Arundhati Roy is a rare blend of passion and intellect. Even the most banal truths become poetry in her writing and go straight to your heart. I love such writing. Such writing has immense dangers, however. It is emotive and many people – too many, in fact – are not able to deal with emotions effectively. That is precisely why Roy has too many enemies.
That’s not the only reason, however. She doesn’t belong where most people do: a religious faction, a political party or leaning, or any other narrow-minded social entity. She belongs to the cosmos. She towers far above the ordinary mortals that refuse to see beyond painfully bounded horizons. She sees reality differently from her vantage point.
My Seditious Heart is a collection of the essays and articles she wrote in the last two decades for various periodicals or publications. They are brought together into an elegant volume of nearly 1000 pages by Penguin Random House. I had read most of these writings when they were published originally. But, being a fan of Roy, I wanted this collection and now I have gone through the entire thing once again over a period of a month. I loved reading every page of it. I wish I could write like her.
Comparing the Congress and the BJP, Roy says, “Hypocrisy, Congress-style, is serious business. It’s clever – it smokes up the mirrors and leaves us groping around. However, to proudly declare your bigotry, to bring it out into the sunlight as the BJP does, is a challenge to the social, legal, and moral foundations on which modern India (supposedly) stands.”
She wrote that in early 2016. Nearly four years later, today, we know how much the “social, legal and moral foundations” of our nation stand fractured.
Much before that, in a talk delivered at the Riverside Church, New York City, in2003, she said quoting the Nazi Hermann Goering, “People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders… All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” She was referring to the American version of right-wing conservatism. Can we apply that to India today?
If we read Roy with an open mind, we will benefit much. Our understanding of our socio-political reality will change and with it our courses of action. India today stands at a juncture when more and more people are becoming bigots for various reasons.
Roy knows what she is writing about. She has been there before she writes about it. She was there with the Narmada Bachao Andolan; she was there with the Maoists in Bastar; she was there with the people of Kashmir. She gives us firsthand information. She gives us informed information. She has a highly perceptive intellect. And she has a keenly feeling heart. And there is a literary beauty (I can’t call it balance) between the two.
I would recommend this book to all Indians particularly because this book is an antithesis of the discourse that dominates the nation today. This book has the potential to open eyes and hearts.