Arundhati Roy Facts
Man Booker award winner Arundhati Roy is a novelist, writer and political activist. Since the publication of her best-selling debut novel, The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy has written often, using her pen as a weapon.
- Suzanna Arundhati Roy was born in Assam, northeastern India. Her Hindu father ran a tea plantation. Her mother Mary was from a Syrian Christian community in Kerala, southern India.
- When Arundhati was two years old, her parents separated and her mother moved back to Kerala with the children. Arundhati’s grandparents had disapproved of their daughter’s mixed marriage to a Hindu and they turned her away. Mary took the children to a cottage her father owned 150 km (90 miles) away. It was a time of hardship. Their mother was ill, so Arundhati and her older brother had to beg for food. They returned to Kerala three years later and Mary became a teacher.
- Arundhati went to boarding school at 10, then moved to Delhi when she was 16. She had no money and lived in slums. Arundhati studied architecture because she wanted to know how to design cheap, sustainable housing but she became downhearted and eventually chose to be a writer instead.
- Arundhati Roy and her first husband Gerard Da Cunha would sell cakes in Goa for a living. She did various odd jobs afterwards such as aerobics instructor and artist.
- Arundhatihad an acting part in Massey Sahib (1985), a film about mixed marriage and discrimination directed and written by Pradip Krishen. Arundhati went on to collaborate with Pradip on scripts for a television series and a couple of films.
- Afterward the two got married and worked on a television series on Indian Independence Movement.
- She came into prominence when she criticised Shekhar Kapur’s blockbuster, The Bandit Queen,where she vehemently protested against the atrocities on women shown in the movie and its effect on the audience.
- In 1997 Arundhati’s first novel, The God of Small Things, was published. Written as a series of flashbacks, it told the story of a twin brother and sister growing up in Kerala. They witness violence and injustice because of the caste system (the Indian way of grouping the people in society by race). Its character Velutha is an “Untouchable” from the lowest caste.
- In 1997 The God of Small Thingswon the Man Booker, a prize that had never been awarded to an Indian woman before. Arundhati donated her prize money and royalties to human rights charities.
“If you ask me what is at the core of what I write, it isn’t about “rights,” it’s about justice. Justice is a grand, revolutionary, beautiful idea.”
- To her readers’ surprise, Arundhati did not publish another novel for 20 years. After experiencing hopeless poverty as a girl, Arundhati was sensitive to society’s treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. In the booming Indian economy, new money was often made by exploiting the poor or damaging the environment—and it almost all ended up in rich people’s pockets.
- Arundhati’s political writings exposed the dangers of greed and globalization and supported issues such as Kashmiri independence. In 2004 she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize and in 2014 she was on the Time list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Arundhati’s long-awaited second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, appeared in 2017.