THE ANTINATIONALIST

Arund­hati Roy’s fol­low-up to The God of Small Things, 20 years in the mak­ing, is ar­guably al­ready the lit­er­ary event of the year. And the book isn’t even on the shelves yet. Roy is ven­er­ated abroad, treated like a saint. At home, though, she is de­rided as

India Today - - INSIDE - By Shougat Das­gupta Pho­to­graphs by BANDEEP SINGH

Twenty years after her Book­er­win­ning de­but, The God of Small Things, Arund­hati Roy re­turns as fic­tion writer, with The Min­istry of Ut­most Hap­pi­ness

Were Arund­hati Roy just an­other writer, the re­lease of The Min­istry of Ut­most Hap­pi­ness on June 6, her muchan­tic­i­pated sec­ond novel 20 years after her cor­us­cat­ing Booker-win­ning de­but, would be the sub­ject of hy­per­ven­ti­la­tion on the na­tion’s books pages alone. Ex­cept Roy is not so much a writer as a po­lit­i­cal light­ning rod. And our na­tion has no books pages to speak of, the main­stream me­dia treat­ing books with the sort of kindly con­de­scen­sion the young and strong might re­serve for the old and in­firm.

In lieu of bookchat, in the run-up to pub­li­ca­tion, Roy has found her­self as the in­ad­ver­tent cen­tre of a mi­nor but gusty squall. “In­stead of ty­ing stone pel­ter on the army jeep [sic]”, tweeted the ac­tor and BJP mem­ber of par­lia­ment Paresh Rawal, “tie Arund­hati Roy!” After delet­ing the tweet, Rawal claimed he had been “co­erced” by Twit­ter and that he stood by “the cit­i­zens and In­dian armed forces un­der any sit­u­a­tion and at any cost”. And to think that it’s Roy whom her crit­ics de­scribe as shrill and hys­ter­i­cal. A cou­ple of days after Rawal’s tweet, Roy is perched on a sofa in an Old Delhi cafe laugh­ing at her at­tack­ers, her gun­metal curls greyer, per­haps, but oth­er­wise lit­tle af­fected by the pas­sage of decades. At the cafe, in­con­gru­ously lo­cated at the end of a nar­row lane of spare-parts shops op­po­site the Jama Masjid, glasses of Rooh Afza are served, though Roy, still spare and fit in her mid-50s, leaves hers un­touched. She was, she says, not in Srinagar to make the re­marks at­trib­uted to her that set Rawal off and led to a fresh round of ab­surd stu­dio de­bates pred­i­cated on fake news. In 2010, a case was filed against her for sedi­tion for say­ing Kash­mir was not an in­te­gral part of In­dia. At the time, Roy de­fended her­self by claim­ing that she “spoke about jus­tice for the peo­ple of Kash­mir who live un­der one of the most bru­tal

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