Arundhati Roy: Life Story of an Indian author & political activist associated with human rights

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy Life Story, Biography, Books, Husband, Personal Life

Suzanna Arundhati Roy is well known as Arundhati Roy. She is an Indian author very well known for her novel The God of Small Things, she wrote it in 1997.

It won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 1997. It also became the best-seller book by a non-expatriate Indian author. Roy is also a political activist associated with human rights & environmental causes.

Early & personal life of Arundhati Roy:

Arundhati Roy was born on 24th November 1961 in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. Mary Roy was her mother & Rajib Roy was her father. Her mother was a Malayali Jacobite Syrian Christian women’s rights activist from Kerala & her father was a Bengali Hindu tea plantation manager from Calcutta.

When she was two years old, her parents divorced, later she returned to Kerala with her mother & brother. For some time, they lived with her maternal grandfather in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India.

At the age of five, her family again shifted back to Kerala, there her mother started a school. She completed her school education from Corpus Christi, Kottayam, followed by the Lawrence School, Lovedale, in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu. Later, she studied architecture from the School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi.

There she met Gerard da Cunha – an architect. In 1978, they got married. Together they lived in Delhi & Goa. They separated & divorced in 1982.

Later Arundhati Roy returned to Delhi & obtained a position with the National Institute of Urban Affairs.
In 1984, she met an independent filmmaker Pradip Krishen.

He offered her a role as a goatherd in his movie Massey Sahib. Later in same year, they got married. Together, they collaborated on a television series about India’s independence movement & couple of movies Annie & Electric Moon.

Currently they live separately but are still married. In 1997, with the success of her novel The God of Small Things, she became financially secured. Prominent media personality Prannoy Roy, the head of the Indian television media group NDTV is her cousin.

Career of Arundhati Roy:

During the early stage of her career, she worked in television & movies. In 1989, she wrote screenplays for ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones’, in that she also appeared as a performer.

In 1992, Arundhati Roy wrote for Electric Moon. In 1988, she won the National Film Award for Best Screenplay for ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones.’

In 1994, when she criticized Shekhar Kapoor’s Bandit Queen, she attracted attention. The movie was based on the life of Phoolan Devi.

In 1992, Arundhati Roy started writing her first novel, ‘The God of Small Things.’ That completed in 1996. The novel is semi-autobiographical and a major part captures her childhood experiences in Aymanam.

It gave her international fame. In 1997, it got Booker Prize for Fiction and was listed as one of The New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

The novel reached fourth position on The New York Times Bestsellers list for Independent Fiction. It was also a commercial success form the beginning.

Arundhati Roy received half a million pounds as an advance. By the end of June, it had been sold in 18 countries. The God of Small Things was one of the five best books of 1997 according to Time.

She also wrote a television serial The Banyan Tree & a documentary DAM/AGE: A film with Arundhati Roy in 2002.

In early 2007, she started working on her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. In 2009, she contributed to We Are One:

A Celebration to Tribal Peoples, that explores the culture of peoples around the world, portraying their diversity and the threats to their existence. The royalties of that book was used for the indigenous rights organization Survival International.

Arundhati Roy wrote many essays on contemporary politics & culture. All of them were collected by Penguin India in a five-volume set in 2014. In 2019, her nonfiction named My Seditious Heart was collected in a single volume.

Again in October 2016, Penguin India and Hamish Hamilton UK announced to publish her second novel named Ministry of Utmost Happiness, in June 2017.

It was chosen for the Man Booker Prize 2017 Long List. It was also nominated as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in January 2018.

Since 1997, Arundhati Roy spent most of her time on political activism & nonfiction. Roy is a spokesperson of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism and U.S.

foreign policy. She has also questioned the conduct of the Indian police and administration in the case of the 2001 Indian Parliament attack and the Batla House encounter case.

Arundhati Roy expressed her support for the independence of Kashmir from India after the massive demonstrations in 2008.

Some 500,000 people rallied in Srinagar in the Kashmir part of Jammu and Kashmir state of India for independence on 18 August 2008.

As of Roy, the rallies were a sign that Kashmiris desired secession from India, and not union with India.

Arundhati Roy was criticized by the Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party for her remarks. Roy was charged with sedition along with separatist Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others by Delhi Police for their “anti-India” speech at a 2010 convention on Kashmir: “Azadi: The Only Way”.

Arundhati Roy also campaigned with activist Medha Patkar against the Narmada dam project. As of them the dam will displace half a million people with little or no compensation, and will not provide the projected irrigation, drinking water, and other benefits.

She donated her Booker prize money, as well as royalties from her books on the project, to the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Her opposition to the Narmada Dam project was criticized as “maligning Gujarat” by Congress and BJP leaders in Gujarat.

