Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Arundhati Roy

Aired May 21, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the dream like prose of "The God of Small Things," Indian-born author, Arundhati Roy, won the coveted Booker Prize for fiction in 1997. The book has been translated into dozens of languages worldwide and since its publication, she's been no stranger to success, with a series of high profile essays to her name.

Roy has also used her way with words to political end. In the last year, she's turned her attention to the growing Maoist insurgency in the Indian state of Assam, even spending time in one of their camps.

A candid wordsmith of the highest caliber, Arundhati Roy is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: Well, in that celebrated first novel, it was clear that Arundhati Roy had a very unique way of telling the Indian story.

Well, I spoke to her earlier about her inspirations, her aspirations and began by asking simply how she became a writer.

This is what she said.


ARUNDHATI ROY, AUTHOR: I always knew that I was going to be a writer. When I was very young, I knew that. When I was, you know, in my teens, I thought that that would be impossible because it wouldn't be possible for me to really earn a living as a writer at all. And -- and I was studying architecture, where no one ever writes. We only draw.

ANDERSON: Kay from Cambridge in England says: ""The God of Small Things" was your first novel and it won the Booker Prize. Was that a surprise to you?"

ROY: Surprise would be putting it mildly. It was...


ROY: It was -- it was absolutely -- absolutely shocking what happened, because I didn't -- I mean I -- I didn't even know that it was going to be published, let alone, you know, have the kind of readership and so on that it had.

ANDERSON: Ali said he has enjoyed reading your recent essay on the Maoists in India: "In it, you call them "Ghandians with guns." How do you think that they reconcile Ghandian ideology with extreme violence?," he asks.

ROY: What I actually say is that in terms of their consumption, in terms of the footprint they leave on the earth, they are very Ghandian, you know, because they -- they move with so little, they grist on so little. I didn't ever say that they were Ghandians with guns. That's kind of a distortion that's taking on a life of its own.

ANDERSON: Well, you've spent days face-to-face now with the Maoists.

How do you think the Indian government should engage with them?

ROY: Well, look, the -- the real problem is that there is an insurrection in India. And Maoists are at one end, but there are a whole host of resistance movements. All of them have issues and ideology -- ideological differences with each other in terms of what the (INAUDIBLE) and the manner of resistance should be.

But right now, they're all resisting a massive, massive process of sort of enclosing off the commons, not just enclosing, but the cooperatization of the commons -- of millions of people being displaced, of the privatization of infrastructure.

So the -- the government is not going to be able to just deal with the Maoists. It has to deal systematically with the -- with what is causing this dispossession.

ANDERSON: Do you think that modern young Indians care about the Maoist cause?

They control vast swathes of the Indian countryside, but does it get enough media attention, ultimately?

ROY: Well, unfortunately, modern young Indians do make up the ranks of the Maoists, because it depends on what you mean by modern. You know, if you mean contemporary, I mean the -- the -- the guerilla army is full of young tribal peoples. Yes, it's true that the Maoists, in some way, have -- have been pushed back into the deep forests because of their sort of military strategy.

But now, that weakness has become the strength, because it is those forests -- full of mineral wealth -- that the corporates are after. And here you have a resistance that's been entrenched for decades. And that's the conflict right now.

However, in states like Orissa and Jharkhand and so on, it is not only Maoist resistance. As I said, there's a whole sort of biodiversity of resistance fighting the same things. And the -- I mean if you conventionally mean modern Indians as in the cool, new, sort of India shining modern Indians, you know, they're -- they're -- they're like zombies. They don't know what's going on. They have -- they're -- they're like, as I keep saying, the most successful secessionist struggle in India has been the secession of the middle and upper classes into outer space, you know, from where they look down at...


ROY: -- the poor and say what are -- what are you doing in the rivers and what's our bauxite doing in their mountains?

ANDERSON: When can we expect another novel from you?

ROY: I wish I could answer that. You know, I've been -- I've been trying to work on a novel for -- for years, but I keep getting derailed into -- into things, because, you know, we are in a very, very -- I don't know what, Chinese -- the Chinese would call we are in interesting times here in India. And -- and I keep sort of getting drawn back into the heart of this -- this very fascinating conflict.


ANDERSON: Arundhati Roy for you.

And we've got another great lineup of Connectors for next week for you, beginning with a Somali-born hip-hop artist emerging on the global stage. His name is K'naan and he's recorded one of the official songs for the World Cup. We'll be talking to this lyrical storyteller about how he fled his homeland and became a star.

Now, if there's something you'd like to ask him, if so, head to or you can Tweet me @beckycnn. We'll put the best questions to him next week on CONNECT THE WORLD. He is your Connector on Monday.