Writer Anuradha Roy, longlisted for Man Booker Prize 2015, dispels the notion that Indian writers sell dark social realities of the country to the western world.
“Why wouldn’t I write about something that affects me deeply? A writer’s job is not to make tourist brochures of the country,” says Roy, who feels that as a writer, she can’t turn a blind eye to the unsavoury truths around her.
Her previous books — An Atlas of Impossible Longings (2008) and The Folded Earth (2011) — have won several prestigious awards. Roy was nominated for the coveted prize for her third novel, Sleeping On Jupiter (Hachette India), which explores issues of sexual violence against women and children in India.
The author, who is based in Ranikhet (Uttarakhand), says that she could not believe she was nominated. “It was total disbelief when my husband broke the news to me. It is wonderful to make it to a list which is open to the world,” Roy says. Her new book traces the journey of Nomita from Oslo, Norway, who sets out to film a documentary titled Jarmuli, a fictional coastal temple town. It weaves together Nomita’s memories of violence and sexual abuse.
At age seven, Nomita goes to an orphanage in Jarmuli after losing her family in a war, which is run by a world-renowned guru. Although she is adopted and taken to Oslo so she can leave her dark world behind, she’s still haunted by the memories of sexual abuse at the hands of the ‘guru’. Roy has also slammed reviews of her book that describe it as an exposé on hypocrisies. “If some people choose to say the book is about Indian hypocrisy, it doesn’t make it so. I deliberately refrained from specifying the wars, and tried to universalise them. It applies to everyone affected by war and displacement,” she explains.
The book brings communal violence, an ostensible holy man (a sexual predator in reality) and war into focus. Calling herself a feminist, Roy feels that feminism is crucial in our society now, where women are preyed upon, as the protagonist in her book is. “It’s absurd to disassociate from the term feminist. If not for the radical feminism of the ’60s, all the rights we take for granted now wouldn’t exist,” the author concludes.
The Man Booker shortlist will be announced in September, and the finalist will be decided in October.
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