My failed illustration of Arundhati Roy looks like a cross between Indira Gandhi and Oscar Wilde as played by Stephen Fry
It was a little over two years ago that I wrote a very short rant about Arundhati Roy.
Here is what I wrote:
Let me get this rider out of the way at the outset. (“At the outset” is such a pompous expression). I believe that Indian rights activist, essayist and writer Arundhati Roy is motivated by a genuine concern for the human condition. Her heart is in its right place, and by that I do not mean on the left anatomically.
That said, here is a question that has bugged me for a while. Why is it that everything that is written by and written about Roy is never less than a few thousand words? I am not even going to ask why publications, particularly Western publications, feel so compelled to interview her so regularly? The latest interview with Roy appears in The Guardian here. This particular piece is 2,452 words. (Yes, I counted them). The word length would qualify as brevity in Roy’s case.
I am aware that we live in an oppressive and cruel world which takes a bit more to change than the distilled wisecracks of the kind you see on this post. I am also very acutely conscious that unlike Roy I do absolutely nothing to help ameliorate the miserable condition that humanity finds itself in. (Ameliorate is a word that carries no conviction). I would be the first one tell you that my life has become one relentless selfish survival gig. Notwithstanding all these admissions, I still think we can do with shorter pieces by and about Roy.
Either by design or default or both, Roy has emerged as the voice of the globally oppressed. Wherever there is a seemingly righteous uprising, she is there to articulate its meaning. Let’s call her an interpreter of malcontents. Unlike a lot of people who dislike her viscerally, I think she is onto something worthwhile; but there is something in the way she approaches life that makes it so unlivable. The emotional density of what she has to say is too much for me personally, even though a lot of what she says is not all that wrong.
It would be ironic if I stretched this post into a few thousand words. So let me end it by saying that Roy is alright in dribbles. If you do not watch out, she will inundate you verbally.
The question “Why is it that everything that is written by and written about Roy is never less than a few thousand words?” remains valid as I read a The New York Times profile of her by Siddhartha Deb headlined “Arundhati Roy, the Not-So-Reluctant Renegade”. That profile is 4,673 words. The Caravan magazine of India carries a 12,829-word piece titled “The Doctor and The Saint” that offers a brilliantly reasoned perspective on the profound differences between Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar on the issue of India’s cruel and debilitating caste system.
It seems that when it comes to Roy what can be said in a 100 words must be said in a 1000 words. It is true that the themes that she chooses to address often require great elaboration, erudition and scholarship. But from a purely personal standpoint her hyperloquence (My coinage) is too much for me to take.