Arundhati Roy: India's Instant Celebrity

Contributed by Shivani Sethi
shivani@indolink.com

She's been called everything from 'the girl next door' to 'the creative rebel.' Her premier novel The God of Small Things recently bagged Britain's top award, the Booker Prize. She has become an instant celebrity; her debut novel has already been published in twenty seven languages and in more than twenty nations. The book has earned her in excess of $1 million so far and in addition, the $31,300 Booker Prize. Although she has been likened to 'magical realists' like Salman Rushdie, she is an original. She is Arundhati Roy. Roy grew up in Kerala, the Indian state where The God of Small Things is set. The tale is based on twin sisters battling with the caste structures in India. Roy, herself, is the product of an inter-caste marriage. Her father is from a Hindu family of Bengal while her mother is a Christian. From the time she was very young, she knew in her heart that she wanted to be a writer. She studied architecture and taught aerobics but once Roy began writing screenplays, her writing career took off. "No matter what I did or what I do, I become absorbed in it. And that was what happened when I started writing The God of Small Things." Roy worked on her novel for four and a half years. "I was able to focus on it completely and really enjoy writing it." Her secret to success may lie in her fearless nature. "The lack of success never frightened me." Abroad, Roy's success continues to blow at record breaking magnitude with her novel fiercely climbing The New York Times Best Sellers List. Back home in Kerala however, her book has provoked obscenity charges brought forth by an individual lawyer. Roy's mother who resides in Kerala, is constantly reminded by the Indian press of the controversy over her daughterıs book. She finds it difficult to be happy for its international success. Roy says, "It's so unfair, the person who is accusing me of obscenity only photocopied the last three pages of my book and presented them to the court." While India celebrates its 50th year of independence from Britain, the international success of an Indian writer should also be appreciated. Seema Bawa, a professor at Delhi University, says that the prestigious Booker Prize was an honor for the nation's writing community. "When I wrote this book, I presented it as a gift. The readers will do with it what they want."

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