first Indian citizen to win the prestigious booker prize and a million
dollar book deal has made Arundhati Roy, a celebrity and a tall literary
lioness persona. Now in her late-30s, living in Delhi, Arundhati Roy (One
of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World 1998") grew
up in Kerala, in which her award winning novel "The God of Small Things"
is set. The novel is a poetic tale of Indian boy-and-girl twins, Estha
and Rahel, and their family's tragedies; the story's fulcrum is the death
of their 9-year-old half British cousin,Sophie Mol, visiting them on holiday.
a Keralite myself, I had grown up hearing the stories about the mother
of Arundhati Roy, Mary Roy who fought against Christian inheritance law,
winning a landmark Supreme Court verdict that granted Christian women in
Kerala the right to their parent's property. The mother had fought against
an archaic law, while the daughter has to fight a nuisance litigation about
the obscenity in her novel. Following the foot-steps of her mother Ms.Roy
is more of an activist now, championing the cause of the displaced tribals
in Narmada Valley.
Roy about her childhood in Kerala :
lot of the atmosphere in "God of Small Things" is based on my experiences
of what it was like to grow up in Kerala. Most interestingly, it was the
only place in the world where religions coincide, there's Christianity,
Hinduism, Marxism and Islam and they all live together and rub each other
down. When I grew up it was the Marxism that was very strong, it was like
the revolution was coming next week. I was aware of the different cultures
when I was growing up and I'm still aware of them now. When you see all
the competing beliefs against the same background you realise how they
all wear each other down. To me, I couldn't think of a better location
for a book about human beings.
think the kind of landscape that you grew up in, it lives in you. I don't
think it's true of people who've grown up in cities so much, you may love
building but I don't think you can love it in the way that you love a tree
or a river or the colour of the earth, it's a different kind of love. I'm
not a very well read person but I don't imagine that that kind of gut love
for the earth can be replaced by the open landscape. It's a much cleverer
person who grows up in the city, savvy and much smarter in many ways. If
you spent your very early childhood catching fish and just learning to
be quiet, the landscape just seeps into you. Even now I go back to Kerala
and it makes me want to cry if something happens to that place.I grew up
in very similar circumstances to the children in the book. My mother was
divorced. I lived on the edge of the community in a very vulnerable fashion.
Then when I was 16 I left home and lived on my own, sort of... you know
it wasn't awful, it was just sort of precarious... living in a squatter's
colony in Delhi"
I like most about the "God of Small Things" is the imageries created -
the lavish greenery and landscape of Kerala, in a prose which displays
the raw gifts for metaphor, rhythm and lyric. An excerpt:
am happy that an Indian novelist's narrative is described by New York
Times Book Review as " so morally strenuous and so imaginatively
supple -- that the reader remains enthralled all the way through".
in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The
river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dust green
trees. Red bananas ripen.Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously
in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes
and die, fatly baffled in the sun. The nights are clear, but suffused with
sloth and sullen expectation. But by early June the southwest monsoon
breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of
sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with.
The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences
take root and bloom. Brick walls turn moss
green. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through
laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads."