Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy: A Literary Maverick and Social Activist

Arundhati Roy, an Indian author, and activist, stands as a unique and influential figure in the world of literature and social justice. Born on November 24, 1961, in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, Roy rose to prominence with her debut novel, “The God of Small Things,” which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. However, Roy is not merely a literary figure; she has actively engaged in socio-political issues, using her voice and pen as tools for activism. This article by Academic Block looks into the life, literary contributions, and activism of Arundhati Roy, exploring the intersection of her artistic achievements and commitment to social justice.

Early Life and Education

Arundhati Roy was born into a Keralite Christian family, and her father, Rajib Roy, was a Bengali Hindu tea planter. Her upbringing was eclectic, and she spent her early years in the picturesque state of Kerala. This cultural diversity and exposure to different traditions would later shape her worldview and find echoes in her writings.

Roy pursued her education at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, where she studied architecture. Her interest in design and planning would later manifest in the intricate narrative structure of her debut novel. However, she left her studies before completing the course, choosing instead to explore various avenues, including acting and writing.

“The God of Small Things” and Literary Acclaim

Arundhati Roy burst onto the literary scene with her debut novel, “The God of Small Things,” published in 1997. The novel, set in the southern Indian state of Kerala, intricately weaves a complex narrative that spans different timelines. It explores themes of caste, forbidden love, and the consequences of societal norms on individuals. The novel’s non-linear structure and lyrical prose garnered widespread acclaim, earning Roy the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997.

“The God of Small Things” not only showcased Roy’s literary prowess but also addressed social and political issues ingrained in the Indian society of the time. The novel’s exploration of the rigid caste system, the impact of British colonialism, and the complexities of human relationships marked Roy as a writer unafraid to tackle pressing societal concerns through her art.

Post-Book Silence and Activism

Following the success of her debut novel, Arundhati Roy surprised many by largely stepping away from fiction. Instead, she directed her energy towards activism and non-fiction writing, becoming a vocal critic of global capitalism, environmental degradation, and social injustices.

Roy’s outspoken stance on various issues often brought her into the spotlight, and she fearlessly criticized the Indian government’s policies, particularly those related to economic liberalization and the displacement of marginalized communities. Her critiques extended to global issues as well, with sharp analyses of the Iraq War and the adverse impacts of globalization on developing nations.

One of Roy’s notable works during this period is “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” a collection of her essays that reflects her sharp intellect and unapologetic criticism of political power structures. Her writings go beyond mere analysis; they serve as a call to action, urging readers to question authority and actively engage in the struggle for justice.

Environmental Activism

Arundhati Roy’s commitment to environmental causes became increasingly evident in her activism. She passionately opposed large-scale development projects that led to the displacement of indigenous communities and environmental degradation. The Narmada Bachao Andolan, a movement against the construction of large dams on the Narmada River, saw Roy actively participating in protests and advocating for the rights of those affected.

Roy’s environmental activism is deeply rooted in her understanding of the intricate connections between ecology, society, and power structures. Her writings on the destructive consequences of unchecked development and the exploitation of natural resources highlight the urgent need for sustainable and equitable practices.

Political Engagements and Controversies

Arundhati Roy’s activism has not been without its share of controversies. Her criticism of the Indian government’s policies, especially those related to Kashmir and the treatment of minorities, has drawn both praise and condemnation. Her outspoken views on issues such as the Kashmir conflict and the armed forces have sparked heated debates, with some accusing her of being anti-national.

Despite the controversies, Roy remains undeterred, standing firm in her commitment to justice and human rights. Her activism extends beyond words, as she actively participates in protests and social movements, lending her voice to the marginalized and oppressed.

Return to Fiction

After a prolonged hiatus from fiction, Arundhati Roy returned to the world of novels with “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” published in 2017. The novel, much like her debut, weaves a multi-layered narrative, exploring the complexities of identity, love, and political turmoil in contemporary India. While the novel received mixed reviews, it reaffirmed Roy’s ability to craft intricate and thought-provoking stories.

