Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Success devastated my life: Arundhati Roy

Roy spoke to Tehelka, baring her heart and mind in one of her most personal interviews ever:

On winning the Booker

India, of course, has bec– ome such a success-oriented and prize-thirsty culture, in all the ads and in everyone’s dreams everyone’s always winning a prize, and so, it mattered here to the middle class. But I feel vaguely humiliated in having to discuss a prize in more depth than my own book.

On the commercial success of her book

But I always used to say, I wish I could’ve been paid back in meals or something because the thing that complicated my life very deeply — far more than the Booker prize — was the commercial success of the book. That made me have to deal with something I never anticipa– ted or sought, and being as political as I am, it was very difficult.

On success changing the equations in her life

No, it devastated my life in many ways which was not nice. I am somebody who doesn’t — I don’t come from the bosom of some stable family, I didn’t have any stability. All I had were relationships I have forged myself, in many of which I was the waif, the most vulnerable person. And suddenly, I was loaded with all of this and it just changes your equation.

But I like this part the most:

By most standards, I probably qualify for being anti-national. I don’t have a nationalistic bone in my body. It’s just not my instinct. Yet it’s incon ceivable for me to not be here, because it’s everything that I love. And it’s not to do with flags or constitutions or any of that. But if I go away for one week and I come back and see some ZEE TV in the immigration lounge and the mouldering ceiling, I just feel so happy. It’s just so many things —even the quality of light, the rag g e dness of things around, the environment, the food, the colour, ever ything — it’s not even external. I’m just a full desi — full-time desi in that way. I just feel, where else can you be? Where else can you interpret the darkness and all its layers? There’s all the coded jokes and the whole sense of history... It’s not like one is looking for a new life in a supermarket.

Those italics are mine. Something that I have been wondering about too.


Suzan Abrams said...

Hi Zaf,

My view is that the very commercial success she bemoans, also brought Roy the public and worldwide attention she had so longed for, with regards to the government's protesting policies on dams and in her own role as an activist. I remember that she was given a Sydney Peace award when in Australia, for which she happily turned up to receive.
One gets the clear impression, she did congenialy lap all this up, travelling widely for talks, events and meetings.
It's always easy to stay clouded in pessimism and a fog of past misgivings...harder to catch the silver lining that silently served as a solid reward.


Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks. I guess she tackles that question in the interview indirectly. I guess, she has used every platform and opportunity to make her political stance clear. If you read her lectures on these occasions, you will see what I mean--a reflection of her non-fiction essays that are now available in book form.