Zia us Salam in Frontline:
A world wounded by aggression and inexplicable hatred could do with the welcome shade of Arundhati Roy’s works. Men and women, both in love and out of it, could do with the eloquence of her expression. As she says early on in the much-talked-about The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which follows 20 years after her Booker Prize-winning novel, The God of Small Things, “No matter how elaborate its charade, she recognised loneliness when she saw it.” Love, like Need, is “a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty”.
Welcome to the hectic world of Arundhati Roy. Never known to be a writer in an ivory tower, the image, in the past, preceded her. She was supposed to be that fiery orator who would not take any anomalies lying down. She won the Booker for The God of Small Things, but the prize came at a price. While it allowed her to plunge headlong into the socio-economic-political issues that so disturbed her equanimity, and be heard patiently and respectfully, she also evoked extreme reactions.
For some, she was a brave activist (a description she does not agree with), an author who left her Booker on the mantelpiece at home and jumped into the Narmada Bachao Andolan with Medha Patkar, even giving away her prize money to the movement. Hers was a strident voice against globalisation and neo-imperialism, besides the Indian government’s nuclear and economic policies. More recently, she has been a fearless critic of the government’s policies in Kashmir and Chhattisgarh, risking the wrath of the state and the right wing alike. She has also been very vocal about the treatment of minority communities and Dalits in recent times—concerns that have found their way into her latest book as well.