Arundhati Roy. This name symbolizes different meanings to various people. For me, she signifies as a writer with guts to tell the truth without caring about the consequences upon her. She dares to speak. Her identity cannot be constrained within a single category. In whatever way you define her, none can deny her being the voice of those who get systematic ignorance and suppression from the establishment.
This writing is about my journey with Arundhati Roy in past few months. When the world was trapped inside their houses by the pandemic, I spent most of my days traveling through pages of Roy’s books. The journey started with her debut novel, The God of Small Things, and ended with her latest non-fiction collection, AZADI: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. It’s my personal attachment towards the writer whom I admire for her rage- full of sufferings and pains of common people.
I’d known her from her few essays that I read earlier. Finally, I decided to walk with a comrade without the fear of getting caught. However, at the beginning of my journey I was afraid of the brutal truth that I might discover which feels comfort in her words. After all, honest truth holds power that everybody is afraid of.
I first dwelled in the land of The God of Small Things. Everything matters. Even a tiny incident or event or thing can change the entire scenario. In the world of large and huge, we often forget small things. However, we’re the product of those small things which we often ignore or feel lazy to think about.
In this world, Roy introduced me to hypocrisy as well as cruelty of humans in the name of caste. Rahel guided me through the land of communism, casteism and feminism. There lay loss, childhood innocence, forbidden love, untimely death, corrupt principals, traumatized past and clueless nature. Of course, it was a difficult journey. Roy loves experiment with words. But the journey uncovered real ugly face of people camouflaged with morality. I brought this souvenir from there:“When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”
20 years. It took her twenty years to give readers the taste of a second novel. In this journey, I visited a ministry of her creation- The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Here I found stories of people who are nobody to everybody. This becomes a political journey in the form of modern day reality. People- not mere characters- sought language in which they can share their unfortunate stories. “Once you have fallen off the edge like all of us have […] you will never stop falling. And as you fall you will hold on to other falling people. The sooner you understand that the better. This place where we live, where we have made our home, is the place of falling people […] we aren’t even real. We don’t really exist.”The tragedy is only a few are aware about their valueless existence created by elites. Others accept what they get.
In this new ministry, forgotten people find the shelter. City has forgotten about them or doesn’t think about knowing their existence. Dear Roy, this very thing happens in our city too. Voiceless are invisible in the eyes of state though they reside under the nose of powerful ones. What fascinated me during that journey was diversity of ‘rebels with / without a cause’ as well as the place they had chosen as their shelter, i.e. graveyard: a beautiful, at the same time, painful metaphor. For many, life is a cheap metaphor. I can only imagine about their restlessness.
The next journey had great significance to Roy as well as her readers: My Seditious Heart. This collection captures her works written between the period of her two novels. This journey turned out to be a roller-coaster. It defines her. The world knows her through these words which carry fire with them. If you really desire for an understanding of her, just turn the pages of this book.
This journey consists of historical evidences of India’s growth in terms of poverty, wealth of billionaires, crime against women, religious intolerance and degradation of humanity. Likewise, it reflects the changing scenarios of the world where elites keep on growing in the cost of majority’s act of vanishing under the shadow of ‘struggle for survival’.
My last stop was named Azadi: Freedom. Fascism Fiction.This recently created destination was somehow the repetition of the previous journeys. However, it still carried the true essence of Roy’s anti-establishment voice. I found this question amusing as well as disturbing at the same time : “Does a country fall into fascism the way a person falls in love? Or, more accurately, in hate?”
My journey with Roy changed my perception regarding the world, power, elites, minorities, proletariat, marginalized; it made me question our value of being. Amidst degrading world scenarios, Roy points out what we ought to be.
She has her own flaws and limitations. She may not be the perfect intellectual but she reflects honesty and integrity, the two things most of the today’s pseudo intellectuals lack. Journey with her means walking with a comrade who fights with words and ideas.