Arundhati Roy is coming up with her new book ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness‘ and we are all excited. Her mention stirs a vortex of controversy. She continues to promote her book/ prove her point. Here are my two cents.
She is a woman of opinion, for sure. She likes the anti-government rhetoric. She supports the side that has been handed the shitty end of the stick. It can be two things – she genuinely sees Kashmir as a simple problem where one side is the oppressor and the other is oppressed. She discounts the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and probably sees the merit in the slogans of Kashmiriyat. Or it can be that she sees the two sides and chooses the side that fits her ego. A woman with a grand ego. If she takes on the whole world (including the Bhakts and RSS), it is just one wild trip.
The Pakistani machinery and the extremist Islamic indoctrination are just inconvenient truths she chooses to ignore so that her narrative matches that of a lone warrior. This is not to demonize her. It is a very human thing to do. But like a bad cold, it should have passed. Well, it didn’t. And there is a simple explanation (since she likes simple black and white explanations) for it. Her first novel won the Booker. It was a thundering applause to her opinion. It was a character that she wrote. No, not the fraternal twins and the affair between them. That part was unnecessarily hyped. I am talking about Velutha. Think about it – a lower caste, extremist, maoist who is gentle by heart and is punished for having an affair with an upper caste. She spoke sympathetically about Velutha – the Paravan.
In all her discourses, her heroes are always the Paravans, the untouchables – the voices that have been shut down. Because she gets it. It is those stories that run her kitchen and fuel her ego. She might be an intelligent, left-funded, war-mongering businesswoman but, I that to me, would be a bit of a stretch. She is close though. She is running the empathy business and kicking ass.
You know a blogpost like this would make her smile. Her whole life, just like Arnab Goswami’s, is a Facebook rant against strangers. She backs up her data. She talks about the injustices and court cases and the wrongs done by the Indian army but she forgets the grander canvas. She forgets the stone pelting, and the cold-blooded murders and the shutdown of schools.
It is not that one should not let her speak. The answer is in debate. Just like you need to understand a disease before you treat it, you have to read her book and identify the weak points. Let her book sell like hot cakes. Let her book be read and understood. Do not burn the book and claim victory. Do not demand her to be tied to the army jeeps. That is what she likes. She is a rebel at heart and her heart weeps for the oppressed. It is a large heart with one side definitely larger than the other.
In her heart, India before partition, wasn’t a culture of brotherhood. The part that is not with us anymore – Pakistan had no cultural exchange. Lahore wasn’t in our story books. Delhi is still not reeling from the effects of mass exodus. Shops in North India still don’t carry labels of Lahore and Karachi. Pakistan doesn’t have faint memories of Delhi. In between all this, there was never a Kashmir. A valley that gave India its first Prime Minister – it all never existed. In her lopsided heart, we have a place stuck between two major political forces. A place that wants to be the Switzerland of the east without cooperation from its neighbours. She would support it if twenty poor people took up arms against the Indian state just as she supports the lakhs in the valley. It is not the numbers, it is the fight. She wants to join your fight for her ego.