10 Reasons To Love: Arundhati Roy

21st May 2014

It has been ten years since Arundhati Roy won the Sydney Peace prize for her work in social campaigns and her advocacy of non-violence. To commemorate this great achievement and her fantastic writing, here are ten reasons why we love her!

1. Her debut novel: The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy was not afraid to address issues such as the damaging power of the caste system and moral and political bigotry in her debut novel which won Roy the Booker Prize. Roy is the first Indian woman to win the award. The God of Small Things sold over six million copies and has been translated into over 40 languages.

2. She has devoted her talents to non-fiction and politics

Her political works have drawn attention to India’s testing of nuclear weapons, the Narmada Dam and the war in Iraq. Among the long list of awards that have honoured Roy’s work is the Cultural Freedom Prize by the Lannan Foundation. Arundhati Roy was also awarded ‘special recognition’ as a Woman of Peace at the Global Exchange Human Rights Awards and the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Writing.

3. Staying on the sidelines is not an option for Arundhati Roy

Speaking of her political work, in an interview with the New York Times, Roy said, “If I had not said anything about the nuclear tests, it would have been as if I was celebrating it. I was on the covers of all these magazines all the time. Not saying anything became as political as saying something.”

4. She’s not afraid of fighting back!

Roy fought back with a petition to dismiss charges made by a group of men claiming that she and other activists had attacked them during a rally. The rally was held to support villagers who were likely to be displaced by a project involving a series of mega-dams to be built on the Narmada River. Though the court agreed with Roy, the language used in her petition resulted in a fine of 2,000 rupees and a one day imprisonment in Tihar Jail.

5. She’s always messed with power

Arundhati Roy revealed in an interview with the Financial Times that she once, as a young girl, raided her teacher’s garden in her native village in Kerala. She dug up the carrots, removed the edible orange roots, and then replanted the green tops in the soil. When asked why she did it, she replied, “I must have wanted carrots, and it was just like, Why not mess with power?”

6. Criticism only fuels her writing

Roy once said, “Each time I step out, I hear the snicker-snack of knives being sharpened. But that’s good. It keeps me sharp.”

7. Her powerful writing

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.”

(Taken from War Talk)

8. Her modesty

In almost every interview I have read, Arundhati Roy doesn’t seem comfortable being identified as an ‘activist’, ‘political spokesperson,’ or ‘campaigner’. These titles do not interest her. In fact the only title that she seems to accept is ‘Writer’.

9. She’s fearless

For her book Broken Republic: Three Essays, Arundhati Roy walked for hours each day with the Maoist guerrillas, she spoke with insurgents and spent her nights sleeping in the forest.

10. Her vivid and poetic prose:


“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

 – The Cost of Living

(Top image by Internaz, used via Creative Commons)