Environmental historian Ramachandra Guha faulted Roy’s criticism of Supreme Court judges who were hearing a petition brought by the Narmada Bachao Andolan as careless and irresponsible.

As of Roy, U.S. president George W. Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair were guilty of Orwellian doublethink. She puts the attacks on the World Trade Center and on Afghanistan on the same moral level.

Arundhati Roy delivered a speech titled “Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free)” at Riverside Church in New York City in May 2003,

In which she described the United States as a global empire that reserves the right to bomb any of its subjects at any time, deriving its legitimacy directly from God.

It was an indictment of the U.S. actions relating to the Iraq War. In June 2005 she took part in the World Tribunal on Iraq in June 2006. Later in March 2006 she criticized President George W. Bush’s visit to India, calling him a “war criminal”.

In reaction to India’s nuclear weapon testing in Pokhran, Rajasthan in 1998, she wrote The End of Imagination, a critique of the Indian government’s nuclear policies.

That was published in her collection named The Cost of Living in 1999. In that she was she crusaded against India’s massive hydroelectric dam projects in the central and western states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.

Arundhati Roy along with along with Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others, signed a letter in The Guardian calling the 2006 Lebanon War a “war crime” and accusing Israel of “state terror”.

Later in 2007, she was one of more than 100 artists and writers who signed an open letter initiated by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism.

In the time of 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis, she defended Hamas’s rocket attacks, citing Palestinians’ right to resistance.

Arundhati Roy also raised question about the investigation into the 2001 Indian Parliament attack & the trial of accused. According to her, Afzal Guru was being scapegoated pointing at irregularities in the judicial and investigative process in the case and maintains the stance that the case remains unsolved.

Arundhati Roy also called for the death sentence of Afzal to be stayed while a parliamentary enquiry into these questions is conducted and denounced press coverage of the trial.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar criticised Roy for calling convicted terrorist Afzal a “prisoner-of-war” and called Arundhati a “prisoner of her own dogma”.

According to Roy the November 2008 Mumbai attacks cannot be seen in isolation, but must be understood in the context of wider issues in the region’s history and society such as widespread poverty, the Partition of India the atrocities committed during the 2002 Gujarat violence, and the ongoing Kashmir conflict.

In an article, she stated that she believes “nothing can justify terrorism” and calls terrorism “a heartless ideology”.

Her remarks were strongly criticized by Salman Rushdie and others. Rushdie specifically criticized Roy for attacking the iconic status of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

Indian writer Tavleen Singh also called Roy’s comments “the latest of her series of hysterical diatribes against India and all things Indian”.

Arundhati Roy criticized the Indian government’s armed actions against the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in India. She called it “war on the poorest people in the country”.

As of Roy, the government has “abdicated its responsibility to the people” and launched the offensive against Naxals to aid the corporations with whom it has signed Memoranda of Understanding.

Arundhati Roy also criticized Hazare and his movement in an opinion piece published in The Hindu during Anna’s anti-corruption campaign on 21st August 2011.

Roy called Narendra Modi‘s nomination as prime minister a “tragedy” in 2013. According to her business houses were supporting his candidacy because he was the “most militaristic and aggressive” candidate.

Roy expressed deep despair for the future, calling Modi’s long-term plans for a highly centralized Hindu state “suicidal” for the multicultural subcontinent.

According to her article in The Guardian on 28th April 2021, the Indian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “crime against humanity”.

While speaking at Delhi University on 25th December 2019, she urged people to mislead authorities during the upcoming enumeration by the National Population Register.

Her remarks were criticized by both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A complaint was registered agaist her at Tilak Marg police station, Delhi, under sections 295A, 504, 153 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code.

Arundhati Roy Awards:

  • Booker prize for her novel The God of Small Things in 1997.
  • Arundhati Roy returned the national award in protest against religious intolerance and the growing violence by rightwing groups in India in 2015.
  • She won the Lannan Foundation’s Cultural Freedom Award for her work “about civil societies that are adversely affected by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations”, in order “to celebrate her life and her ongoing work in the struggle for freedom, justice and cultural diversity” in 2002.
  • Arundhati Roy was awarded “special recognition” as a Woman of Peace at the Global Exchange Human Rights Awards in San Francisco in 2003 with Bianca Jagger, Barbara Lee, and Kathy Kelly.
  • Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for her work in social campaigns and her advocacy of non-violence in May 2004.
  • In the same year she was awarded the Orwell Award, along with Seymour Hersh, by the National Council of Teachers of English.
  • She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award, a national award from India’s Academy of Letters, for her collection of essays on contemporary issues in January 2006.
  • Arundhati Roy was awarded the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Writing in November 2011.
  • She was featured in the 2014’s list of Time 100, the 100 most influential people in the world.

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