For a few years now, I have heard everyone – from sections of media to people in my social stream call Arundhati Roy everything from a Naxalite lover to a development hater to a deranged person, the last instance during the happenings in Kashmir. In fact, these days whenever there’s an issue of national interest with a scope for polarised opinions, I find many people asking about her take, just so they can heap more ridicule. And though I have never really been a fan of her award winning work of fiction, I have admitted to myself, and to a few of my friends, that I have found it difficult to objectively fault her arguments. After reading this book, I have realised why it is easy to hate her – she holds up a mirror in front of us, the kind of mirror that tells us how our apathy and desire to follow the path of least resistance is responsible for the larger problems we see around us.
And she does that not just in some moral high ground, philosophising sort of way. She does so with historical perspectives and economical contexts and most importantly, hard data. And therefore, it is not easy to ignore her when she talks about the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the costs of what we call progress and the greater common good, the background games played behind the ‘developmental’ activities we see around us, America’s war against terror, the beginnings of fascism in India and how all of these are linked. The writer in her is in full flow, using sarcasm and wit to telling effect, to (ironically) show the seriousness of the issue. There is something very vulnerable about her when she talks about her dislike for the ‘writer-activist’ label.
So the next time, I hear something said against her, I am going to ask the person if he/she has read this book. They may not agree with her, but at least this will give them perspective and basis their interest, they can look for counter arguments. What I seek from them is exactly what I seek from myself – an acknowledgment of one’s own role in the issues of today and developing the strength to not look away.