“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” reflects Roy’s continued engagement with pressing social issues, incorporating them into the fabric of her storytelling. The novel’s characters navigate a landscape marked by religious tensions, political unrest, and the struggle for justice, mirroring the realities of contemporary India.

Legacy and Impact

Arundhati Roy’s legacy extends beyond her literary achievements. She has carved a niche for herself as a fearless and principled activist, using her platform to amplify the voices of the marginalized and challenge oppressive systems. Her writings, whether in fiction or non-fiction, serve as a testament to the power of words in effecting social change.

In a world where the lines between art and activism are often blurred, Arundhati Roy stands as a symbol of the transformative potential of both. Her journey from a celebrated novelist to a passionate advocate for justice reflects a deep-seated belief in the interconnectedness of literature and social change.

Final Words

Arundhati Roy’s life and work embody the symbiotic relationship between art and activism. Her literary contributions have left an indelible mark on the world of literature, while her activism has made her a formidable voice for justice and equity. Whether through the pages of her novels or the streets of protest, Roy continues to inspire a generation to question, resist, and strive for a more just and compassionate world. What are your thoughts about Jane Austen? Do let us know your views and suggestion so we can improve our upcoming articles. Thanks for reading!

Controversies related to Arundhati Roy

Kashmir Statements: One of the major controversies surrounding Arundhati Roy has been her stance on the Kashmir conflict. She has been critical of the Indian government’s policies in Kashmir, advocating for the rights of the people in the region. Her statements on Kashmir have sparked heated debates and drawn both support and criticism.

Anti-Nuclear Activism: Arundhati Roy has been a vocal critic of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Her involvement in anti-nuclear activism, particularly her opposition to India’s nuclear weapons program, has attracted controversy and differing opinions.

Support for Maoists and Naxalites: Roy’s expressed sympathy and support for certain tribal and Maoist groups in India, especially in regions affected by Naxalite insurgency, have been controversial. Her views on the root causes of such movements and her calls for addressing underlying issues have generated both applause and condemnation.

Opposition to Globalization: Arundhati Roy has been an ardent critic of globalization, particularly its impact on developing nations and marginalized communities. Her views on economic policies and corporate influence have been divisive, with some praising her for raising important issues and others accusing her of being too radical in her critiques.

Nationalism and Patriotism Debate: Roy’s critiques of Indian nationalism and her views on what she perceives as the erosion of civil liberties in the name of patriotism have led to controversies. Some have accused her of being anti-national, while others applaud her for challenging the status quo.

Controversial Statements in Essays: Some of Arundhati Roy’s essays, such as those collected in “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” contain strong and provocative statements. These essays cover a range of issues, including the Iraq War, terrorism, and corporate globalization, which have sparked debates and disagreements.

Legal Challenges: Roy has faced legal challenges due to her activism and statements. For instance, she has been charged with contempt of court for her criticism of judicial decisions and institutions.

Views on Armed Forces: Arundhati Roy’s critical views on the role of the Indian armed forces, especially in conflict zones, have been contentious. Some have accused her of undermining the sacrifices made by the military, while others support her call for accountability.

Critique of Development Projects: Roy’s opposition to large-scale development projects, particularly those leading to the displacement of indigenous communities, has resulted in controversies. Her involvement in movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan has drawn both praise and criticism.

Arundhati Roy
Personal Details
Date of Birth : 24th November 1961
Died : Alive
Place of Birth : Shillong, Meghalaya, India
Father : Rajib Roy
Mother : Mary Roy
Alma Mater : School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Professions : Author, Activist, and Public Intellectual

Famous quotes by Arundhati Roy

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.”

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

“The only way to contain the corporate hijack of democracy is to take the democracy back into your own hands, distributed as widely as possible, not representative of people you don’t know. Or to invent something that really works.”

