Arundhati Roy is an inspiration, she is fierce, intelligent, brave and very stylish. It was her 60th birthday this past week. I thought I'd just take a moment to admire her. Her book The God of Small Things took me to India, a place I'm yet to physically visit, but a book with so much rich imagery and texture the country is very alive in my mind ... thanks to her writing.
This from an interview in Vogue in 2017
On the top floor of a small building on a quiet lane in central Delhi, the writer Arundhati Roy greets me at the door of her apartment, accompanied by two eagerly barking dogs, whose names, she tells me, translate as Mrs. Filthy Darling and Beloved of the Earth. “Filth and Dirt,” Roy says cheerfully as she welcomes me into her large, sunny kitchen and starts making coffee in an Italian moka pot—“It’ll be weak, South Indian–style, OK?” she says with a laugh.
With its high ceilings, bookcase-lined walls, and political posters (one shows a bobby with a beat stick: SEDITION PROTECTS DEMOCRACY), her apartment has the airy yet lived-in feel of an artist’s loft. I take a seat at a farmhouse table, near a vase of exceedingly tall, bright-orange lilies. Roy is wearing a crisp, cream-colored salwar kameez with matching dupatta. When I comment on her stylishness she says, “I run away from tradition, I run away from modernity, and then—you find your own space.”
It’s been fifteen years since we first met—I came to Delhi in 2002 to write about Roy’s fearless political activism for this magazine—and at 57, she seems virtually unchanged. Her curly hair may be grayer (“Gray pride,” she likes to joke), but her wide eyes, lined lightly in kohl, remain merry, and her easy laugh is the same. She’s in a fine mood, having been up much of the night overseeing “the comma wars” between her American and British copy editors at Knopf and Penguin UK over the proofs of her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, her first since 1997, when The God of Small Things was published.
To say Roy’s latest venture into fiction has been long awaited is an understatement. An instant best seller, The God of Small Things—which Junot Díaz calls “one of the single most important novels written in English”—won the Man Booker Prize and quickly went on to become a global literary phenomenon. After working on the new novel for ten years, last August Roy texted her British agent, David Godwin, with one word: “Done.” Godwin got on the first plane to Delhi. He was nervous when she handed him the manuscript. “But then I read the opening,” he says, “and thought, Yeah, we’re back.” When The Ministry of Utmost Happiness comes out this month, it will be published in 30 countries.
Images by Prarthna Singh, Chiara Coia and Rena Effendi
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