Monday, October 31, 2005

Arundhati ends the drought

At one point when the Tehelka expose happened, I thought, thank God the BJP is corrupt, thank God someone’s taken money, imagine if they had been incorruptible, only ideological, it would have been so much more frightening. To me, pristine ideological battles are really more frightening.

Sometimes — quite often — the same people who are capable of a radical questioning of, say, economic neo-liberalism or the role of the state, are deeply conservative socially — about women, marriage, sexuality, our so-called ‘family values’ — sometimes they’re so doctrinaire that you don’t know where the establishment stops and the resistance begins. For example, how many Gandhian/Maoist/ Marxist Brahmins or upper caste Hindus would be happy if their children married Dalits or Muslims, or declared themselves to be gay? Quite often, the people whose side you’re on, politically, have absolutely no place for a person like you in their social, cultural or religious imagination. That’s a knotty problem… politically radical people can come at you with the most breathtakingly conservative social views and make nonsense of the way in which you have ordered your world and your way of thinking about it… and you have to find a way of accommodating these contradictions within your worldview.

What does the World Social Forum mean today? They are big questions now. Ultimately, millions of people marched against the war in Iraq. But the war was prosecuted, the occupation is in full stride. I do not for a moment want to undermine the fact that unveiling the facts has meant a huge swing of public opinion against the occupation of Iraq, it has meant that America’s secret history is now street talk, but what next? To expose things is quite different from being able to effectively resist things.

It’s indiscriminate — it can be Miss Universe, or a writer, or the maker of a ridiculous TV soap, the minimum requirement is success. There’s a particular kind of person who comes up to me with this star-struck smile — it doesn’t matter who I am — they just know I’m famous; whether I’m the ‘BookerPrizeWinner’ or the star of the Zee Horror Show or whatever is immaterial. In this freak show, this celebrity parade, there’s no place for loss, or failure. Whereas to me as a writer, failure interests me. Success is so tinny and boring. Everyone is promoting themselves so hard.

People, ideologues who believe in a kind of redemption, a perfect and ultimate society, are terrifying. Hitler and Stalin believed that with a little social engineering, with the mass murder of a few million people, they could create a new and perfect world. The idea of perfection has often been a precursor to genocide. John Gray writes about it at some length. But then, on the other hand, we have the placid acceptance of Karma which certainly suits the privileged classes and castes very well.

Need one say more? Full interview here. Thanks, Tehelka.


Anonymous said...

great interview......thanks

Chand said...

I think she is too full of herself. just because you have something that another Indian is yet to achieve and let me tell you it is not too long when we'll have a string of bookers to our credit (there is a whole bunch of very talented Indian writers in the making, thanks to the new blogging phenomenon), she cant have an opinion on just about every thing. I have read the book and re-read it, not because wow-what-a -classic, but in a bid to figure whats the big deal!

aparna said...

Wow! What a snap, never saw this one. She is a classic case of beauty with brains and a lot of both infact. I just love her. Haven't missed anything she has ever written. Yes even the screen play for annie....granted that maam can get pretty rhetorical at times but well....we’ll bear all that for our very own booker winner. Now I’m sounding celebrity crazy, the kind she despises:)) Anyway read the article on tehelka. Loved it....thanks and all....