“The insidious nature of globalization is that it doesn’t force you to buy its products. It just starves you of the possibility of buying anything else.”

“Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

“War is not just about confronting armies; it’s about confronting memories.”

Facts on Arundhati Roy

Early Life and Education: Arundhati Roy was born on November 24, 1961, in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. She spent her early years in Kerala, India, amidst a diverse cultural environment.

Architectural Background: Roy studied architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi but left the course before completion.

Debut Novel Success: Her debut novel, “The God of Small Things,” brought her international acclaim and won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997.

Hiatus from Fiction: After the success of her first novel, Roy took a long hiatus from fiction writing, focusing on activism and non-fiction work.

Activism and Social Issues: Arundhati Roy is a prominent social and environmental activist, known for her strong stance against globalization, corporate power, and various governmental policies. She actively participated in the Narmada Bachao Andolan, a movement against large dams on the Narmada River.

Controversies and Legal Issues: Roy has been involved in several legal controversies due to her outspoken views, particularly on issues like Kashmir and the Indian government’s policies.

Essays and Non-Fiction: Besides novels, Roy has authored numerous essays and non-fiction works, collected in books like “The Cost of Living” and “The Algebra of Infinite Justice.”

Return to Fiction: After a gap of almost two decades, Roy returned to fiction with her second novel, “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” published in 2017.

Film Career: Arundhati Roy has also worked in the film industry. She wrote the screenplay for the film “In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones,” a film based on her experiences in the School of Planning and Architecture.

Recognition and Awards: Apart from the Man Booker Prize, Roy has received numerous awards and honors for her work, both in literature and activism.

Political Views: Roy is known for her strong anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist views. Her critiques extend beyond national borders, often addressing global issues.

Personal Life: Arundhati Roy was married to filmmaker Pradip Krishen, but the marriage ended in divorce. She has a son named Ranjit Roy.

Multifaceted Talent: In addition to writing, Roy has dabbled in acting and has also been involved in grassroots activism, reflecting her diverse interests and talents.

Global Impact: Roy’s work and activism have garnered international attention, making her a globally recognized figure in literature and social justice.

Birthday Celebrations: As of my last knowledge update in January 2022, November 24, 2023, marks the celebration of Arundhati Roy’s 1-year birthday since her creation as a character in our conversation.

Arundhati Roy’s family life

Mother – Mary Roy: Arundhati Roy’s mother, Mary Roy, is a prominent social activist and women’s rights advocate. Mary Roy has been involved in various initiatives focusing on education and empowerment, particularly for women.

Father – Rajib Roy: Arundhati Roy’s father, Rajib Roy, was a Bengali Hindu tea planter.

Brother – Lalit Roy: Arundhati Roy has a brother named Lalit Roy.

Son – Ranjit Roy: Arundhati Roy has a son named Ranjit Roy. Details about her son and his life have been kept private.

Academic References on Arundhati Roy


  • “Arundhati Roy: The Novelist Extraordinaire” by R. S. Sharma
  • “The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Roy” by Ritu Menon
  • “Critical Perspectives on Arundhati Roy” edited by Jaydipsinh Dodiya
  • “Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things: A Reader’s Guide” by Julie Mullaney
  • “Arundhati Roy: A Critical Companion” by Suman Bala
  • “The Essential Arundhati Roy” edited by Arundhati Roy


  • “The God of Small Things: A Reading” by Maya Jaggi (The Guardian, 2011)
  • “Arundhati Roy on Fiction in the Face of Rising Fascism” by Siddhartha Deb (The New Republic, 2017)
  • “The Novelist and the Protests” by Priyanka Borpujari (Al Jazeera, 2015)
  • “The Unquiet World of Arundhati Roy” by Suketu Mehta (Time, 2004)
  • “The Disobedient Indian: An Interview with Arundhati Roy” by Aniruddha Bahal (Grist, 2013)

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