She is the champion of human rights and environmental causes in India. Arundhati Roy, a writer, essayist and activist who is best known for her 1998 ‘Man Booker Prize’ winning novel “The God Of Small Things” is an exemplary woman achiever. For some people, she is the voice of the voiceless, for others she is an anti-patriot but, hardly anyone across the globe will disagree with the fact that she is a courageous woman. Her semi-autobiographical, first and the only novel “The God Of Small Things” made her internationally famous. The criticism that the novel received is downplayed by the success of novel as it became the largest selling book by a non-expatriate author.
The publication of ‘The God of Small Things’ catapulted Roy to international fame. It was listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year in 1997. It reached fourth position on the New York Times Bestsellers list for independent fiction. From the beginning the book was a commercial success. Roy received half-a-million pounds as an advance for the book. It was published in May and the book had been sold to 18 countries by the end of June. Her expedition from studying architecture at Delhi school of architecture and then writing screenplays for television and movies to a novelist and also a political writer was undoubtedly her strive to become a crusader of the causes of deprived. Her works of non-fiction including several essays like – The End of Imagination (1998), The Greater Common Good (1999), The Cost of Living (1999), Power Politics (2002), War Talk (2003), The Checkbook & the Cruise Missile (2004, with David Barsamian) and An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire (2004) are focussed on the political issues concerning the society.
She led the Narmada Bachao Andolan along with Medha Patkar. She set an example when she donated her Booker prize money as well as royalties for the cause of half-a-million displaced people. Whether her support of the Maoist-Naxalite movement in the tribal hinterland or her views on the Kashmir issue, she pitched her voice when people shied away from taking sides. Her support for the causes just does not end with the boundaries of India, she criticised USA for its war against Afghanistan. When the US President said “We are a peaceful nation” she reverted it with the words, “We’re a peaceful people. So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys and War is Peace”. However, she also didn’t spare Taliban, she said “Now, as adults and rulers, the Taliban beat, stone, rape and brutalise women, they don’t seem to know what else to do with them. She lambasted on both Israel and Sri Lanka for human right abuses in their countries, rightly demonstrating her global world view. Never shying away from the influential figures, she criticised the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling his nomination as Prime Minister by his party a “tragedy”.
The awards and accolades keep coming as a recognition of her work. Apart from winning Man Booker Prize, she has also won national film award for best screenplay in 1989, Lunnan’s foundation’s cultural freedom award and Sydney Peace Prize. However, she declined the Sahitya Academy Award in 2006 for her book “The Algebra of Infinite Injustice”, protesting against the government for a long range of causes. She has been charged with sedition and noted historian Ramchandra Guha has criticised her take on Narmaada Bachao Andolan. However, she has a more humble take on her critics as she says, “How I have lived my life and written about the world is a matter of interpretation”.