Arundhati Roy says its grotesque what these people mean by development
Man Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy has said that it is outrageous how nine Indians have more wealth than the bottom 500 million people of the country.
Speaking at an event in Dhaka on Tuesday evening, the Indian novelist criticized the “jobless growth” and other vices inflicting the society in the name of development in her country.
“It’s grotesque what they mean by development,” she said.
Roy came to Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography to speak at the session “Utmost Everything,” moderated by eminent photographer Shahidul Alam, at Midas Centre in Dhanmondi.
She talked about various issues that came up in her books over the years, starting from “The God of Small Things” to “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” and political essay collections in between, including “The End of Imagination” which she wrote soon after winning the Man Booker Prize protesting widespread nuclear testing that was taking place at the time.
At the beginning of the discussion, Shahidul thanked the audience for their patience, saying it had been an interesting day — hinting towards the uncertainty over the venue of the event.
Roy also read from the introduction of her book “Democracy’s Failing Light.”
To illustrate the escalated dilemma these days when it comes to protesting, she brought the recent example of a peaceful anti-hatred protest called “Nazar Ke Khilaf” by artists in front of the Red Fort in Delhi. The protest was unjustly condemned as anti-government protest by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Shahidul asked Roy about how she chose to become a writer after she studied architecture and worked in cinema as an actor and production designer. In response, the writer said she was a very un-ambitious person and expected only 17 people to read her first book.
“I was prepared to take big risks,” she said. “I worked on it (‘God of Small Things’) for many years and had no idea what would become of it. It would have been the same whether 20 people of six million people read it.”About writing political essays, Arundhati Roy said it took her years of researching and experimenting before she was ready to write about Kashmir in this era of specialization.
“I would go to a place like Kashmir and know what I had to say politically about Kashmir was simple and I said it.
“But to me it’s important to write about Kashmir, because it’s not just writing about human rights abuses and who has been killed, but what are the negotiations that are taking place and how will people manage to survive,” she said.
She also screened a six-minute film at the event, which was a trailer of sorts for her new book “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.” This film, directed by an unnamed friend of hers, showed clips of a mundane city life juxtaposed with a graveyard where her central character lives.
When Shahidul Alam asked about the structure of her new book, she said: “It’s not like an architect starts designing a building from the entrance and finishes at the exit... I like to structure my novels like a city.”
The session ended with a lively Q&A.