Friday, 4 August 2017

Batter away, Arundhati

I recently wrote this response to Arundhati Roy's The Algebra of Infinite Justice. I am not sure if this book is considered YA literature, but I do think every young adult in India should read at least a few chapters of this marvellous tome. So, read on, and tell me what you think.

Batter away, Arundhati

(A response to her book, The Algebra of Infinite Justice)

I stand on the shore of a choppy sea, arms outstretched, inviting the turbulent waters to crash into me. A wave surges high up and looms over my head, threatening to knock me unconscious, or reduce me to a gibbering fool. For a split second, I wonder why I am putting myself through this. And then the wave breaks. Tons of water come crashing down and for an infinitesimal moment, I can’t breathe. But as the water washes over me, I emerge from this baptism suffused with exultation, wanting to experience it once again. This is what reading Arundhati Roy’s The Algebra of Infinite Justice does to me. It fills me with fear, anger, a sense of suffocation and then elation, and an almost sensuous joy as I revel in her denunciation of the rich and the powerful, her mastery of the English language. I am reborn into a life marked by greater clarity of vision, empathy and sensitivity.

In Algebra, Roy’s canvas is huge, like the ocean. She takes on the State, the industrialists, the bureaucracy, the arms manufacturers, and the world’s leaders driven by greed. Her overarching sense of justice, her (imaginary) arm flung out with an accusatory finger pointing, her perceptive and piercing gaze that strips every last hypocritical veneer of philanthropy and patriotism, rove the world and hold up to the reader’s scrutiny the dangers of global capitalism, nuclear armament, terrorism, nationalism, and the crass commercialization of almost all aspects of life. Like the tumultuous sea waves, her language is lush, smooth-flowing and can shock the reader into outrage even as it refreshes and pleases the reader’s sensibilities. Her scathing critique of the war on terrorism, America’s imperialist ambitions, the government policies of (purportedly) pursuing the Greater Common Good, nuclearization, sidelining of Adivasi and Dalit welfare, are fiercely articulated in prose that is poetical.

Critics have called her shrill and strident, but I would use John Donne’s words:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you 
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; 
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend 
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new”. 

Batter away, Arundhati, and make us new.

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