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Crusader to the core

Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy is made of steel. Unfazed by the odds against her, the woman of substance still goes strong about whatever she feels is wrong. In an exclusive tête-à-tête, she bares it all.



BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY: Arundhati Roy. — Photo: P. V. Sivakumar

A DIMINUTIVE frame - 5 feet to be precise, belies her steely grit. Hair cropped short, a long flowing skirt, sunglasses over her lustrous eyes and a transparent bag with rich Warli print embossed on it, complete the rest of the guise of this firebrand.

As enigmatic as her book, Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy's eyes glisten with excitement when she says, "I am just waiting for the noise in my head to stop. For me this prize is about my past and not my future. Having written this book I am back to square one. I don't know if I will write another book."

The gifted writer is now fast beginning to carve out a position for herself as a campaigning political journo and anti-nuke crusader. And after she immersed herself in the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Roy is just too busy for the day. Writing affidavits and clarifications for lawyers has taken much of her time since early last year when Roy's scrape with the judiciary began. What does the best selling author have to say about the recent row with the Supreme Court when the latter ordered Roy to pay up Rs 2,000 as fine or face prison for three months?

She was just protesting the Court's contentious decision to allow the construction of a dam in the Narmada valley despite environmental and social disaster, when they accused her of drunkenness and shouting slogans. How can the Court afford to `silence intellectual criticism' or even try to `muzzle dissent' in a democracy? Perhaps, only law ministers have the sole rights to criticise the workings of the judiciary but not an ordinary person."Any kind of dictatorship is bad and the form of judicial dictatorship, as shown by the Supreme Court, is worse. It is an attempt to curb our freedom of free speech and free press. It's actually a retreat from democracy," Roy states contemptuously.

How much said, about the steely self-confidence and her determination to do it her way, is less as Roy still remains completely unfazed by the events and still goes strong on her essays. Fearlessly.

Recently, her criticism of India's nuke tests also drew much flak. As she puts in a typical Arundhati Roy style, in one of her essays, "The nuclear bomb is the most antidemocratic, antinational, antihuman, outright evil thing that man has ever made. If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you're not (religious), then look at it this way. This world of ours is four thousand, six hundred million years old. It could end in an afternoon."

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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