy of English language writers.

But if Roy insists on staying on in India, there are a few things she could do to soften the hatred she often inspires in some Indians. Wear saris, shut up, stay at home, have babies, grow her hair long and start plaiting it."

OutlookIndia.com has an "author's" page linking to virtually all of Roy's political essays and a significant number of the interviews she has given. You need to register to gain entrance to the archive, but that is simple enough. This is a useful resource for those wishing to see how it is possible to speak up in the face of injustice.

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2 Comments:

Blogger naina said...

"Wear saris, shut up, stay at home, have babies, grow her hair long and start plaiting it."

Wow...you know SO much about India! I'm always impressed when people like you are able to educate us brown folks on our primitive ways. Bravo, bravo!

13 February, 2007 19:17  
Blogger Unknown said...

he was quoting an indian writer btw...

17 February, 2007 19:22  

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