Arundhati Roy became an overnight celebrity after becoming the first Indian to win the prestigious Booker Prize for ‘The God of Small Things’. At present, she is known more as a social activist for various causes like Narmada Dam project (she actively participated with Medha Patkar against the construction of the dam) and power company Enron’s activities in India. She donated her Booker prize money as well as royalties from her books to ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’. Roy also acted in Franny Armstrong`s film ‘Drowned Out’ (2001). She is against the India`s nuclear weapon policies and approach to industrialization. She created controversy by advocating independence of Kashmir from India, after massive demonstrations in favour of independence took place.
Arundhati was born in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, on 24 November 1961, to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother and Bengali father. She spent her childhood in Aymanam in Kerala, and went to school at Corpus Christi, Kottayam, followed by the Lawrence School, Lovedale, in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu. She then studied architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, where she met her first husband, architect Gerard da Cunha.
Roy met her second husband, filmmaker Pradip Krishen, in 1984, and played a village girl in his award-winning movie ‘Massey Sahib’. Before becoming financially sound after the success of her novel ‘The God of Small Things’, she did various jobs, including running aerobics classes at New Delhi five-star hotels. Roy is the niece of prominent media personality Prannoy Roy, the head of the leading Indian TV media group NDTV, and lives in New Delhi.
Early in her career, Roy worked for television and movies. She wrote screenplays for ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones’ (1989), a movie based on her experiences as a student of architecture, directed by her current husband, and ‘Electric Moon’ (1992); in both she also appeared as a performer.
Roy began writing her first novel, ‘The God of Small Things’, in 1992, completing it in 1996. The book is semi-autobiographical and a major part captures her childhood experiences in Ayemenem or Aymanam.
The book received the 1997 Booker Prize for Fiction and was listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year for 1997. It reached fourth position on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Independent Fiction. From the beginning, the book was also a commercial success: Roy received half a million pounds as an advance, and rights to the book were sold in 21 countries.
After the success of her novel, Roy has been working as a screenplay writer again, writing a television serial, The Banyan Tree, and the documentary DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy (2002).
In early 2007, Roy announced that she would begin work on a second novel.
The God of Small Things. 1997.
The End of Imagination. Kottayam: 1998.
The Cost of Living, 1999
The Greater Common Good. 1999.
The Algebra of Infinite Justice. Flamingo, 2002. Collection of essays: "The End of Imagination," "The Greater Common Good," "Power Politics", "The Ladies Have Feelings, So...," "The Algebra of Infinite Justice," "War is Peace," "Democracy," "War Talk", and "Come September."
Power Politics. 2002.
War Talk. Cambridge: South End Press, 2003.
Foreword to Noam Chomsky, For Reasons of State. 2003.
An Ordinary Person`s Guide To Empire. Consortium, 2004.
Public Power in the Age of Empire Seven Stories Press, 2004.
The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile: Conversations with Arundhati Roy. Interviews by David Barsamian. Cambridge: South End Press, 2004.
Introduction to 13 December, a Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament. 2006.
The Shape of the Beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy. 2008.
Essays, speeches and articles
Insult and Injury in Afghanistan ( 20 October 2001)
Instant Democracy (May 13, 2003)
"Come September" (September, 2002)
Awards & Prizes
Arundhati Roy was awarded the 1997 Booker Prize for her novel ‘The God of Small Things’. The award carried a prize of about US $30,000and a citation that noted, `The book keeps all the promises that it makes.`
In 2002, she won the Lannan Foundation`s Cultural Freedom Award for her work "about civil societies that are adversely affected by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations," in order "to celebrate her life and her ongoing work in the struggle for freedom, justice and cultural diversity."
Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004 for her work in social campaigns and her advocacy of non-violence.
In January 2006, she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award, a national award from India`s Academy of Letters, for her collection of essays on contemporary issues, ‘The Algebra of Infinite Justice’, but she declined to accept it "in protest against the Indian Government toeing the US line by `violently and ruthlessly pursuing policies of brutalisation of industrial workers, increasing militarisation and economic neo-liberalisation.`"
Roy`s opposition to the Narmada Dam project has been criticised as ‘anti-Gujarat’ by Congress and BJP leaders in Gujarat. In 2002, Roy responded to a contempt notice issued against her by the Indian Supreme Court with an affidavit saying the court`s decision to initiate the contempt proceedings based on an unsubstantiated and flawed petition, while refusing to inquire into allegations of corruption in military contracting deals pleading an overload of cases, indicated a "disquieting inclination" by the court to silence criticism and dissent using the power of contempt.
The court found Roy`s statement, which she refused to disavow or apologize for, constituted criminal contempt and sentenced her to a "symbolic" one day`s imprisonment and fined Roy Rs 2500. Roy served the jail sentence for a single day and opted to pay the fine rather than serve an additional three months` imprisonment for default.
Author Salman Rushdie also slammed her for linking Bombay attacks with Kashmir and economic injustice against Muslims in India. He also said that Arundhati`s arguments about Hotel Taj not being an icon of India, were unintelligent and unfair.