Choosing the road to a different kind of riches

Matt Wade; 5/12/09

Amid the clamour of voices debating the future of the world’s biggest democracy, few stand out like Arundhati Roy’s. Twelve years ago she shot to fame with her debut novel, The God of Small Things, and became a pin-up for India’s increasingly confident and assertive middle class. But rather than writing more fiction, Roy turned her elegant prose to politics. Over the past decade she has written a steady stream of essays portraying a grim picture of her country. Roy has denounced the treatment of tribal people, the rise of Hindu nationalism and the loss of civil liberties to counterterrorism measures. She has also condemned things that many Indians take pride in – such as the country’s nuclear weapons program and big dams. Last year she defied Indian political orthodoxy and wrote that the cost of its military occupation of Kashmir was too high and “makes monsters of us all”. The author, 48, says it was a conscious choice to change direction.