The Goddess of small things

Recently, I watched a very obscure, old cult film. A weird nostalgic feeling creeped through me, although the film was from time when I was just 4. It was particularly interesting because the screenplay was written by Arundhati Roy and the 29-year-old herself  had acted in the film. Also featured was a very small appearance of the yet-unborn-king, Shahrukh Khan.

I was in junior college when I first read her popular novel “The God of small things”. I think I was too young back then to understand it completely. I have not been a huge fan of Arundhati Roy. Very few are. Her controversial statements and writings have not helped her popularity either. Listening to her interviews, one might get an impression that the lady has had to face multiple crisis in her personal life, which have had such profound effect on her psychology that she finds it utterly difficult to integrate herself with the mainstream society and make her peace with the world. Maybe not in the usual sense of the term, but some might even call her “anti-social”.

Her love of the Maoists and Naxalites, her resentment of the concept of Indian democracy, her abhorrence of the middle class, even her questioning of the Anna-Hazare movement; all seem very strange and she seems to be intent on getting herself on the wrong foot on every matter.

Not that I have not sympathized with her on any of the issues in the past, but after watching the film, I think I have a better understanding of her and where is she coming from when she says all those weird things. The film was inspired by her real life experiences during her time at the Architectural College, Delhi. She portrays a typical rebel adolescent, carrying a head full of radical thoughts, ready to change the world . It is as good as actually watching her when she was in college. Reckless and bizarre, young and radical, had I met her in college 30 years back, I think I would have probably married her. Her radical thoughts then, I must confess, are not much different from the way I think now. She seemed pained and moved by the prevalent social order, horrifying economic disparities and the cost paid by a large section of the underprivileged to make a comfortable lifestyle affordable for a fortunate few.

Its easy to think radically when you’re young. But there are very few who actually pursue their ideas, try to do their bit to change the world. And those are the ones I respect and admire. After her college, Arundhati never pursued her career in architecture. She gave it up to become a writer instead. The sad part is, in my opinion, over three decades she did little to change the situation, which had touched her so much, other than writing about it. By supporting open contempt for the middle class, she only served to widen the gap between the isolated sections and the society, instead of bridging it. By rejecting the current Indian democratic system completely instead of proposing to rectify its fallacies, she has failed to answer it with any alternate political order. She has turned herself into a fanatic and extremist. A fanatic cannot see clearly because he cannot think clearly. I have not heard her say it, but I think she certainly would favor a Proletariat dictatorship given her contempt for all the bourgeoisie of the world.

The appalling conditions of the underprivileged continue to remain as they were many decades ago. So do the horrifying economic and social disparities of the country. The isolated factions are very different and delicate problem. I plan to do my bit to change the world. Transform my ideas for the better. A writer I may become. But a fanatic? Probably not.